Do you remember that famous clip of Blue Peter from about 1969? The one with Lulu, the incontinent baby elephant from London Zoo?
Donald Trump put me in mind of it. The Donald, like Lulu, has made his presence felt already at Nato HQ in Brussels, at Chequers with Theresa May, and at Windsor with the Queen. The EU is a “foe” and Germany a Russian “prisoner”. Any loyal ally looking for a warm word from Donald the Baby Elephant has been left instead standing in a warm pool of liquid, or slipping on a freshly laid Trump-pat.
All over Western Europe they’ve been clearing up the mess. Like that juvenile pachyderm hero of the golden era of children’s television, Trump can’t really help it, an over-excitable beast out of the control of his keepers.
Now it was Helsinki’s and President Putin’s turn. Shrewdly, Putin decided to unpack a large bag of juicy currant buns to attract the attention of the American president. Tasty. Putin offered him the opportunity to disown his own intelligence agencies’ claim that the Russians interfered in the 2016 presidential elections. Chomp. “There was no collusion”. Another bun. “There was zero collusion”. Satisfied burp.
Then there was Putin’s offer to America to “analyse together” the claims, so that the FBI could even watch as the Russian GRU pretended to grill other Russian GRU intelligence officers. That was the same sort of bogus “joint investigation” offer made to the British over the Skripal affair, summarily rejected. Donald the Elephant, not the smartest in the herd, swallowed the ploy whole, and got up on his hind feet to say thank you. Trump trumpeted that it was “an interesting idea”, possibly “an incredible offer”.
Now fitted out with a little tutu and doing pirouettes, Trump declared that the US is the world’s major shale gas producer, and so could replace the Russian’s gas pipe to Germany. So what did Vlad the Zoo Keeper try next? An offer for the US and Russia to jointly regulate world energy prices. Another bun. He didn’t quite eat that one, to be fair, but he didn’t chuck the bun away with his trunk either.
Finally Vladimir chucked his new act a World Cup ball to play with – “the ball’s in your court” being a nice little line. Trump bounced it towards Melania, as if she was Jordan Pickford. At will soon be at the feet of Bannon Trump, as part of his preparation to be captain of the winning USA squad at the 2030 World Cup.
On Syria, Crimea, Ukraine, interference in foreign elections and Iran, Trump was tamed. The only time, in fact, Trump got agitated was when he was asked about Kompromat the Russians might have on him.
This was supposed to be a freewheeling, unscripted, deal-brokering, confidence-building session, with the crystal clarity of the Trump world view unmediated by any fussy bureaucrats. What happened was that America’s baby-elephant-in-chief was coaxed into the Great Moscow State Spying Circus. He’s behaving himself, too.
Like a bizarre variation on The Manchurian candidate, we have here a US president so easily manipulated by a foreign power that he virtually becomes its agent. Putin says, in terms, that Russia should have no quarrel with the Americans after the Cold War. He is wrong, of course, as Putin’s authoritarian nationalism is a potent threat to human rights at home and abroad. But with Trump in the White House, Putin has little to fear. Because Trump’s gone rogue.
The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.