Now that we've had a chance to see how the 6- month performance review went between deranged useful idiot Donald "Rump" Trump and his handler, Russian autocrat Vladimir "Vlad the Invader" Putin at the G20 summit, it should be more than apparent what forms the basis for Rump's bizarre affinity for Putin. For the moment, let's set aside the most tangible basis for this affinity: the leverage/ kompromat that Putin has over Rump, which we believe will be uncovered in due time by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his A Team of investigators and prosecutors.
In the long association between Rump and Russia, though, Rump has made clear his admiration for Putin as a "tough guy" and a "strong leader" on numerous occasions, qualities he fancies himself exhibiting. There are other obvious parallels that likely account for the depth of his simpatico with Putin.
Anne Applebaum makes some salient observations about those parallels:
...The Russian-American relationship, which has always been atypical, has now become strange, even surreal. It is not even predictable, in the way that most diplomatic relationships are usually more or less predictable, because it is not driven by the geopolitical or economic interests of either Russians or Americans. It is driven, rather, by the personal interests of the two main players. [snip]
...[H]e has long admired the Russian dictator, whom he has praised repeatedly and never criticized. “It’s an honor to meet you,” he said at the first encounter. Maybe it’s the oligarchic style represented by Putin, who used money to get political power and then used political power to make money, and a lot more money than Trump; maybe it’s the way Putin also used his office to empower his friends and family, something Trump does, too.There certainly are parallels in the way both are enriching themselves and their families at the public trough, and in surrounding themselves with fellow oligarchs and flunkies who are tasked to weaken the constraints of the laws and institutions that would otherwise limit their rapacity. Rump no doubt is aware that Putin's worth (gained from corrupt state contracts and a piece of the Russian energy industry) is greater than his and is estimated at $200 billion, something that would impress Rump and that he would surely want to emulate to the extent he and his family can.
Maybe it's also the lack of connection with the norms and values of democratic government exhibited by both Rump and Putin. It's common knowledge that Rump has no common knowledge about the core values of American democracy. In fact, it goes beyond ignorance to a congenital inability to relate to those values. Whether this is a product of his malignant narcissism (of which "I alone can fix it" is one of the more stunning examples), and/ or his authoritarian personality, the result is someone un- moored from tradition and, for example, more closely identifying with foreign despots (Putin, Erdogan, etc.) than fellow Americans who run our intelligence services, not to mention leaders of the opposition party.
Or maybe it's also the attempts (largely successful in Putin's case) to delegitimatize media that are critical of your regime. CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post and others have all been singled out by Rump for opprobrium. As Masha Gessen noted in her superb "Autocracy: Rules for Survival":
... It took Putin a year to take over the Russian media and four years to dismantle its electoral system; the judiciary collapsed unnoticed. The capture of institutions in Turkey has been carried out even faster, by a man once celebrated as the democrat to lead Turkey into the EU. Poland has in less than a year undone half of a quarter century’s accomplishments in building a constitutional democracy.Rump's attacks on the "Fake News" media are one with the tactics of Putin and fellow autocrats who depend on neutralizing or silencing an independent press in order to consolidate power.
Finally, the bald- faced attempts to intimidate political opponents (threatening to jail Hillary Clinton and suggesting he had secret tapes to silence James Comey), as well as his efforts already underway to jigger future election results through his "voter fraud" charade and other voter suppression tactics, all bear the hallmarks of a proto- autocratic regime. He hasn't stooped to Putin's level yet of murdering political opponents and journalists, but we can imagine in his heart- of- black- hearts he would certainly relish the idea.
So, even if Rump didn't have decades of business dealings with Russian mobsters and money launderers, he would still have an affinity for a fellow kleptocratic oligarch. That's what makes this a deeper and more dangerous alliance.
BONUS: Rump even uses the techniques of Putin's KGB playbook - deny, deflect and blame others when you're trying to distract from your culpability.