Isaac Chotiner’s interview with Stephen Cohen is…amazing:
Why do you think Trump, who has essentially, as far as I can tell, no clue about what’s going on anywhere and can’t keep his mind on some issue for 10 minutes, has had in his head consistently time and again that we must make peace with Putin, we must come together with Putin, Putin’s a good guy? What do you make of that?
Well you have given me a kind of primitive version of what Trump said. First of all, I don’t share the view that Trump’s an idiot. Trump’s a clever, cunning, smart man, or he wouldn’t have become Donald Trump. Whether that’s applicable to the presidency is a different question, but to treat him as a buffoon and an idiot is just silly.
On the face of it, because it so deviated from American mainstream thinking about Putin, which was that he was a demon—that’s what was startling about Trump, you’re absolutely right. That he alone of all the candidates, even when we had multiple ones in the Democratic and Republican primaries, so far as I recall, he alone made this statement, I think I quote exactly, “Wouldn’t it be great if we cooperated with Russia?” My answer is not only great but imperative. He also said, he also said he didn’t know that Putin was actually a killer of personal enemies. That is correct. There is no evidence to support those allegations. He also said that Putin is a strong leader. That is also correct.
You say there’s no evidence Putin was a killer. Don’t you think if Russia had a more robust free press and was more of a liberal democracy, evidence might actually emerge?
There’s no evidence. I know there are allegations, but I have looked into the three or four most famous cases. I can’t look at them all because there’s about 30 now, some of them withdrawn.
It’s…all like this. You can just mentally add “I am not a crackpot” after every third sentence.