These days, having any sort of ties to Moscow is politically toxic in Washington. Recent reports indicate Donald Trump may have borrowed Russian money to keep his property empire afloat—while several investigations loom into alleged Kremlin interference in the U.S. presidential election and a host of murky connections between Trump campaign officials and Russian hackers and spies.
Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, hasn't been implicated in any of the ongoing probes. And unlike former Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Carter Page, he isn’t under investigation by the FBI for possible collusion with the Kremlin. But Bannon’s ties to Russia are ideological—and therefore, arguably, they’ve had a more profound impact on White House policy with Moscow.
At least until now. In early April, Bannon was booted off Trump’s National Security Council in a White House coup that was—among other factors—also a scuffle about whether to appease a resurgent Kremlin or confront it. Days later, he lost a heated debate inside the White House with Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, over whether to strike Syria after the Moscow-protected regime of Bashar al-Assad killed civilians in a chemical attack.
Bannon, a former banker turned film producer and right-wing polemicist, has praised not only Putin but also a brand of Russian mystical conservative nationalism known as Eurasianism, which is the closest the Kremlin has to a state ideology. Eurasianism proclaims that Russia’s destiny is to lead all Slavic and Turkic people in a grand empire to resist corrupt Western values. Its main proponent is Alexander Dugin. With his long beard and burning blue eyes, Dugin looks like a firebrand prophet. His philosophy glorifies the Russian Empire—while Bannon and the conservative website that he founded, Breitbart News, revived the slogan of “America first,” which Trump later adopted in his campaign...
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