There is widespread consensus that Donald Trump was put into power by the Russians. If this is true, his administration must do some favors for Russia. For example, if Donald Trump lifted sanctions against Russia, that would make sense.

The question "Why would the Russian government use hackers and email leaks to try to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election?" does not contain the answers I want. It was asked in October 2016. At that time people could only guess why the Russians installed Trump. Now it's 2018 and it is possible to judge Trump's administration by its deeds. If it is indeed a Russian marionette, we should see some tangible favors to Russia in 2018, which we couldn't have seen in 2016.

How exactly does Russia benefit from Trump being in the office (instead of a Democrat)?

Note: I'm interested in tangible, measurable, and proven benefits in short to medium term. Things like "Trump has divided the United States" don't count because a) there is no clear, no-nonsense, definition of "divided" and b) I don't see how the US being "divided" benefits Russia.

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    I don't believe any such consensus exists. Indeed while there is evidence of attempted interference, "Trump was put into power by the Russians" is a fringe theory.
    – James K
    Commented May 13, 2018 at 8:08
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    “Consensus” means there is general agreement; in the strictest sense of the word, 100% – although in practice and for large groups, 90% or even 80% might be considered sufficient. Definitely not 50%, though. (And apart from this, I don’t even think 50% of Americans, or of the world’s population, are convinced that “Trump was put into power by the Russians”.)
    – chirlu
    Commented May 13, 2018 at 9:24
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    This question is good and neutral. The only thing is that "consensus" seems to attract denials. Do you think that "opinion" or "belief" would be a better word instead? Commented May 13, 2018 at 9:58
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    @bytebuster - The fact that this - indeed good and neutral - question immediately got a ton of downvotes tells you everything you want to know about consensus. There's a solid ideological block who is blindly convinced of it.
    – user4012
    Commented May 13, 2018 at 12:24
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    @bytebuster not a downvoter, but I see two issues with this question: A) the tangible, measurable, and proven clause seems designed to discredit most of the available data ("Trump cannot lift sanctions because Congress opposses it? Does not count", "Trump backtracks from announced new sanctions? Nothing happened, so it does not count", "Your main rival is paralized by internal divisions? Does not count") B) Similarly, it guides answers into what-if scenarios; unless you can answer the "Would have a Hillary administration enacted more sanctions?" it is almost impossible to answer as stated.
    – SJuan76
    Commented May 13, 2018 at 15:25

4 Answers 4


Your assumptions seem wrong.

There is widespread consensus that Donald Trump was put into power by the Russians. If this is true, his administration must do some favors for Russia.

The consensus is that Russia influenced the US election in Trump's favor (by eg hacking his political opponents and strategically using that information to influence public opinion; this may or may not have happened in coordination with some people from the Trump campaign). I wouldn't call this "put into power" though.

And this doesn't mean that Trump needs to do any favors. And even if we assume that it does - which I wouldn't - it doesn't mean that Trump can do any favors.

Instead of a quid pro quo, it is more likely that Russia assumed that Trump would be the better option for Russia based on his character and his pro-Russia stance during the campaign (this assumption may or may not be correct).

I also think that your focus on short-term benefits is not reasonable. A desire for a long-term weakening of the west in general, or NATO and the EU specifically, seems more likely.

There are a couple of actions that Trump took that benefit Putin and/or Russia in the short term:

  • In 2016, the Trump campaign was responsible for removing pro-Ukrainian parts from the Republican Party platform.
  • Trump legitimized Putin's re-election by being one of the few western leaders to congratulate him.
  • Trump has not condemned Russia for the poisoning of Skripal, but instead invited Putin to the White House (his administration on the other hand expelled Russian diplomats and urged Trump to get tougher on Russia).
  • Trump recently canceled further sanctions against Russia which were announced as reaction to Russian actions in Syria. Trump planned to remove existing sanctions at the beginning of 2018 as well, but he did not go through with them because of opposition from congress. The Trump administration refused to enact legally mandated sanctions against Russia at the beginning of 2018.

There may be others as well. Of course, these actions could also have been taken by Trump's predecessors (not as a quid pro quo, or because they are Russian moles, but because they see it as necessary part of foreign policy; this is true for Trump as well).

On the other hand, there are also a number of actions against Russia from the US (some enacted by congress, not by Trump or his administration). But again, a different administration - eg a Clinton one - might have enacted the same actions; or more likely tougher actions considering current Russian activities.

In the same manner, Vox describes Trump's Russia policy like this:

The root of the problem, experts say, is that what Trump says bears little to no relationship with what his administration actually ends up doing. Trump insists on treating Putin as a potential partner but doesn’t really use the levers of policy — diplomatic agreements, military deployments, and the like — to try to make this vision a reality. Instead, policy appears to be set by the American national security bureaucracy, which sees Russia as a rival and adversary.


Whatever Trump's actual positions on Russia, and they seem more benign than Hillary's would have been, a massive benefit is his lack of credibility with his allies.

IF Trump wanted to take a hard line with Russia, for whatever reason, his chances of convincing the already normally timid Europeans to do so are much less than almost any recent American president because no one really trusts him, his motivations and, especially, his capacity to stay the course and not change his mind. Also, he is so unpopular abroad, except in a few countries (Israel, Poland for example) that aligning with US interests carries real political risks for foreign leaders. That's often the case in normal times, but doubly so with this POTUS.

Take for example the response to China's oppressive moves towards Hong Kong. There has been no great rush to align with, or look for leadership from, the US. And that despite China being somewhat in the doghouse right now, for good reasons. Yes, eventually a joint expression of concern was made, but only because China truly is crossing a line by reneging on their commitment to uphold the Basic Law till 2047.

So Russia has lots to gain from having one of its major international challengers hobbled by incompetent and inconstant diplomacy. That's probably a bigger effect than by direct sympathy from Trump towards Russia, although it has been startling how Republicans are now the "pro-Russia" party.


Hillary was going to be tough on Russia and impose stricter sanctions. For that reason alone, Trump was seen by Putin as the far more preferable option (and for the record, Bernie would have been too and perhaps Rubio/Christie/Cruz and a few others). Putin and Russia's actions to get Trump elected may have had more to do with not wanting Hillary than actually wanting Trump, but as the election got closer and Trump won the primary, that became moot and it was all about helping Trump/hurting Hillary.

That Putin had met Trump and perhaps had minor business deals in the past may have been a plus, and Michael Cohen had ties to Russia though whether Putin was aware of the Michael Cohen connection (I'm sure he was because he does his homework), but whether Michael Cohen was seen as a factor in helping Trump is unclear.

Precisely how much under the table handshaking went on is difficult/impossible to say and we have to wait for the investigation to play out, but it's likely that Putin was in the anybody is better than Hillary camp and whether he was also in a Trump is my secret buddy camp too is unclear.

On Trump's softness on Russia

Trump also refused to apply the sanctions that congress passed against Russia, so it seems that he did do a favor for them. You can speculate as to whether that was in return for their help getting him elected.

There's an answer above that Trump struck Assad for chemical weapons use. Yes, but after giving the Russians a call telling them he would do that.

When interviewed, and the interviewer told Trump that Putin was a killer, Trump's answer was "there are many killers". Trump doesn't seem at all interested in putting Putin down. He has one military strike against Syria for chemical weapons use, but beyond that, he's talked well of Putin and done him a favor by not applying the sanctions that congress wrote into law with a veto-proof majority.

Whether this is evidence that Trump is returning a favor is impossible to say, but Trump has been accused of being soft on Russia by many. Article on that, and another.


It doesn't. Trump has struck Russian ally Assad for chemical weapons use. The Russians complained but didn't do much about it. US troops also killed about 200 Russians who were attacking a US-held oil facility in Syria. It's a complicated story; the Russian command in Syria says they were mercenaries, not Russian soldiers. All the same, the message was loud and clear.

The Russians also support US environmentalist groups they view as helpful to their oil industry. Trump has supported the US oil industry, approving oil pipelines, for example, and supporting fracking. That's a big deal for the Russians, whose exports are largely energy products. And US oil production is booming.

Like everyone else, the Russians probably thought Clinton would win. They may have hoped to weaken her (as President) by discrediting her. It hasn't worked out for them.

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    Your article says nothing about killing 200 Russians. It says quite the opposite. I quote: "Because the strikes did not hit Russian assets, and do not appear to have significantly undermined the Assad regime, there is no material reason to go further than that". Trump's strike on Syria was a statement against chemical weapons, but it was in no way a "loud and clear" statement that he was strong against Russia.
    – userLTK
    Commented May 26, 2018 at 13:30
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    There were different strikes; one hit Russians and another didn't. I accidentally linked the same one twice. Fixed. Thanks. Commented May 26, 2018 at 13:32
  • US oil production is booming, but Trump's pulling out of the Iran deal have driven oil prices up, and so has his pulling out of the climate change meetings. Russia and OPEC also reached a deal to produce less oil. Everyone saw the US increase coming. It's been growing for a while. I don't think you can use Oil production as an example of Trump being tough on Russia. money.cnn.com/2018/04/26/news/companies/…
    – userLTK
    Commented May 26, 2018 at 13:35
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    Your updated article isn't much better. That was a Syrian attack on a US base (actually a Kurdish base with some US support). The Russians were soldiers for hire essentially working for the Syrian army and they were the aggressors - per your article. The US defending a base doesn't even defer to Trump. It wasn't even a Trump decision. Trump doesn't micromanage the military (for better or worse). Your example was likely not even a Trump decision point.
    – userLTK
    Commented May 26, 2018 at 13:43
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    The President sets Rules of Engagement. Trump's are much less strict than Obama's were. thehill.com/policy/defense/… The military makes the final decision, based on those rules. Commented May 26, 2018 at 14:00

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