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Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with officials on attracting new investments, in Yaroslavl, about 240 kilometres northeast of Moscow on Nov. 12, 2016.Mikhail Klimentyev/The Associated Press

What do voters in Moldova, Bulgaria and the United States have in common? They all elected presidents this month who are sympathetic to Russia and its dictatorial leader, Vladimir Putin.

Tiny Moldova has Igor Dodon, who has promised to pursue closer ties with Moscow and turn away from the European Union – a position that stands in polar opposition to that of the country's current, and very corrupt, government.

In Bulgaria, Rumen Radev, an outsider voted in by people who are also tired of corruption and who believe closer economic ties with Russia can turn their prospects around, is calling for an end to EU sanctions on Moscow.

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And in the U.S., president-elect Donald Trump has a clear preference for Mr. Putin's policies and desires over those of the EU and the NATO alliance. He has also signalled that he is willing to accept Russia's unlawful annexation of Crimea, is indifferent to Russia's military adventurism in Eastern Ukraine, and that he may lift American sanctions related to those incursions.

On the Syrian front, Mr. Trump has again allied himself with Mr. Putin, an avid supporter of the Assad regime, contradicting U.S. policy. Mr. Putin has returned the love. He was the first leader to congratulate Mr. Trump after his election win, and late last week the president-elect was made an honorary Cossack.

The situation is grim. A U.S. president who allows a country to invade and annex a neighbour without sanction is a grave threat to world stability. Mr. Trump's indifference to national sovereignty plays directly into the hands of Mr. Putin, a master manipulator who learned in the KGB how to destabilize regimes (his fingerprints are all over the release of damaging e-mails stolen by Russian hackers from the Democratic Party's computers).

His actions in Ukraine and Syria, including the menacing deployment of navy forces off the coast of Syria, have been calculated attempts to see how far he can push the West.

To date, there has been no pushback, other than strong condemnation, which is meaningless to Mr. Putin. And now there is an inexperienced and uninformed populist in the White House who is open to lifting U.S. sanctions and abandoning America's allies in Europe. Mr. Putin may well feel that he won the election.

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