Vladimir Putin didn’t pay much attention to Fiona Hill (a leading U.S. expert in Russia), when she was seated next him at dinners. Putin’s people chose her because she was a “nondescript” woman, to ensure that the Russian president wouldn’t have any competition for his attention.
She was fluent in Russian and often listened carefully to the conversations of men, even if they seemed to have forgotten she was there, she recalled in an Associated Press interview. She thought, “Hey, if you were a man, you wouldn’t be talking like that in front of me.” “But go ahead. I’m listening.”
Hill didn’t expect to be as invisible as Donald Trump when she became his Russia advisor in the White House. Hill, who co-authored an acclaimed book on Putin, was able to see inside his head. Trump didn’t want her advice. In meeting after meeting, he ignored her. He once mistakenly called her “darlin” and mistook her for a secretary.
She was still listening, however. She was reading Trump as if she had read Putin.
Her book, “There is Nothing for You Here,” was published last week. She isn’t like other tell-all writers from Trump’s administration. The book is similar to her calm, but compelling testimony during Trump’s first impeachment. It offers a more serious, and perhaps even more alarming, portrait the 45th president.
Hill’s tone may be restrained but it is still damning by a thousand cuts. It shows how Hill’s career was devoted to understanding the Russian threat and managed it, but ended up revealing that America is most at risk from her own actions.
She describes in fly-on the-wall detail a president who had a voracious appetite to praise others and little or no desire to govern — a man so obsessed with what other people said about him, that U.S. relations rose or fell depending on how flattering foreign leaders made their remarks.
She writes that Trump demanded constant attention from his staff and all those who were part of his circle. “Especially in international affairs, Trump’s vanity was a source of vulnerability. His fragile self-esteem was a sign of his vulnerability.”
Hill described Putin manipulating Trump’s behavior by withholding or offering compliments. She said that this was more effective than blackmailing and getting dirt on him. Hill nearly lost the meeting in Finland when Trump seemed to favor Putin over his intelligence agencies regarding Russian interference in 2016 U.S. elections.
She writes, “I wanted the whole thing to end.” I thought about throwing a fit, faking seizures and hurling my self backwards into the row behind me of journalists. It would have only added to the humiliating spectacle.”