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It’s something Russia has been striving to achieve since the end of World War II: topple the NATO alliance. The threat of nuclear armageddon. Espionage. Assassination. Information manipulation. All have been wielded by Moscow against the West with varying degrees of success. But nothing has ever strained the strength of NATO as much as US President Donald Trump. Now a former NATO supreme commander has called Trump’s attacks the ‘gift of the century’ for Russian President Vladimir Putin. And the revelation that the FBI initiated a formal probe into the possibility of Trump being a Russian ‘asset’ has revived fears about his true motives. Trump’s supporters insist their president is demonstrating his strength as a master deal-maker: forcing recalcitrant allies into paying their dues. But his critics are cynical: why do his actions so often appear to achieve precisely what Putin wants?

Two recent US government reports have added substance to years of speculation. Why is Trump so openly hostile and sceptical of a military alliance that has cemented America’s world influence and deterred World War III for 70 years? Why does he so openly admire such a blatant international rival as Putin?

The first official word of concerns over links to Moscow in his election campaign team only emerged after Trump was voted in on November 8, 2016. It was revealed the FBI had already been given a dossier on Trump by a former British agent. It claimed Moscow had ‘kompromat’ — compromising material used for blackmail — on the new president.

FBI Director James Comey soon found his popularity with the president reversed. He had been lauded as a Republican hero for refusing to reveal the existence of the Trump dossier during the election campaign while delivering the damaging news Hillary Clinton was being investigated in the last days before the nation voted. But Comey was fired within the opening weeks of the Trump administration. The president repeatedly stated this was, at least in part, due to Comey’s refusal to drop the Russia investigation.

We’ve now learnt via the New York Times that this firing initiated a formal FBI investigation into the possibility Trump was a Russian agent. It wasn’t long before this probe was passed on to Department of Justice special counsel Robert Mueller

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