UNITED STATES—During a 1973 bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden, the captives inexplicably bonded with their captors.  Thus the term Stockholm Syndrome was born, defined as a condition that causes hostages to develop a psychological alliance with their abductors.  It’s basically a survival strategy whereby those who feel completely trapped and beholden to their kidnappers begin to form a weird but seemingly life-saving bond with them.

When Patty Hurst was kidnapped in 1974, she too seemed to have developed an attachment to her abductors, even joining them in a bank robbery. Although her attorney was unsuccessful in claiming her to be a victim of the Stockholm Syndrome, it begs the question of why she would eagerly join them in the heist despite her being repeatedly raped and kept in a closet.

This psychological event can also occur in situations other than kidnappings.  People can senselessly begin to develop positive feelings for the person who is inflicting physical harm, such as women who are repeatedly beaten by their husbands but refuse to press charges or leave them.  Many feel that they have no control over their fate and their only option is to stay with them, even to the point of defending their brutality.

People can also be in a controlling relationship with someone when blackmail is threatened. As outlandish as it seems, could this be why Donald Trump is displaying a relationship with Vladimir Putin that is nothing short of a one-way bromance with a man who appears to hold something potentially disastrous over him? Although there is speculation that it might involve sexual indiscretions, it more likely may be that the Russian president holds incriminating and incendiary proof of financial dealings that could bring down Trump’s presidency, or worse.

Examples abound of the hold Putin has over Trump:

— Why would President Trump have expressed gratitude instead of condemnation to Putin after he cut hundreds of personnel from the U.S. embassy in Russia, a move that conjured up memories of cold war intimidation? Trump’s feeble reasoning was that he was trying to cut down on payroll, spinning this as a good thing.

— Why would Mr. Trump not react with immediate and continued condemnation about Russia’s invasion into Ukraine?

— Why would our president have told his aides not to talk about Russia policy decisions the White House implemented against Russia, such as supplying weapons to Ukraine for its ongoing battle against Russian-backed separatists for fear that touting this action publicly might agitate Putin?

— Why did he not initially speak with outrage and immediate solidarity with England about the attempted murder of a former Russian spy in the country of a NATO ally?  Although he eventually joined world condemnation by expelling diplomats, he did so well after the event and never with a vehemence that we would expect from our Commander-in-Chief.

–Why is Mr. Trump still trying to thwart Bob Mueller’s investigation into Russian tampering in the 2016 election?  By what possible reasoning would he have to denounce the conclusions of every single United States investigative organization that Russia tried to influence our democratic process? Trump refuses to accept their findings, even though Mr. Putin admitted to a worldwide audience standing right next to Trump in Helsinki that, yes, he did want Trump to win.

— Why would Mr. Trump extend his personal and enthusiastic congratulations to Putin for his winning a sham election?

Never before has an American president ever cozied up to a tyrant as completely and as vocally as Trump is doing with Putin.  His constant praise of this former KGB spy is beyond bizarre and so extraordinarily anti-American, yet he continues to ramp up his refusal to condemn Putin’s audacious ways even as this enemy of our country is increasingly determined to undermine our democracy.

Knowing how macho our president tries to present himself, under no circumstances would he let anyone else get away with diminishing his persona as brazenly as Putin is doing.  Trump’s constant tweets attacking those whom he feels belittle him are proof of his prickly intolerance toward anyone whom he deems disrespectful – with the exception of Vladimir Putin.  His strangling hold over our president is causing Trump to align himself with the very person who threatens to destroy him, and is unwilling to cross this intimidator in any way.  If our president’s behavior seems bewildering, it may untangle our struggle to understand him if we view him through the lens of the Stockholm Syndrome.

It’s one thing to be fearful of blackmail; it’s quite another to so effusively embrace the blackmailer. Has his apparent fear mutated into an admiration and a desire to protect his tormentor? If our president is under constant threat of exposure for something of which we are currently in the dark about, morphing into a Putin cheerleader must feel like the safest strategy to Mr. Trump

But if we have a Commander-in-Chief in the grips of the Stockholm Syndrome, Putin’s hold over our president is putting Americans in decidedly dangerous territory.

Allowing this stranglehold over our president to continue unabated is no way to preserve and protect our democracy, which he swore to uphold at his inauguration.