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Donald Trump and Russia and China: The Art of the Deal

Donald Trump’s foreign policy as revealed by his statements and his interview with the Wall Street Journal replaces grandiose geopolitical projects with the hard headed deal making of a businessman acting in the US interest.

Alexander Mercouris

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Donald Trump has given an interview to the Wall Street Journal, which provides an insight to his outlook on foreign policy.

Donald Trump is first and foremost a businessman.  Strikingly the man he has picked for Secretary of State – Rex Tillerson – is also a businessman.  Moreover Trump’s business background is the wheeler dealer business environment of the US property market, in which he has thrived.  His outlook on foreign policy follows this pattern.   It is ruthlessly pragmatic, America-centric, completely non-ideological, and goal centred.  Its centre piece is the deal, about which Trump has written a book.

As Trump’s interview shows, his approach is to use whatever leverage he has over Russia and China to extract the best possible deal for the US from the.

In the case of Russia he is offering to bargain away the sanctions in return for Russia’s help on a variety of foreign policy issues, notably the fight against Jihadi terrorism, and – almost certainly – trade concessions, with Trump and Tillerson interested in opening up Russia’s huge energy industry to US investment, from which they expect the US to make a massive profit.  By contrast there is a total lack of interest in Russia’s internal politics or in the grander geopolitical projects of the neocons.   Trump’s outlook is summed up perfectly in the following sentence

If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?

In the case of China, the leverage over China is the “One China Policy” and the South China Sea, with Trump hinting that he is prepared to drop the one and to cosy up to Taiwan, and Tillerson hinting that the US is prepared to confront China in regard to the other, unless China makes concessions on trade.  Again it is all perfectly summed up in a single sentence

Everything is under negotiation, including one China.

This is an attitude totally different from the one the US has followed since the neocons gained control of US foreign policy during Bill Clinton’s second term, or indeed since the start of the Second World War 75 years ago.

Ideology and grand geopolitical projects are entirely cast aside, to be replaced by a narrow focus on US national interests.  A Trump led US is one that is uninterested in regime change projects, “democracy promotion”, “the new American century’, “American exceptionalism” etc.

To the extent that Trump thinks about these concepts they hold no sway over him.  As a businessman he would feel that they are “not a paying proposition”.

This is not the foreign policy ‘realism’ of Henry Kissinger – which remained fully wedded to the pursuit of geopolitics – or the “US should mind its own business” approach of the US Libertarians with its strongly ethical dimension, and it is certainly not the ‘isolationism’ of someone like Robert Taft.  Trump has no intention of giving up on the US’s global role, and those who expect him to wind up NATO are doomed to disappointment.

An earlier generation of US Presidents – people like  McKinley and Coolidge – would however have had no difficulty understanding Trump’s foreign policy with its ruthless focus on US interest redefined in the narrowest terms.  In the words of Calvin Coolidge

After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world. I am strongly of the opinion that the great majority of people will always find these the moving impulses of our life.

Though Trump’s profoundly unsentimental conception of foreign policy has deep roots in US culture, it is not surprising that many sections of today’s US political establishment are unsettled and alarmed by it.

To give one example, it is unclear what precise role the US intelligence services – whose role in the world since their creation during the Second World War and the Cold War has been precisely to advance US geopolitical projects – would have in it.  After all in McKinley’s and Coolidge’s time the US did not have and had no need for the vast intelligence apparatus it has today.  Given that Trump’s approach to foreign policy is basically a throwback to theirs, it is not surprising that Trump is little interested in the intelligence community’s work, as revealed by the fact that he has been skipping his intelligence briefings.

Not surprisingly a US intelligence community which has become accustomed to a starring role in decision making and to being taken extremely seriously by US Presidents is upset and alarmed by an attitude it is probably unable to understand.

Given the widespread alarm and incomprehension from within the US political establishment and foreign policy community, it is far from certain that Trump will be able – or will be allowed – to conduct foreign policy in the way he wants to.  Assuming however that he does, how will it play out?

Obviously it is impossible to speak for the whole world, but in terms of relations with Russia and China it might play out surprisingly well.

In relation to Russia, it is important to say that Trump is no Russophile.  He does not want to improve relations with Russia because he has sentimental feelings towards Russia or towards President Putin (whom he has never met), and he is certainly not a “Siberian candidate”.  He does not want good relations with Russia’s for their own sake.  What he wants is to make a deal with Russia in the US’s interests.  That by definition involves reciprocal concessions by each country towards the other.  Trump’s approach to China will be the same.

The leaders of both Russia and China are realists and pragmatists, and though their foreign policy vision is certainly wider than Trump’s, neither country has any reason to want to take on the US given that both countries would far prefer at this stage in their histories to focus on their internal development.  Deals on trade and on issues like terrorism are certainly possible, with both countries instinctively preferring to work with an unsentimental dealmaker and businessman – with whom “they can do business” – rather than with an ideological crusader like Hillary Clinton who (as they must know) deep down denies their very legitimacy.

Whilst this is already clear with Russia, in my opinion over time it will also become clear with China as well.  Though the Chinese have in public reacted fiercely to some of Trump’s and Tillerson’s statements, they have also repeatedly made it clear that they are open to negotiation provided what they consider to be their core interests are respected.  As tough minded pragmatists they almost certainly realise that ultimately it is easier for them to do a deal that will stick with someone like Trump than it ever was with Obama or would have been with someone like Hillary Clinton, who would come with far too much ideological baggage to the table.

Whether this approach would work with the US’s European allies or in coping the multiple conflicts of the Middle East is another matter.

Trump’s approach also on the face of it has little to offer to the people of Africa – in whom he is not interested – and nothing to offer to the people of Latin America, where unlike the ethical non-interventionism of US Libertarians like Ron Paul,  Donald Trump can be expected to defend relentlessly what he sees as US interests, which involves the US maintaining its dominant role in Latin American affairs.

In these very early days before Trump has even been inaugurated it is impossible to say to what extent he will be able to shape US foreign policy around his vision.  It is nonetheless fascinating  and important – and also very surprising – that someone with a vision like his is now less than a week away from being inaugurated President of the United States.

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Rod Rosenstein resigns from his post before President Trump can fire him

Rosenstein’s comments about secretly recording the President backfire, and resignation may throw the Mueller Russiagate probe into question.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The Washington Times broke the story that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein resigned from his post. He submitted his resignation to Chief of Staff John Kelly.  At present the breaking story says the following:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is out at the Department of Justice.

Axios reported that Mr. Rosenstein verbally resigned to White House Chief Of Staff John Kelly, but CNN said that he is expecting to be fired.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Department of Justice spokeswoman, declined to comment on the reports.

Mr. Rosenstein’s departure immediately throws Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian collusion probe into chaos.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation, leaving Mr. Rosenstein in charge.

President Trump mulled firing the No. 2 at the Department of Justice over the weekend.

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This report came after Fox News reported that the Deputy AG was summoned to the White House. Fox reported a little more detail:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is heading to the White House expecting to be fired, sources tell Fox News, in the wake of a report that he suggested wearing a wire against President Trump and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office last year.

This is a developing story, however one major factor that comes under consideration is the fate of Robert Mueller and his Russiagate investigation, which was authorized by Rosenstein. CNBC had this to say in their piece:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is resigning Monday, according to Axios, which cited a source familiar with the matter.

NBC News’ Pete Williams, however, reported that Rosenstein would not resign of his own accord, and that he will only depart if the White House fired him. He will refuse to resign if asked to do so, Williams added.

Rosenstein was at the White House when Williams reported this on the air. However, President Donald Trump is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

Bloomberg later reported that the White House accepted Rosenstein’s resignation, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Rosenstein’s expected resignation will immediately raise questions about the fate of the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump.

Rosenstein’s job security was called into question after The New York Times reported last week that the No. 2 DOJ official had discussed invoking the 25th amendment to remove Trump, and had also talked about surreptitiously recording the president.

Rosenstein oversees the special counsel investigation, and has appointed Mueller to run the Russia probe last year, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the case.

The special counsel’s office declined to comment on the report.

The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Axios’ report. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to CNBC’s inquiry.

Trump has repeatedly blasted Mueller’s inquiry, which also is focused on possible collusion with Russia by members of the Trump campaign.

He has called the investigation a “witch hunt,” and has repeatedly vented frustration about Sessions’ recusal, which directly led to Mueller’s appointment by Rosenstein.

Rosenstein’s expected departure comes on the heels of a guilty plea by Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort to conspiracy charges related to his consulting work in Ukraine, which predates his role on the campaign.

As part of the investigation, Mueller’s team has been locked in an ongoing back-and-forth with Trump’s legal team over an in-person interview with the president.

Trump’s lawyers, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, have signaled that Trump is unwilling to sit for an interview, calling it a “perjury trap” and setting up a potential challenge for Mueller to subpoena the president.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

 

 

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European Council crushes Theresa May’s soft Brexit dream (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 116.

Alex Christoforou

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UK Prime Minister Theresa May hoped that the European Council was ready to see things her way, in terms of proceeding with a soft Brexit, which was essentially no Brexit at all…at least not the hard Brexit that was voted on in a democratic referendum approximately two years ago.

Much to May’s surprise, European Council President Donald Tusk delivered a death blow verdict for May’s Brexit, noting that EU leaders are in full agreement that Chequers plan for Brexit “will not work” because “it risks undermining the single market.”

Without a miracle compromise springing up come during the October summit, the UK will drift into the March 29, 2019 deadline without a deal and out of the European Union…which was initially what was voted for way back in 2016, leaving everyone asking, what the hell was May doing wasting Britain’s time and resources for two years, so as to return back to the hard Brexit terms she was charged with carrying forward after the 2016 referendum?

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss what was a disastrous EU summit in Salzburg for UK PM Theresa May, in what looks to be the final nail in May’s tenure as UK Prime Minister, as a hard Brexit now seems all but certain.

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Via Zerohedge

Tusk was speaking at the end of an EU summit in Salzburg, where the leaders of the 27 remaining states in the bloc were discussing Brexit. He said that while there were “positive elements” in May’s Chequers plan, a deal that puts the single market at risk cannot be accepted.

“Everybody shared the view that while there are positive elements in the Chequers proposal, the suggested framework for economic co-operation will not work, not least because it is undermining the single market,” Tusk said. He also said that he could not “exclude” the possibility that the UK could exit the EU in March with no deal.

May has been urging her European counterparts to accept her controversial Chequers plan which has split both the Conservative party and the broader UK population after it was thrashed out back in July. However, despite the painfully-slow negotiation process, which appears to have made little headway with just a few months left, the UK is set to leave the EU on March 29 2019 – with or without an exit deal.

The main sticking point that has emerged, and left May and the EU at loggerheads, has been how to avoid new checks on the Irish border. May has claimed that her proposals were the “only serious, credible” way to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland. She said during a press conference after the Salzburg meeting that she would not accept the EU’s “backstop” plan to avoid a Northern Ireland hard border. She said the UK would shortly be bringing forward its own proposals.

May also said that there was “a lot of hard work to be done,” adding that the UK was also preparing for the eventuality of having to leave the EU without a deal. Tusk, meanwhile, said that the upcoming October summit would be the “moment of truth” for reaching a deal, and that “if the conditions are there” another summit would be held in November to “formalize” it.

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Russia makes HUGE strides in drone technology

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The US and Israel are universally recognized leaders in the development and use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. Thousands of American and Israeli UAVs are operating across the world daily.

The US military has recently successfully tested an air-to-air missile to turn its MQ-9 Reaper drone into an effective long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance unmanned spy aircraft capable of air-to-surface as well as air-to-air missions. This is a major breakthrough. It’s not a secret that Russia has been lagging behind in UAV development. Now its seems to be going to change with tangible progress made to narrow the gap.

Very few nations boast drones capable of high-altitude long endurance (HALE) missions. Russia is to enter the club of the chosen. In late 2017, the Russian Defense Ministry awarded a HALE UAV contract to the Kazan-based Simonov design bureau.

This month, Russian Zvezda military news TV channel showed a video (below) of Altair (Altius) heavy drone prototype aircraft number “03”, going through its first flight test.

Propelled by two RED A03/V12 500hp high fuel efficiency diesel engines, each producing a capacity of 500 hp on takeoff, the 5-ton heavy vehicle with a wingspan of 28.5 meters boasts a maximum altitude of 12km and a range of 10,000km at a cruising speed of 150-250km/h.

Wingspan: about 30 meters. Maximum speed: up to 950 km/h. Flight endurance: 48 hours. Payload: two tons, which allows the creation of a strike version. The vehicle is able to autonomously take off and land or be guided by an operator from the ground.

The UAV can carry the usual range of optical and thermal sensors as well as synthetic-aperture ground-surveillance radar with the resolution of .1 meter at the range of 35km and 1 meter at the range of 125km. The communications equipment allows real-time data exchange.

Russia’s UAV program currently underway includes the development of a range of large, small, and mid-sized drones. The Orion-E medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV was unveiled at the MAKS 2017 air show. Its developer, Kronstadt Technologies, claims it could be modified for strike missions. The one-ton drone is going through testing now. The Orion-E is capable of automatic takeoff and landing.

It can fly continuously for 24 hours, carrying a surveillance payload of up to 200 kg to include a forward looking infra-red (FLIR) turret, synthetic aperture radar and high resolution cameras. The drone can reach a maximum altitude of 7,500 m. Its range is 250 km.

The Sukhoi design bureau is currently developing the Okhotnik (Hunter) strike drone with a range of about 3,500km. The drone made its maiden flight this year. In its current capacity, it has an anti-radar coating, and will store missiles and precision-guided bombs internally to avoid radar detection.

The Kazan-based Eniks Design Bureau is working on the small T-16 weaponized aerial vehicle able to carry 6 kg of payload.

The new Russian Korsar (Corsair) tactical surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will be upgraded to receive an electronic warfare system. Its operational range will be increased from 150km to 250km. The drone was revealed at Victory Day military parade along with the Korsar unmanned combat helicopter version.

The rotary wing drone lacks the speed and altitude of the fixed wing variant, but has a great advantage of being able to operate without landing strips and can be sea-based. Both drones can carry guided and unguided munitions. The fixed-wing version can be armed with Ataka 9M120 missiles.

The first Russian helicopter-type unmanned aerial vehicle powered by hydrogen fuel cells was presented at the Army-2018 international forum. With the horizontal cruising speed of the drone up to 60 kph, the unmanned chopper can stay in the air at least 2.5 hours to conduct reconnaissance operations. Its payload is up to 5 kg.

Last November, the Kalashnikov Concern reported that it would start production of heavy unmanned aerial vehicles capable of carrying up to several tons of cargo and operating for several days at a time without needing to recharge.

All in all, the Russian military operate 1,900 drones on a daily basis. The multi-purpose Orlan-10 with a range of 600km has become a working horse that no military operation, including combat actions in Syria, can be conducted without. Maj. Gen. Alexander Novikov,
the head of the Russian General Staff’s Office for UAV Development, Russian drones performed over 23,000 flights, lasting 140,000 hours in total.

Russia’s State Armament Program for 2018-2027 puts the creation of armed UAVs at the top of priorities’ list. Looks like the effort begins to pay off. Russia is well on the way to become second to none in UAV capability.

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Via Strategic Culture

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