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5 reasons American foreign policy is insanely dangerous and dangerously insane

US foreign policy is so detached from reality that it has become literally insane to a worrying degree.

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The United States is starting to live up to the ancient Greek stereotypes about the Achaemenid Persian Empire, namely that in spite of its strength, its rulers are brash, unrefined, thirsty for blood and tactically unsophisticated.

This stereotype, largely taken from the words of the historian Herodotus was never fully true, but from a philosophical standpoint, the idea that the Greeks and the Athenians in particular were a more refined society than their Persian enemy can readily be applied to the dichotomy between  Russia and China on one hand and America on the other. This is in no way meant to be an insult to modern Iran which is clearly on the side of civilisation against the forces of western barbarism.

In foreign relations the United States has largely invented its own gods and shibboleths, it adheres to its own mythical conception of reality as though it was divine truth and operates on the principle that can increasingly be defined as “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength”.

In this sense, modern America is one part Herodotus’s conception of the ancient Achaemenid Persians and one part George Orwell’s bleak view of a distopian future.

Under the Donald Trump administration, America’s foreign policy has retained the smug exceptionalism of the Obama years while it has adopted a patronising and condescending tone towards other powerful nations, including the other super-powers of the world. While the tone is grating, the over-all conclusion as well as the means of America’s foreign policy making are looking not only barbaric but also insane in a literal sense. They are detached from reality so much so that one could summarise US foreign policy by imagining a doctor proscribing full leg amputation to a patient diagnosed with a broken finger when in reality the patient’s only ailment is that the doctor himself has hit the patient’s hand with a sledgehammer.

Before moving on, it is necessary to say that I am a Trump supporter. In domestic affairs and in terms of his personality, I admire the man and his accomplishments. But in terms of the foreign policy which has transpired under his administration, I am deeply sickened. My wish is not for Trump to be discarded but for him to understand why in terms of foreign policy his country has lost the plot entirely. Whether he can actually do anything about it is another matter.

Here are five examples of just how dangerously insane and insanely dangerous US policy has become:

1.  Sanctions are an act of war and an act of brutality 

Just as chemical weapons, including mustard gas were banned after the First World War, something even Adolf Hitler acknowledged and adhered to, it is high time to internationally ban the use of  sanctions, the uncontrollable killer of the current age.

One need only to look at the US led sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s to realise that sanctions are not a means of preserving a difficult peace, but instead a means of conducting atrocities without having to waste bullets.

The sanctions on Iraq during the 1990s led to the death of more Iraqi children than any war in the 20th century history of Iraq. Only the 2003 illegal US-UK war on Iraq killed more. The sanctions crippled a wealthy state leading to hunger where there was never hunger, a lack of medicine in a nation that could easily afford the world’s best medicines and suffering where even at the height of the dreadfully ill-advised (western advised) Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, Iraqis continued to live normally by comparison to the 1990s.

Today in Syria, the real humanitarian crisis is caused less by al-Qaeda, FSA and ISIS, bad though these jihadist groups are, than that which is being caused by US imposed sanctions. Syria can, even now, afford medicines and food, but much of this is out of reach only because of US sanctions.

No geo-political goal can justify these crimes against humanity and as it is, the US goal of replacing a secular, tolerant, pluralist government in Syria with one led by Salafist barbarians is far from a noble goal to say the least. The fact that such a regime change is against international law is simply extra-credit on the exam of morality that the US has clearly flunked.

But not content with having sanctioned Iraq and sanctioning Syria, now the United States wants to sanction and starve North Korea.

Ironically, according to the US, North Korea is already starving, a factually untrue statement, but by sanctioning North Korea further, the US could in fact begin to starve North Korea. This is one of the reasons that Russia and China oppose sanctions, it is about morality as much as it is about respectful diplomacy for a country which hasn’t engaged in a single active armed conflict during an era when the United States has engaged aggressively in over 10.

2. Using the UN to enshrine global Apartheid

The Charter of the United Nations remains one of the noblest documents written in the modern age. The aims and goals of the document are to prevent war and ensure the best possible peace for all men, women and children and for all nations.

The fact of the matter is that the United States and its increasingly small number of allies have turned the UN into a body that can either rubber stamp America’s singular vision of world dominance or else be permanently paralysed.

When America is able to force one-sided resolutions through the UN, the US hides behind these resolutions even when they justify American violence rather than any objective understanding of peace. When the US does not get its way, the US says the UN has no credibility. Shame clearly isn’t a word that American ‘diplomats’ are familiar with.

In her recent remarks on North Korea, America’s Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley spoke of the UN’s credibility being in jeopardy if it does not act on North Korea. When Haley says ‘act on North Korea’ she means rubber stamp American imposed sanctions with the additional threat of war against a country that does not objectively threaten anyone. Of the two competing states on the Korean peninsula, only one allows a country with enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world several hundred times over to place weapons of mass destruction on its soil (the THAAD missile system) and that country is not North Korea.

That being said, South Korea is not stupid enough to reignite the Korean War and nor is North Korea. America by the admission of Nikki Haley is stupid enough to take military action on the Korean peninsula, something which would de-facto mean the end of the ceasefire in Korea which has held since 1953.

What kind of world is one living in when one country and its few lackeys can turn a body designed to preserve the peace into one designed to rubber stamp war and savage sanctions? This is not world government as some on the American anti-war right say but nor is it peaceful diplomacy. It is American led global Apartheid where there is one rule for the US and its allies and another for everyone else. For those on the American anti-war right complaining about how much the US pays to the UN, if paying to get what you want is how one measures a good deal, America ought to be happier than a pig swimming in excreta.

3. Speaking down to fellow-superpowers 

While most US foreign policies have remained the same under Trump as they were under Obama, one thing has changed and it is not an improvement. America now patronises and condescends to the other two world superpowers more so than under the Obama regime and that is really saying something.

Donald Trump’s Tweets demanding China fix the ‘North Korea problem’ and on America’s terms no less, fail to acknowledge that both China and North Korea are sovereign states, neither of whom share each other’s vision for the world let alone America’s vision for the world.

China is rightly incensed by this attitude as any nation would be.

To add insult to injury, now US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has stated that Russia has a “special responsibility” to insure peace in Syria.

This is not only an insult to Syria’s sovereignty and to Syria and Russia’s partner Iran, but it is an insult to Russia. Russia’s responsibility is only to Russia and her voluntary partnership with Syria is a matter of bilateral security, not America’s perverse metaphysical vision for the universes.

What is this, kindergarten? “Johnny, because Billy is mentally retarded you have a special responsibility to make sure he doesn’t make a mess in the school lavatory”.

This is not a way to speak to a sovereign nation, let alone a nuclear superpower.

Making things more awkward, Tillerson actually believes that the US and Russia could create a joint no-fly zone. Of course, America’s conception of a no fly zone is one in which only American an allied planes would be allowed to fly. If America and Russia were to create this mythical no-fly zone, whose planes would be grounded? Would Syrian planes by grounded in Syria at the insistence of a Syrian partner? Would Russia also work with the US to ground the planes of its Iranian partner in the war against terrorism in Syria? What about the only planes currently flying in Syrian airspace illegally, those of the US, its allies and the unilateral air movements of Turkish and Israeli jets, who would ground them?

This idea of a joint Russian-US no fly zone is not only patronising and insulting to Russia and her allies, it is downright absurd.

When Donald Trump said he wanted to work with Russia, if he meant Russia submitting to America’s increasingly preposterous terms, he was simply deluded, perhaps a victim of bad advice or a victim of lack of experience in foreign affairs.

4. God complex meets Orwell complex 

The increasingly unhinged Nikki Haley has repeated that threatening North Korea with sanctions and war will help the North Korea people.

In what world has war ever helped anyone? War is a necessary evil to be used only in self-defence. The UN itself was created and its charter written after the biggest war in human history in order to prevent such suffering.

Russia could constantly take a position of moral superiority because it did the lion’s share of fighting against the fascist aggressor during the Great Patriotic War, but Russian diplomats do not do this. They honour their history but when it comes to foreign policy making and diplomatic engagement they live in the present.

What makes the United States feel that war is somehow a way to help people? This is literally insane. If a common criminal went before a judge and said, “I killed half of someone’s family in order to help the family”, the judge would transfer the man from a regular prison to a prison for the criminally insane.

The lesson of the Second World War/Great Patriotic War is that international mechanisms must be in place to foster cooperation and respect between nations in order to avoid mass murder on a global scale. Instead, the lessons that the United States takes is that preemptive war is somehow a magical solution to solving disasters which have not yet happened. Only Israel and some of America’s western European allies share such a delusional view of the lessons of history.

War is not peace, war is hell and this seems to be where America wants to send any country that doesn’t march to the rhythm of its war drum.

5. The power of positive thinking 

The American Protestant Minister Norman Vincent Peale once wrote a self-help book called ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’, which argued that a positive attitude can overcome depression and material despair.

The reality is that in modern America, there exists an attitude which suggests that realism is somehow negative thinking and that positive thinking is carte blanche allowing the positive thinker to do whatever the hell he or she wants.

This is not only deeply dangerous but it is un-Christian. Christianity teaches compassion for the weak, not violence towards the defenceless. Christianity is about fearing God, not having the confidence to play God. Christianity is about loving one’s neighbour, not bombing one’s neighbour. The idea that anything which gets in the way of one’s positive view of one’s self should be cast aside is more akin to the fascist conception of a master race than to Christ’s teachings of humility before God and Christ’s teachings of charity for one’s fellow man. Yet America thinks it has a monopoly on its own very perverse version of violent, intolerant Christianity too….how dreadfully pessimistic indeed.

America seeks to humble the world, but it is the US which ought to learn humility. Positive thinking has its limits. When one is behaving violently, irrationally and insanely, one cannot justify this using the power of optimism. One needs a thorough self-examination, something America looks increasingly incapable of.

Through all of this, America has become everything it was supposed to hate, a global imperial power whose own people are taxed to death in order to fund a violent war machine.

This piece is not an anti-American argument, it is the opposite. America is in a fortunate position in that by changing its barbaric foreign policy, it could help bring peace to the world and prosperity back to its own people. Far from being an unusual concept, it is one of the things Donald Trump campaigned on.

I still believe Donald Trump is a good man, but he is surrounded by idiots, bandits, lunatics and criminals. He ought to remember his famous catch phrase and say ‘You’re fired’ to such people. America needs to step back from its position of barbarism, it needs to act more like the Greeks as portrayed by Herodotus, rather than in the manner of their enemies.

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The man behind Ukraine coup is now turning Greece against Russia (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 57.

Alex Christoforou

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On July 11, Greece said it would expel two Russian diplomats and barred the entry of two others.

The Duran reported that the formal reason is alleged meddling in an attempt to foment opposition to the “historic” name deal between Athens and Skopje paving the way for Macedonia’s NATO membership. Moscow said it would respond in kind.

Nothing like this ever happened before. The relations between the two countries have traditionally been warm. This year Moscow and Athens mark the 190th anniversary of diplomatic relations and the 25th anniversary of the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Hellenic Republic. They have signed over 50 treaties and agreements.

Greek news daily, Kathimerini says the relationship started to gradually worsen behind the scenes about a couple of years ago. What happened back then? Geoffrey Pyatt assumed office as US Ambassador to Greece. Before the assignment he had served as ambassador to Ukraine in 2013-2016 at the time of Euromaidan – the events the US took active part in. He almost openly contributed into the Russia-Ukraine rift. Now it’s the turn of Greece. The ambassador has already warned Athens about the “malign influence of Russia”. He remains true to himself.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris connect the dots between the Ukraine coup and Greece’s recent row with Russia, and the man who is in the middle of it all, US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via Sputnik News

Actions similar to the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Greece do not remain without consequences, said spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova.

“We have an understanding that the people of Greece should communicate with their Russian partners, and not suffer from dirty provocations, into which, unfortunately, Athens was dragged,” Zakharova said at a briefing.

“Unfortunately, of course, we are talking about politics. Such things do not remain without consequences, do not disappear without a trace. Of course, unfortunately, all this darkens bilateral relations, without introducing any constructive principle,” she added.

On July 11, the Greek Kathimerini newspaper reported that Athens had decided to expel two Russian diplomats and ban two more from entering the country over illegal actions that threatened the country’s national security. The publication claimed that the diplomats attempted to intervene in a domestic issue, namely the changing of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to the Republic of North Macedonia, the agreement for which was brokered by Skopje and Athens last month.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has vowed to give a mirror response to Greece’s move.

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Russia just DUMPED $80 billion in US debt

The US Treasury published a report naming those countries that are the largest holders of US bonds. The list includes 33 countries, and for the first time Russia is no longer in it.

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Russia has stopped “inching towards de-dollarization” as I wrote about on July 3rd, and has now energetically walked out of the list of largest holders of US government bonds, hence this update. For the two months ending in May 2018, Moscow has offloaded more than $80 billion in US Government debt obligations.

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The $30 billion “minimum” listing Rubicon has been crossed by Russia.

As of the end of May, Russia had bonds worth only $ 14.9 billion. For comparison: in April, Russia was on the Treasury list with bonds totaling $48.7 billion. Even then it was offloading US$ debt securities as Russia owned in March over $96 billion. At the end of 2017, Russia had US treasury securities worth $102.2 billion. It is anyones guess what Russia will own when the June and July figures are released in August and September – probably less than today.

This simply serves as a confirmation that Russia is steadfastly following a conservative policy of risk diversification in several areas such as financial, economic, and geopolitical. The US public debt and spend is increasingly viewed as a heightened risk area, deserving sober assessment.

So where have all the dollars gone? The total reserves of the Russian Central Bank have not changed and remain at approximately the equivalent of $ 457 billion, so what we are seeing is a shift of assets to other central banks, other asset classes, just not US$ government bonds.

During the same time (April-May) as this US$ shift happened, the Russian Central Bank bought more than 1 million troy ounces of gold in 60 days, and continues.

For comparison sake, the maximum Russia investment in US public debt was in October 2010 totaling $176.3 billion. Today it is $14.9 billion.

The largest holders of US government bonds as of May are China ($ 1,183.1 billion), Japan ($ 1048.8 billion), Ireland ($ 301 billion), Brazil ($ 299.2 billion), Great Britain ($ 265 billion).

Using the similar conservative metrics that the Russian Central Bank has been rather successfully applying through this geopolitically and economically challenging period with the US and the US Dollar, it may not stretch the imagination too much that other countries such as China may eventually follow suit. Who will finance the debt/spend then?

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Assessing the Putin-Trump Helsinki summit: neither a breakthrough nor a damp squib but a possible start towards detente

The US and Russian Presidents took the first step towards ending the downward spiral in their countries’ relations but the obstacles ahead remain formidable.

Alexander Mercouris

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The US and Russian Presidents took the first step towards ending the downward spiral in their countries' relations but the obstacles ahead remain formidable.

The summit meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin has finally taken place in Helsinki to thunderous condemnation on the part of many in the West.

Some talk luridly of the beginning of the end of the West.  Others talk hysterically of treason.

Others see the summit as a damp squib, which will change nothing and which will leave the relationship between the US and Russia and between Russia and the West essentially unchanged, with the current state of hostility continuing indefinitely unabated.

In my opinion both views are wrong (the first obviously so) and both misunderstand, and in the case of the first wilfully misrepresent, what actually happened in Helsinki.

I discussed the background to the summit in an article I wrote a month ago for The Duran at a time when first reports that the summit was in the offing were beginning to circulate.

In that article I said that there was no possibility that Putin would make unilateral concessions to Trump over the status of Crimea or over the conflict in Ukraine and that the idea that he would agree to the US and Ukrainian proposal for a peacekeeping force to be deployed to the Donbass was certainly wrong and that that idea had already been categorically ruled out by the Russians.

I was also skeptical that there would be any sort of ‘grand bargain’ between the US and the Russians over Syria.

On the subject of Syria, in the weeks leading up to the summit there were some media reports suggesting that Donald Trump was coming under pressure from Israel, the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates to agree a deal at the summit with Putin whereby Russia would be granted sanctions relief and possibly even recognition of Crimea, US troops in Syria would be withdrawn, and in return the Russians would agree that Iranian forces would be expelled from Syria.

The Russians were clearly concerned about these reports.  Not only did they go out of their way to deny them, but Putin and Lavrov held talks in Moscow on 12th July 2018 with Ali Akbar Velayati, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s Special Adviser on International Relations, in order to reassure the Iranians that they were not true.

As I explained in my lengthy discussion of Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent visit to Moscow on Victory Day, it would in fact be wholly contrary to established principles of Russian foreign policy for the Russians to agree to a ‘grand bargain’ like this.

From the Russian point of view relations between Iran and Syria are relations between two sovereign nations and are none of Russia’s business.

Not only is it not Russia’s business to interfere in whatever relations Iran and Syria have with each other, but Russia lacks the means to do so anyway, with any request from Moscow to Tehran and Damascus to sever or downgrade their relations certain to be refused, and with Russia having no means to force either country to comply with such a request save through steps which would put at risk its relations with both of these countries.

All Russia would achieve were it ever to make such a request would be to damage to its relations with Iran and Syria and lose face and face accusations of bad faith from the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel when it failed to follow through.

Here is what I said about how Putin would respond to a demand from Netanyahu to rein in the Iranians in Syria if it were made to him during Netanyahu’s Victory Day visit, and nothing which has happened since would have caused Putin to change his position

Contrary to what some people are saying, I think it is most unlikely that Putin would have given Netanyahu any assurances that Russia would act to rein in Iranian activities in Syria.

If Netanyahu asked Putin for such assurances (which I also think unlikely) Putin would almost certainly have told him what the Russians always say when faced with requests for such assurances: Iran and Syria are sovereign states and Russia cannot interfere in arrangements two sovereign states make with each other.

I suspect that the source of some of the stories about a ‘grand bargain’ between Putin and Trump involving the role of the Iranians in Syria is the regular discussions the Russians have with the Israelis, the Iranians and the Syrians whereby the Russians pass on to the Iranians and the Syrians Israeli concerns about the presence of Iranian forces in Syria in particular locations and about specific actions which the Iranians take.

A good example of these sort of discussions was an exchange between Putin and Netanyahu during Netanyahu’s most recent trip to Moscow on 11th July 2018.  The Kremlin’s website reports Netanyahu and Putin saying the following to each other

Benjamin Netanyahu: ……….Of course, our focus is on developments in Syria, the presence of Iran. This is not new to you. Several hours ago, an unmanned aerial vehicle entered the territory of Israel from Syria and was successfully brought down. I would like to emphasise that we will counter any and all attempts to violate our air or land borders.

Cooperation between us is an essential, key factor that can stabilise the entire region. So, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to meet with you and discuss these things.

Vladimir Putin: We are aware of your concerns. Let us discuss them in detail.

(bold italics added)

The Russians are not engaged here in discussions over some sort of ‘grand bargain’ to remove all Iranian troops from Syria, which as I have said they would see as counterproductive and impossible.  Rather they are engaged in the classic diplomatic exercise of conflict prevention: keeping the Israelis, the Iranians and the Syrians informed about each other’s moves and red lines in order to prevent an uncontrolled escalation of the conflict between them, which might risk an all-out war, which nobody wants, and which the Russians are doing their best to prevent.

Recent reports of an understanding between the Israelis, the Iranians and the Syrians supposedly brokered by the Russians whereby Iranian forces agreed not to participate in the Syrian army’s ongoing military operations in south west Syria close to the Israeli occupied Golan Heights are a case in point.

The Iranians and the Syrians  agreed to this, not because the Russians forced them to but because it is in their interest to.  The Syrian army does not need Iranian help to defeat the Jihadis in southwest Syria so keeping the Iranians away from the area allows the Syrians to clear the area of the Jihadis without risking a military confrontation with Israel.

Needless to say, just as the Russians were not prepared to make concessions on Crimea and Donbass or on Syria, so they were not prepared to back Donald Trump’s ongoing campaign against Iran.

Not only are the Russians deeply committed to the JCPOA (which they partly brokered) but they are also committed to improving their relations with Iran.   In addition, given that the ongoing US campaign against Iran is clearly intended to achieve regime change there, the Russians are bound to oppose it because they oppose regime change everywhere.

If the Russians were not prepared to make unilateral concessions to Trump on Crimea, Donbass, Syria or Iran, neither was Trump despite all the pre-summit scaremongering going to make unilateral concessions to Russians.

Stories that Trump would announce a cancellation of US military exercises in Europe or even a withdrawal of US troops from Europe had no basis in reality, and needless to say nothing like that happened.  Nor did Donald Trump recognise Crimea as Russian or announce that he would lift sanctions on Russia.

The question of the sanctions and of the recognition of Crimea as Russian requires a little discussion since there is a widespread view that Trump is prevented by the Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATS) from either lifting the sanctions or from recognising Crimea as Russian

This is something of a misconception.  In reality, as I discussed last year at the time when CAATS was enacted, CAATS is unconstitutional, as Donald Trump himself carefully explained in his Signing Statement, because of the unconstitutional restrictions it places on the President’s ability to conduct foreign policy.

If and when Donald Trump decides that the time has come to lift the sanctions and to recognise Crimea as Russian, then all he has to do is apply to the US Supreme Court to have CAATS set aside.   His Signing Statement shows that he has had legal advice that it will do so.

That point has not yet been reached for political not legal reasons.  In the meantime it is an error to think of CAATS as the insuperable constraint on Donald Trump’s actions that many appear to believe it is.

Trump did not commit himself to lift the sanctions, and he did not recognise Crimea as Russian, not so much because of the legal constraints placed upon him by CAATS but because doing so would have put at risk his political position in the US in advance of November’s mid-term elections, and because – compulsive deal-maker that he is – he is hardly likely to take such radical steps without first getting something in return anyway.

One of the fundamental problems caused by the hysterical campaign which is being waged against Donald Trump is that it causes even many of Donald Trump’s supporters to believe that he is more supportive of Russia’s positions on a variety of issues than he really is.  The result is that he is constantly suspected of being prepared to make unilateral concessions to the Russians when unilateral concessions are precisely the sort of things which as a self-professed master deal-maker he is known to most abhor.

Donald Trump is – as he repeatedly says – an America First nationalist, and his overriding priority is to make what he considers to be the best possible deal for the United States.  Unilateral concessions just don’t come into it and it is a fundamental error to think that they do.

Putin understands all this very well, as he made clear during his joint press conference with Trump in Helsinki.

VladimirPutin: Regarding whom you can believe and whom you can’t, you shouldn’t believe anyone. What makes you think President Trump trusts me and that I fully trust him? He defends the interests of the United States of America. I defend the interests of the Russian Federation. We do have converging interests, and we are seeking common ground. We have issues that we disagree on so far. We are seeking options to settle these differences and make our work more constructive.

Which brings me to the fundamental reason for the summit, and why it is also a mistake in my opinion to see it as an empty show or a damp squib.

Donald Trump sought the summit – it is clear that the initiative for the summit came from him – because as he has repeatedly said since before he was elected President, prior to the summit he did not know Putin well.

The number of times Trump has said this is in fact practically beyond count.  For example, he said it during a news conference in Miami on 27th June 2016

I don’t know who Putin is. He said one nice thing about me. … I never met Putin….

He also said it during the second Presidential debate on 9th October 2016

I don’t know Putin….

Trump has gone on to say the same thing again and again since.  He has also repeatedly said that only time would tell whether he and Putin would get on with each other and would be able to come to agreements with each other.

A fundamental prerequisite for any successful negotiation is for the two parties to the negotiation to know each other’s minds so that a modicum of trust and understanding – essential if any agreement is to be reached – can be established between them.

As a businessman Trump knows this very well.  He therefore needed to meet with Putin in a lengthy one-to-one encounter in order to get to know Putin properly so as to see whether Putin is in fact the sort of person he can negotiate and eventually do a deal with.

That is the reason why Trump insisted that his first meeting with Putin should take the form of a one-to-one encounter.

That by the way is absolutely standard practice in negotiations – both commercial negotiations and diplomatic negotiations – with leaders of negotiating teams often meeting privately in one-to-one meetings in order to get to know each other better to see whether a deal between them is even possible.  Once a proper relationship between them is established the full negotiating teams can be brought into the negotiations in what in diplomacy are called ‘plenary sessions’.  Needless to say it is during the plenary sessions – with each side’s experts present – that the details are discussed and ironed out.

Not only is this standard practice in negotiations – Putin does it all the time – but it is simply not true as some people are suggesting that there was no one else present in the room when Putin and Trump met with each other.

Both Putin and Trump obviously had interpreters present.  Trump doesn’t speak Russian and Putin speaks English badly.  The job of the interpreters – who are full time state officials – is not just to interpret what the leaders say to each other but also to prepare a written transcript (a “stenographic record”) of what they said.

Once this transcript is written up – something which normally takes no more than a few days – it is circulated to senior officials including in the US case to the US President’s two most important foreign policy advisers, Bolton and Pompeo.  By now it is highly likely that Bolton and Pompeo have already seen and read through the transcript, and that they therefore know exactly what Putin and Trump said to each other.

Since the one-to-one meeting was first and foremost a “get-to-know” you session, no binding agreements would have been reached during it, and neither Putin nor Trump – each in their own way an experienced negotiator – would ever have imagined that they would be.

In summary, the one-to-one meeting between Putin and Trump is not a sign of some secret understanding between them; far less is it a case of an “intelligence asset” meeting his “controller” as some are crazily suggesting.

On the contrary it is further proof of what each of them has repeatedly said at various times: before the summit they did not know each other well, so that the summit was called precisely in order to give each of them the opportunity to get to know the other better.

The essential point about the summit is that Putin and Trump did find that they could deal with each other and did discover areas of common concern which in time it might be possible for them to build on as they search for areas of agreement between them.  During their joint press conference Putin confirmed as much

We do have converging interests, and we are seeking common ground. We have issues that we disagree on so far. We are seeking options to settle these differences and make our work more constructive.

As for the points of possible convergence, Putin in his usual structured way set them out

I consider it important, as we discussed, to get the dialogue on strategic stability and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction on track. We made a note with a number of concrete proposals on this matter available to our American colleagues.

We believe that continued joint efforts to fully work through the military-political and disarmament dossier is necessary. That includes the renewal of the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, the dangerous situation surrounding the development of elements of the US global missile defence system, the implementation of the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles, and the topic of deploying weapons in space.

We are in favour of continued cooperation in the sphere of combating terrorism and ensuring cybersecurity. Notably, our special services are working together quite successfully. The most recent example of that is the close operational interaction with a group of US security experts as part of the World Cup in Russia that ended yesterday. Contacts between the special services should be made systematic. I reminded the President of the United States about the proposal to reconstitute the anti-terror working group.

We covered regional crises extensively. Our positions do not coincide on all matters, but nonetheless there are many overlapping interests. We should be looking for common ground and working more closely, including at international forums.

Of course, we talked about regional crises, including Syria. With regard to Syria, restoring peace and harmony in that country could serve as an example of successful joint work.

Of course, Russia and the United States can take the lead in this matter and organise cooperation to overcome the humanitarian crisis and help refugees return to their hearths.

We have all the requisite elements for effective cooperation on Syria. Notably, Russian and American military have gained useful experience of interaction and coordination in the air and on land.

I would also like to note that after the terrorists are routed in southwest Syria, in the so-called “southern zone”, the situation in the Golan Heights should be brought into full conformity with the 1974 agreement on the disengagement of Israeli and Syrian forces.

This will make it possible to bring tranquillity to the Golan Heights and restore the ceasefire between the Syrian Arab Republic and the State of Israel. The President devoted special attention to this issue today…..

We paid special attention to the economy. Obviously, there is interest in cooperation in the business circles of both countries. The US delegation was one of the biggest at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in May. It consisted of over 500 US entrepreneurs.

To develop trade and investment, President Trump and I agreed to establish a high-level group that would unite captains of Russian and American business. Business people better understand how to go about mutually beneficial cooperation. Let them consider what can be done and make recommendations

The emphasis – as I discussed in my article of a month ago – is on arms control, though Putin also seems to have gone out of his way to reassure Trump that the restoration of the Syrian government’s control over southwest Syria would not put in jeopardy Israel’s position in the Golan Heights.  In addition there also seems to have been a fair amount of discussion about future economic cooperation.

The result was an agreement between Putin and Trump to reopen channels of communication between their governments and to meet regularly with each other as they feel their way towards a rapprochement.

To be clear, that rapprochement will not mean and is not intended to mean that the US and Russia will cease to be adversaries and will become friends.

Instead what is being discussed are steps to bring to a stop the downward spiral in their relations, with each side obtaining a better understanding of the other side’s moves and red lines, so that hopefully geopolitical disasters like the 2014 Maidan coup can be avoided in future.

That would be a major advance over what has existed previously given that since the USSR collapsed in 1991 the US has refused to acknowledge that Russia has any right to any opinions at all, let alone act independently or set out red lines.

Needless to say the more often Putin and Trump meet the more ‘normalised’ relations between the US and Russia become, with each meeting provoking less controversy than the previous one, with the whole process beyond a certain point becoming routine so that it attracts ever less attention and (hopefully) eventually becomes uncontroversial.

It is because the powerful forces in the US who scorn the idea of a ‘geopolitical ceasefire’ and want ever greater confrontation between the US and Russia do not want to see relations ‘normalised’ in this way that their reaction to the summit has been so hysterical.

As of the time of writing it is these people who in the media and on twitter are making the running.  However it may be a mistake to see in the volume of the noise they are making a true reflection of their influence.

Last February’s Nuclear Posture Review suggests that there is a very powerful constituency within the US and specifically within the Pentagon which might potentially support the sort of ‘geopolitical ceasefire’ with Russia that Donald Trump appears to be gradually working towards.

The Nuclear Posture Review shows that some sections of the US military understand how dangerously overstretched the US has become as it responds simultaneously to challenges from Russia in Europe and from China in the Pacific.  Both Putin and Trump mentioned during their news conference the extent to which their respective militaries are already in contact with each other and are working well together

Donald Trump: Well, our militaries do get along. In fact, our militaries actually have gotten along probably better than our political leaders for years, but our militaries do get along very well and they do coordinate in Syria and other places. Ok? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin:……..On the whole, I really agree with the President. Our military cooperation is going quite well. I hope that they will continue to be able to come to agreements just as they have been…..

That may be a sign that there is more understanding of what Donald Trump is trying to do – at least within the US defence establishment – than the hysteria the Helsinki summit has provoked might suggest.

Overall, provided it is clearly understood that what Putin and Trump are working towards is a detente style ‘geopolitical ceasefire’ and not ‘friendship’ – and certainly not an alliance –  it can be said that their summit in Helsinki was a good start and a success.

What happens now depends on whether the forces of realism and sanity in the US can prevail over those of megalomania and hysteria.  Given how entrenched the latter have become unfortunately no one can count on this.

However some sort of process which may in time lead to detente and an easing of tensions between the nuclear superpowers has begun.  Given the circumstances in which it has been launched that is more than might have been expected even a short time ago, and for that one should be grateful.

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