Rather than speculate on what Trump’s next move with Russia will be, at this point it would be healthier to make some constructive suggestions for how the world might look when the military and geo-political super-powers cooperate with clearly defined spheres of influence.
The key elements of such a proposal rests on the fact that because of the diplomatic incompetence of the Obama administration and the steadfast, intelligent approach of Putin, Lavrov, Churkin and Zakharova; Russia is now the global leader when it comes to mediation in areas of conflict.
Russia’s lead in organising the Astana Conference for peace in Syria, Russia’s even handed approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict and Russia’s ability to remain on good terms with both India and Pakistan, as well as Russia’s pivotal role in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, makes this abundantly clear.
It is also increasingly clear that Russia’s air power is superior to that of the US. Russian planes are capable of more diverse missions and are more cost-effective and durable than the overly expensive fleet of US aircraft.
By contrast, the US navy is superior to any in the world. This is a reflection of the astronomical budget of the US navy, even though sometimes it seems that the US doesn’t know what to do with its huge fleet.
In terms of tanks, Russia’s new Armata and related vehicles have turned heads throughout the world. Russia has not only caught up with NATO in this area, but it would not be an exaggeration to say that the Armata may well be the best tank in the world.
As The Saker recently wrote, Russia’s ability to build her armed forces around practical needs rather than abstract technological goals makes Russia’s armed forces both formidable and operationally effective.
It is clear however that both Russia and the US have important roles to play in the world.
Because of Russia’s increased involvement in the Eastern Mediterranean, I believe it is important for Russia to have more air and naval bases in the region.
In addition to Russia’s base in Tartus in Syria, the next logical place for Russia to construct a modern harbour and air field is Cyprus.
Cyprus and Russia have become increasingly more cooperative. Cyprus owes its liberation from Turkey to Russia (see the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-8), and as an Orthodox people who have been let down by the EU injections of Russian investment have helped keep Cyprus afloat in difficult times.
Building a large naval base in Cyprus would be good for the Cypriot economy and would be an assurance that Cypriots could rest easy when it comes to threats of future Turkish aggression. Indeed, it would send a clear message to Turkey, which still illegally occupies the north of the island, that Cyprus has chosen to be in Russia’s sphere of influence.
As for Russia, Russia has always needed a large permanent warm-water base, and Cyprus is the most suitable location.
By contrast the US does indeed have a role to play in Europe, but it is certainly not with the ground troops and heavy vehicles that Obama has sent to central and north-eastern Europe, where fantasists and fanatics imagine a war might occur. In truth the US has no need for a single soldier to be in any European country, nor do its Cold War bases there have any role to play.
The US should withdraw its army from Europe and instead focus on naval power in the central Mediterranean. I would suggest that the US Navy strike an economically fair deal with Malta to use the deep water harbour in Valletta. As the US Navy has supplanted the Royal Navy in terms of size and prestige, it would be only logical for America to pick up where Britain left off. The Royal Navy of course withdrew from Malta in 1967.
Once Syria and Iraq are liberated from terrorist occupation, many if not most of the surviving terrorists will likely go to the failed state of Libya.
Where Gaddafi was once a bulwark keeping terrorists from North Africa out of Europe, now the floodgates are open.
As the Europeans seem not to have the will to do anything about this, the US could stay in the Mediterranean to clean up the mess that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama by their murderous intervention in Libya created.
Furthermore, with both Russia and the US having a presence in the Mediterranean, it would be easier to forge a constructive pact with Egypt to cooperate on the subject of Libya. Ultimately it will need Egyptian political leadership combined with Russian and American military help to turn Libya back into something that resembles a functional state.
Furthermore, if a land war ever takes place in Europe, it will be in the Balkans, not in the Baltics.
The US under Bill Clinton helped destroy this region, but if under Trump the US needs to work with the UN and of course Russia to calm any potential Balkan conflict, then southern Europe makes more sense for a US presence in Europe than do Germany or Poland.
In terms of East Asia, Obama’s incompetence in the region surrendered what was left of US influence. The South China Sea dispute will likely be solved without much if any American input. Trump might indeed say ‘you have the sea; I’ll have some tariffs’. Here, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is king. Just as Senator Robert Taft opposed the War in Korea shortly before his death, so Trump’s neo-Taft America first policy ought to begin by letting East Asia be.
Of course, many will say these proposals are idealistic. They are!
Re-tooling the cumbersome, entrenched NATO machine to do something practical will not be easy, especially with high levels of opposition from the Pentagon and Congress.
However, if Trump wants a realistic foreign policy that maintains American might whilst allowing for crucial cooperation with Russia who Trump rightly seems to view as an equal, this is the correct path. Will it be followed even in part? Time will tell.