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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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New York Times hit piece on Trump and NATO exposes alliance as outdated and obsolete (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 61.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a quick look at the New York Times hit piece citing anonymous sources, with information that the U.S. President dared to question NATO’s viability.

Propaganda rag, the NYT, launched its latest presidential smear aimed at discrediting Trump and provoking the establishment, warmonger left into more impeachment – Twenty-fifth Amendment talking points.

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Via The American Conservative


The New York Times scored a serious scoop when it revealed on Monday that President Trump had questioned in governmental conversations—on more than one occasion, apparently—America’s membership in NATO. Unfortunately the paper then slipped into its typical mode of nostrum journalism. My Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “nostrum” as “quack medicine” entailing “exaggerated claims.” Here we had quack journalism executed in behalf of quack diplomacy.

The central exaggerated claim is contained in the first sentence, in which it is averred that NATO had “deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.” This is wrong, as can be seen through just a spare amount of history.

True, NATO saved Europe from the menace of Russian Bolshevism. But it did so not over 70 years but over 40 years—from 1949 to 1989. That’s when the Soviet Union had 1.3 million Soviet and client-state troops poised on Western Europe’s doorstep, positioned for an invasion of Europe through the lowlands of Germany’s Fulda Gap.

How was this possible? It was possible because Joseph Stalin had pushed his armies farther and farther into the West as the German Wehrmacht collapsed at the end of World War II. In doing so, and in the process capturing nearly all of Eastern Europe, he ensured that the Soviets had no Western enemies within a thousand miles of Leningrad or within 1,200 miles of Moscow. This vast territory represented not only security for the Russian motherland (which enjoys no natural geographical barriers to deter invasion from the West) but also a potent staging area for an invasion of Western Europe.

The first deterrent against such an invasion, which Stalin would have promulgated had he thought he could get away with it, was America’s nuclear monopoly. By the time that was lost, NATO had emerged as a powerful and very necessary deterrent. The Soviets, concluding that the cost of an invasion was too high, defaulted to a strategy of undermining Western interests anywhere around the world where that was possible. The result was global tensions stirred up at various global trouble spots, most notably Korea and Vietnam.

But Europe was saved, and NATO was the key. It deserves our respect and even reverence for its profound success as a military alliance during a time of serious threat to the West.

But then the threat went away. Gone were the 1.3 million Soviet and client-state troops. Gone was Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. Indeed, gone, by 1991, was the Soviet Union itself, an artificial regime of brutal ideology superimposed upon the cultural entity of Mother Russia. It was a time for celebration.

But it was also a time to contemplate the precise nature of the change that had washed over the world and to ponder what that might mean for old institutions—including NATO, a defensive military alliance created to deter aggression from a menacing enemy to the east. Here’s where Western thinking went awry. Rather than accepting as a great benefit the favorable developments enhancing Western security—the Soviet military retreat, the territorial reversal, the Soviet demise—the West turned NATO into a territorial aggressor of its own, absorbing nations that had been part of the Soviet sphere of control and pushing right up to the Russian border. Now Leningrad (renamed St. Petersburg after the obliteration of the menace of Soviet communism) resides within a hundred miles of NATO military forces, while Moscow is merely 200 miles from Western troops.

Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has absorbed 13 nations, some on the Russian border, others bordering lands that had been part of Russia’s sphere of interest for centuries. This constitutes a policy of encirclement, which no nation can accept without protest or pushback. And if NATO were to absorb those lands of traditional Russian influence—particularly Ukraine and Georgia—that would constitute a major threat to Russian security, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to emphasize to Western leaders for years.

So, no, NATO has not deterred Russian aggression for 70 years. It did so for 40 and has maintained a destabilizing posture toward Russia ever since. The problem here is the West’s inability to perceive how changed geopolitical circumstances might require a changed geopolitical strategy. The encirclement strategy has had plenty of critics—George Kennan before he died; academics John Mearsheimer, Stephen Walt, and Robert David English; former diplomat Jack Matlock; the editors of The Nation. But their voices have tended to get drowned out by the nostrum diplomacy and the nostrum journalism that supports it at every turn.

You can’t drown out Donald Trump because he’s president of the United States. And so he has to be traduced, ridiculed, dismissed, and marginalized. That’s what the Times story, by Julian Barnes and Helene Cooper, sought to do. Consider the lead, designed to emphasize just how outlandish Trump’s musings are before the reader even has a chance to absorb what he may have been thinking: “There are few things that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia desires more than the weakening of NATO, the military alliance among the United States, Europe and Canada that has deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.” Translation: “Take that, Mr. President! You’re an idiot.”

Henry Kissinger had something interesting to say about Trump in a recent interview with the Financial Times. “I think Trump may be one of those figures in history,” said the former secretary of state, “who appears from time to time to mark the end of an era and to force it to give up its old pretenses.” One Western pretense about Russia, so ardently enforced by the likes of Julian Barnes and Helene Cooper (who, it may be safe to say, know less about world affairs and their history than Henry Kissinger), is that nothing really changed with the Soviet collapse and NATO had to turn aggressive in order to keep that menacing nation in its place.

Trump clearly doesn’t buy that pretense. He said during the campaign that NATO was obsolete. Then he backtracked, saying he only wanted other NATO members to pay their fair share of the cost of deterrence. He even confessed, after Hillary Clinton identified NATO as “the strongest military alliance in the history of the world,” that he only said NATO was obsolete because he didn’t know much about it. But he was learning—enough, it appears, to support as president Montenegro’s entry into NATO in 2017. Is Montenegro, with 5,332 square miles and some 620,000 citizens, really a crucial element in Europe’s desperate project to protect itself against Putin’s Russia?

We all know that Trump is a crude figure—not just in his disgusting discourse but in his fumbling efforts to execute political decisions. As a politician, he often seems like a doctor attempting to perform open-heart surgery while wearing mittens. His idle musings about leaving NATO are a case in point—an example of a politician who lacks the skill and finesse to nudge the country in necessary new directions.

But Kissinger has a point about the man. America and the world have changed, while the old ways of thinking have not kept pace. The pretenses of the old have blinded the status quo defenders into thinking nothing has changed. Trump, almost alone among contemporary American politicians, is asking questions to which the world needs new answers. NATO, in its current configuration and outlook, is a danger to peace, not a guarantor of it.


Robert W. Merry, longtime Washington journalist and publishing executive, is the author most recently of President McKinley: Architect of the American Century

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Nigel Farage To Back Another “Vote Leave” Campaign If UK Holds Second Brexit Referendum

Nigel Farage said Friday that he would be willing to wage another “Vote Leave” campaign, even if he needed to use another party as the “vehicle” for his opposition.

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Via Zerohedge


Pro-European MPs from various political parties are pushing back against claims made by Prime Minister Theresa May’s government that a second Brexit referendum – which supporters have branded as a “People’s Vote” on May’s deal – would take roughly 14 months to organize, according to RT.

But while support for a second vote grows, one of the most notorious proponents of the original “Vote Leave” campaign is hinting at a possible return to politics to try and fight the effort.

After abandoning UKIP, the party he helped create, late last year, Nigel Farage said Friday that he would be willing to wage another “Vote Leave” campaign, even if he needed to use another party as the “vehicle” for his opposition. Farage also pointed out that a delay of Brexit Day would likely put it after the European Parliament elections in May.

“I think, I fear that the House of Commons is going to effectively overturn that Brexit. To me, the most likely outcome of all of this is an extension of Article 50. There could be another referendum,” he told Sky News.

According to official government guidance shown to lawmakers on Wednesday, which was subsequently leaked to the Telegraph, as May tries to head off a push by ministers who see a second referendum as the best viable alternative to May’s deal – a position that’s becoming increasingly popular with Labour Party MPs.

“In order to inform the discussions, a very short paper set out in factual detail the number of months that would be required, this was illustrative only and our position of course is that there will be no second referendum,,” May said. The statement comes as May has been meeting with ministers and leaders from all parties to try to find a consensus deal that could potentially pass in the House of Commons.

The 14 month estimate is how long May and her government expect it would take to pass the primary legislation calling for the referendum (seven months), conduct the question testing with the election committee (12 weeks), pass secondary legislation (six weeks) and conduct the campaigns (16 weeks).

May has repeatedly insisted that a second referendum wouldn’t be feasible because it would require a lengthy delay of Brexit Day, and because it would set a dangerous precedent that wouldn’t offer any more clarity (if some MPs are unhappy with the outcome, couldn’t they just push for a third referendum?). A spokesperson for No. 10 Downing Street said the guidance was produced purely for the purpose of “illustrative discussion” and that the government continued to oppose another vote.

Meanwhile, a vote on May’s “Plan B”, expected to include a few minor alterations from the deal’s previous iteration, has been called for Jan. 29, prompting some MPs to accuse May of trying to run out the clock. May is expected to present the new deal on Monday.

Former Tory Attorney General and pro-remainer MP Dominic Grieve blasted May’s timetable as wrong and said that the government “must be aware of it themselves,” while former Justice Minister Dr Phillip Lee, who resigned his cabinet seat in June over May’s Brexit policy, denounced her warning as “nonsense.”

As May pieces together her revised deal, more MPs are urging her to drop her infamous “red lines” (Labour in particular would like to see the UK remain part of the Customs Union), but with no clear alternative to May’s plan emerging, a delay of Brexit Day is looking like a virtual certainty.

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The National Security Agency Is A Criminal Organization

The National Security Agency values being able to blackmail citizens and members of government at home and abroad more than preventing terrorist attacks.

Paul Craig Roberts

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Via Paul Craig Roberts…


Years before Edward Snowden provided documented proof that the National Security Agency was really a national insecurity agency as it was violating law and the US Constitution and spying indiscriminately on American citizens, William Binney, who designed and developed the NSA spy program revealed the illegal and unconstitutional spying. Binney turned whistleblower, because NSA was using the program to spy on Americans. As Binney was well known to the US Congress, he did not think he needed any NSA document to make his case. But what he found out was “Congress would never hear me because then they’d lose plausible deniability. That was really their key. They needed to have plausible deniability so they can continue this massive spying program because it gave them power over everybody in the world. Even the members of Congress had power against others [in Congress]; they had power on judges on the Supreme Court, the federal judges, all of them. That’s why they’re so afraid. Everybody’s afraid because all this data that’s about them, the central agencies — the intelligence agencies — they have it. And that’s why Senator Schumer warned President Trump earlier, a few months ago, that he shouldn’t attack the intelligence community because they’ve got six ways to Sunday to come at you. That’s because it’s like J. Edgar Hoover on super steroids. . . . it’s leverage against every member of parliament and every government in the world.”

To prevent whistle-blowing, NSA has “a program now called ‘see something, say something’ about your fellow workers. That’s what the Stasi did. That’s why I call [NSA] the new New Stasi Agency. They’re picking up all the techniques from the Stasi and the KGB and the Gestapo and the SS. They just aren’t getting violent yet that we know of — internally in the US, outside is another story.”

As Binney had no documents to give to the media, blowing the whistle had no consequence for NSA. This is the reason that Snowden released the documents that proved NSA to be violating both law and the Constitution, but the corrupt US media focused blame on Snowden as a “traitor” and not on NSA for its violations.

Whistleblowers are protected by federal law. Regardless, the corrupt US government tried to prosecute Binney for speaking out, but as he had taken no classified document, a case could not be fabricated against him.

Binney blames the NSA’s law-breaking on Dick “Darth” Cheney. He says NSA’s violations of law and Constitution are so extreme that they would have to have been cleared at the top of the government.

Binney describes the spy network, explains that it was supposed to operate only against foreign enemies, and that using it for universal spying so overloads the system with data that the system fails to discover many terrorist activities. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/50932.htm

Apparently, the National Security Agency values being able to blackmail citizens and members of government at home and abroad more than preventing terrorist attacks.

Unfortunately for Americans, there are many Americans who blindly trust the government and provide the means, the misuse of which is used to enslave us. A large percentage of the work in science and technology serves not to free people but to enslave them. By now there is no excuse for scientists and engineers not to know this. Yet they persist in their construction of the means to destroy liberty.

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