Foreign Policy Expert Ted Malloch: Here Are the Two Realities from the Trump-Putin Talks
Guest post by Ted Malloch:
Just after high noon on July 16th in historic Helsinki, Finland, a meeting (not a summit) between the Presidents of the United States and Russia took place to repair what some have called the “worst relations” between the two countries ever. (Putin was an hour late; this is a diplomatic technique equivalent to icing the kicker in football!)
President Trump blamed the “foolishness” of past US administrations, particularly Obama’s, for the deplorable and dangerous state of current affairs with Russia. Down playing expectations in advance, Trump said, he had “low expectations” for the meeting, while the MSM media castigated him for even holding such a session at all, condemning Trump for his supposed collusion and failure to be “tougher” on Russia. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, Trump strode confidently into the Finnish Palace.
The results of the leaders time revolved around five items that truthfully deserve more time and attention to detail and an on-going structured working dialogue. They include: the extension of the START Treaty on nuclear weapons after 2012; the end of the Syrian civil war; the annexation of Crimea; the hot violence in eastern Ukraine; and, the “meddling” in US and other elections. All these issues were discussed and Trump added one more, China and by implication North Korean denuclearization.
Through it all Trump made it abundantly clear that two realities color US thinking about Russia.
#1 Russia is weak.
The US is a superpower, alone in the world. Russia, by contrast, is a middle-power aspiring to be greater. Militarily the US is far stronger than Russia, has bases around the world and is also far superior technologically. It also has a robust alliance of allies, which Russia lacks. Legally, institutionally, and freedom-wise, the US is in a league far beyond Russia. The US is a vibrant democracy, Russia is not. Economically the US is fifteen times larger than Russia and Russia has been declining. The US ranks far above Russia in education, technology, and intellectual capital and is and remains – unsurpassed as the leader of the free world.
#2 Russia has a complex.
After its loss in the Cold War, under Putin, Russia has just two but related goals.
The first is to be respected as a proud nation, rooted in a long history as an important European power and as a superpower.
The country still has significant military might with nuclear weapons, a thriving navy, and many troops.
With 1 million active military and 2 million reserves, Russia is a formidable fighting force.
The Commander in Chief is the Russian President.
The navy consists of 4 fleets and a standing flotilla that include nuclear submarines.
Some 1,765 deployed nuclear strategic warheads and another 2,700 non-deployed strategic warheads are ready for fire. Another 2,510 warheads are available but under dismantlement.
Russia spends some $70 billion a year on its military budget, a 20-fold increase in the last decade.
The second goal is at times obscured and at others ‘weaponized’ in an information war and not so secret diplomatic and counter “active measures.”
That goal is simply: the demise of the West.
Moscow wants a reversal of the historical process begun in 1989 when Eastern and Central Europe peacefully reclaimed freedom and eventually brought down the Soviet empire.
As one pundit put it, “Shorn of Marxism-Leninism, the Kremlin today is driven by a ideologically versatile illiberalism willing to work with any political faction amenable to its revisionist aims.”
Russia wants to reset the trans-Atlantic Alliance using destabilizing efforts. Exploiting every crisis, Russia exacerbates nearly every situation by its maligning intentions.
Fomenting disintegration, its motives revolve around predatory strategies to divide and conquer.
Using aggression and subversion, Russia no longer has to depend on the deployment of the Red Army on its western flank. The Communist ideology, equally, has no sway and is out of fashion.
This means Russia meddles constantly to incite confusion and the demise of Western governments and societies.
The plan is to supplant the West and achieve a restoration of Russian power and influence because of its deep-seated inferiority complex.
The meeting in Helsinki was not the huge breakthrough or a disaster that many of Trump’s opponents had declared in advance. It was instead a pragmatic entrepreneurial dose of realism about the need for serious relations with Russia, where it is; and who it is. It offered ‘constructive dialogue’ as a way forward.
Trump, as always, put his own spin on the situation and upset the global elite with his America First approach to foreign relations. He called the meetings frank and fruitful and very future oriented around facing up to new challenges. Putin himself said, “The Cold War is over. `’ They both seemed desirous to jointly rebuild the bilateral relationship around mutual interests.
Trump in a prepared opening statement said “diplomacy is preferable” and that new pathways to improve stability were tabled today.
The questions from reporters from both sides yielded interesting replies on matters ranging from oil and gas markets and supply to Russian accountability and on collusion. Putin said Russia would allow Mueller’s team to come and interview the intelligence agents they have indicted using an existing treaty to do so. The leaders shed light on Syria and said they want to help Israel and aid humanitarian efforts.
In a football handoff, Putin gave Trump a soccer ball from the World Cup and said, “the ball is now in your court.”
The most amazing part of the summitry however has been the completely biased, vengeful CNN coverage. They called it in conclusion, “the most disgraceful performance by a US president ever.”
Acosta, Gergen, Cooper, Cuomo, Ammanpour — all literally mugged the President for lacking so-called western values and exhibited unprecedented anti-Trumpism. They complained repeatedly about the survival of the present order, i.e., the globalism that Trump is eroding right in front of their very eyes!