Why Trump’s Reticence on Russia?


In The Economist this week, Trump is warned that he may be outfoxed by Putin similar to the way in which the two previous American Presidents were outwitted by this fearless Russian politician.

America is already on the back foot because Trump is wasting his energy either berating the media or fighting his own intelligence community instead of addressing the really serious issues.  Worse still, he is in Florida today on the campaign trail already preparing for the 2020 Election while critical Cabinet positions remain unfilled (515 awaiting nomination, 20 awaiting confirmation and only 14 confirmed so far) .  Meanwhile, Putin is flexing his muscles first by buzzing a US Navy ship on Tuesday and days later a spy ship is patrolling off the east coast of America.  Those recent events combined with reports that Russia has violated a landmark arms control treaty by deploying cruise missiles has set off alarm bells in both Europe and Asia.

Just a few months ago, the British Prime Minister Theresa May swiftly ordered the RAF to scramble seeing off two Russian bombers when they approached UK airspace. So, why are the Americans sitting on their hands?  It does not make sense.  One explanation is that perhaps the Russians really do have something compromising on Trump.

“He mistakes the strut of a bully for the swagger of a superpower”                                                        The Economist: Trump’s view of Putin

This is no time for an apprentice in the White House.  Judging by some of the reports coming out of Washington, it’s beginning to sound more like a Big Brother house which would be funny if things were not deadly serious.   Relationships between Trump and the intelligence community are evidently ruptured judging by the contempt shown by the President possibly because the intelligence services see Russia as enemy number one but evidently Trump does not. Surely some form of mediation is needed and fast to rebuilt trust since the country’s security is at stake.

Who will go first, Bannon or Trump?

At first glance, it is arguably logical to suggest that America works with Russia to combat radical Islamic terror and Islamic State.  However, for the most part so far, Russia has been on the opposing side supporting Assad’s monstrous regime in Syria.  Rather, The Economist challenges the notion that Russian forces have been battling IS in Syria.

The real reason according to the Economist for Trump’s indulgence of Russia so far is that he believes that America’s real enemy is China not Russia. This contention is based on the advice of Steve Bannon who said last year that he had no doubt but that America will go to war in the South China Sea within the next 5 – 10 years.  In preparation for that potential eventuality therefore America will need Russia because first of all it is a nuclear power and second it has a 2,600 mile border with China.  Perhaps Mr Putin could deploy ground troops in support of the U.S.   Unlikely.  Russia is weak compared to China on all counts, its economy is similar in size to that of Italy and is in dire straits with a shrinking  population.   Obama believed Russia to be doomed to decline into irrelevance throttled by corruption.

So what might Russia be seeking in an era of detente with America?  The wish list goes as follows:  anti terrorism alliance, the lifting of sanctions, calling a halt on NATO expansion, recognition of Crimea as Russian territory, a veto on Ukraine and finally halting America’s policing of the world.  All this combined with a pull back on climate change initiatives in view of Russia’s reliance on oil and gas.  That’s one area where interests would be aligned bearing in mind Trump’s plan to re-open America’s coal mines.

Although Theresa May managed to get Trump to publicly support NATO in their recent press conference, it did seem only half hearted to me at least judging by the optics.  That could have been part of the American strategy to force France and others to pay their full membership fee to NATO.  Today the Vice President Mike Pence is in Europe reiterating that Russia would be held accountable for its actions in Ukraine and that the President fully supports NATO.  This, of course, runs counter to Trump’s attempt at a warmer relationship with Putin and his earlier assertion that NATO is obsolete.  Who to believe?  Does anyone have a clue?  What’s Trump’s global strategy?   Evidently there is none.

Those in the know think that Trump is miscalculating with his Russian ‘strategy’.   Russia  has much in common with China on human rights as well as a distain for democracy.

Best to keep one eye on VP Pence since he may well be ensconced in the White House before the end of the summer and this heated debate about Trump’s state visit to Britain is wasted energy.   Watch this space.

Who will bring down Trump, his intelligence services or the media?                                             Neither, Trump will bring down Trump

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