Friday, June 01, 2018

Trump's Actions Clearly Advance Russian Interests

"In 1969 Richard Nixon’s Attorney General John Mitchell advised the press to 'watch what we do, not what we say.'”  (I double-checked this at HistoryNewsNetwork)
If we listen to what the Trump administration says, there's been no collusion with Russia, though he does seem to like Putin and other authoritarian leaders like the Philippines' Duterte, Turkey's Erdogan, and the feeling is apparently mutual.

If we look at some of the Trump administration's key 'achievements'*, they all seem to help Russia, mainly by weakening the West's alliances that keep Russia in check.
*I put quotes around 'achievements' because most of them are about breaking things rather than creating things.

1.  Getting out of the Paris Climate Treaty
2.  Getting out of the Iran Nuclear Agreement
3.  Tariffs for Europe, Canada, and Mexico, etc.
4.  Getting out of the Trans Pacific Partnership
5.  Trump's support of Brexit

All these actions weaken alliances by a) removing the US, b) building distrust for the US  c) making it harder for the remaining countries to reach an agreement.  The last one has particular benefits for China by weakening US influence in the Asia Pacific region.  And by removing the US  from these situations, Russia gains more influence.

6.  North Korea

Let's see where this goes.  As I've said before, I would guess that North Korea is far better prepared for any summit talks than the US.  Since the armistice (not end)  of the Korean War (which the North Koreans call, “Victorious Fatherland Liberation War,”) the North Koreans have been far more focused on the US than vice versa.  The US walked away and most US citizens have forgotten, if they ever knew, that
“The physical destruction and loss of life on both sides was almost beyond comprehension, but the North suffered the greater damage, due to American saturation bombing and the scorched-earth policy of the retreating U.N. forces,” [Charles K. Armstrong, a professor of Korean history at Columbia University] wrote.  [From Washington Post]
They've been rehearsing for this meeting since the 1950s.  Meanwhile, Trump's assault on the State Department (through budget cuts, position cuts, and demoralization that has led to a large scale resignations) means we lose the expertise we had on North Korea and Asia (not to mention everywhere else), which makes it harder for us to be prepared.  This echoes the purging of China experts in the 1950s.

It's also important to remember that besides South Korea, North Korea borders China and Russia, so both have an interest in what happens there.  If, in the end, North Korea denuclearizes, that's good for China and Russia.  If they don't, and the US loses face, that's also good for China and Russia.

And we have to remember that meeting with Kim Jong Un is NOT a victory for Trump.  Any American president could have met with him.  BUT, it is a huge victory for Kim Jong Un, who is seen by the world on equal footing with the president of the United States.  This is something other presidents have refused to give him without reassurances of ending his nuclear program in advance.

7.  Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric

Aside from securing military bases in Syria, which help assure that the Russian navy can get out to the world through the Bosporus in Turkey, Putin's benefited by the build-up of refugees trying to get into Europe.  This issue, probably more than any other, has weakened the European Union.  Rising nationalism in the Eastern bloc of the EU, particularly in Hungary and Poland, is fueled in large part by immigration that threatens linguistic and cultural identity.
Brexit added UK to this, and now Italy is shifting right, in both cases immigration played a role.
All this means that Europe is less united in standing up to Russia in the Ukraine and possibly the Baltic states and who knows where else.  Even Sweden is preparing to better protect itself from Russian aggression.  

8.  Trump's destruction of civil discourse and traditional presidential norms

Anything that makes the US less able to take on new challenges, to look positively toward the future, and to have a united population that can strongly support its government, makes it harder to  maintain the US's strong role in the world.  I'd add a few caveats here:

  • we were already losing our civility and unity, though Trump was a key player in this by keeping the birther movement going and stoking the racist hatred of a black president
  • many would argue that we were too strong at times - waging wars that basically supported US business interests (including the arms industry) at the expense of the economies of developing countries.  
But there is no doubt that Trump's actions have further divided the US and our Congress can't move because of the radical right wing of the Republican party and the inability of the 'traditional Republicans' to deal with Trump.  This leaves him to willy-nilly wreak havoc.  

Consider this a thought piece.  A draft. I've offered some links where you can get more info to support my claims, you can check the others as well as I.   It's way too nice a day to be inside at the computer.  Even outside at the computer.  Much better things to do.  

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