By Jonathan Power
October 25th 2016
I have a fantasy. Donald Trump wins. He goes to Moscow on his first trip as president and gives President Vladimir Putin a bear hug and they go hunting in the forest, Soviet style.
When they emerge they have shot a couple of bears and have had a good lunch laid out for them by acolytes at which they have discussed the matters of the world.
They give a press conference. They have decided to re-start negotiations on major nuclear arms reductions and both say they unilaterally are immediately ridding themselves of a 1000 missiles each.
They have found a way to implement autonomy for eastern Ukraine, as done in Scotland, which Trump with his Scottish golf courses knows well. Ukraine can work towards both a trade agreement with the EU and the Russian-backed Eurasian Economic Union. Russia was always happy about such an arrangement, but many Ukrainians weren’t and only wanted an EU arrangement. This was the trigger for the uprising in Kiev and Western support for the powerful revolutionary movements that had a fascist pedigree.
Dealing with Syria is both simpler and more difficult – difficult because of the intensity of the fighting and the multi-nation interests and easier because neither Russia nor the NATO powers want to see a clash over a relatively small part of the global population – Syria’s population is 9 million, about the same as one of America’s eastern states.
In the forest they agreed to stop using Russian warplanes backing President Bashar al-Assad, the US to stop aiding anti-Assad guerrillas and both to concentrate on defeating ISIS. In return the US would invite Russia to share its airbase in Qatar. The civil war opponents would be left alone to fight. UN mediation would continue.
Trump has a point in wanting rapprochement with Russia.
At the moment Washington’s policy is going nowhere except to raise the stakes with an increasingly militant Russia. (For those who think this is just Putin they should go and talk to the elite of Russia’s students studying international relations and they will find, as I did in Moscow not long ago, almost unanimous support for his foreign policy.)
It is interesting to reflect on the history of Russia and the US. When Russia and the US have been at war together it has always been as allies. Throughout the 19th century Russia was America’s closest friend. It stood with the North during the Civil War. It sent warships to US coastal areas to prevent Great Britain and France from interfering on the side of the Confederacy. In 1867, when the US bought Alaska from Russia, the Senate’s vote on ratification of the treaty was unanimous as a gesture of cordiality.
Russia approved the US acquisition of the Philippines following the US imperialistic war with Spain. When in 1904 Japan unexpectedly started a war with Russia, President Theodore Roosevelt mediated a peace agreement for which he won the Nobel Prize.
Later the US welcomed the 1917 revolution that brought Lenin to power – after all the Tsars had become absolutists and also persecuted the Jews.
In both world wars Russia and the US fought Germany as comrades in arms.
Their relationship, now deteriorating, ended with the Cuban missile crisis when Russia put nuclear-tipped missiles into Cuba. They nearly came to nuclear war. How might President John Kennedy have reacted at the time to a Russian invitation for Cuba to join the Warsaw Pact, just as Washington has pushed successfully the membership in NATO of some of Russia’s immediate neighbours?
Indeed, at one time, President Barack Obama extended the invitation to Ukraine and Georgia. (Later it was withdrawn.)
Much more recently, the US sent several of its naval ships to Georgia and signed agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic to provocatively and unnecessarily deploy anti-ballistic missiles. Because of that Russia announced plans to deploy similar missiles in Kaliningrad aimed at Western Europe.
When President Bill Clinton came to power at the time of President Boris Yeltsin he treated Russia like a defeated nation and pushed NATO’s reach up to near the Russian border.
For those who say I should become a speech writer for Trump I should say all this is speculative. The Pentagon and the CIA would certainly work to stop any “adventurism” on Trump’s part, although after the recent sexual revelations he is probably bullet proof to blackmail.
Still I can’t trust him. Rhetoric is one thing. Doing it is another. Besides, I don’t want to see Obamacare cut back or taxes on the rich lowered, or the ending of the process of letting young black men out of jail where they have been incarcerated for minor offences that whites never would be imprisoned for, or steps to end global warming halted.
For me Hillary Clinton it is, although I wish, in foreign policy, she could be as I fantasise Trump would be.
Copyright Jonathan Power