Wants to Talk. But Can He Think?
- Tentatively, it’s good sign that US President
Donald Trump had a productive phone call – again
– with Russian leader Vladimir Putin this week,
vowing to push for a diplomatic settlement in
At least the two leaders appear to be
talking to each other
– not at each other.
Businessman-turned-politician Trump seems
to have a refreshingly pragmatic way
of respecting Putin as a potential partner, not
viewing the Russian president with preconceived
notions of Cold War-type hostility.
tentatively positive development this week was
Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson giving
to the US
State Department on priorities for foreign
policy. Tillerson called for cooperation
with Russia and reminded his audience of a
meeting last month held in Moscow with President
Putin in which both of them acknowledged that
there was an all-time low in US-Russian
relations which urgently needed improvement.
admittedly, there appears to be a willingness
in the Trump presidency for at least engaging
in mutual dialogue with Moscow, as opposed
to adopting an imperious attitude of lecturing
Russia on alleged wrongdoings, which was all-too
evident under the previous Obama
willingness to talk is a welcome place to start
building trust between the world’s two military
superpowers. Nevertheless, the next and more
difficult problem is:
talk about what exactly?
agreement be found if one party to dialogue
possesses such a thoroughly misguided
understanding of international relations and
political leadership in Washington, whether
Republican or Democrat, seems to be so bereft
of realistic understanding about the world. It
is cocooned in a bubble of self-deluding hubris
and propaganda about American power and the
nature of many pressing world conflicts.
Tillerson told his State Department staff that
in order to improve US-Russia relations he has
instructed his top policy staff to carry out a
study on how to “remove irritants”
between Washington and Moscow. The US chief
foreign policy official went on in the same
breath to accuse Russia of “behaving badly”
rather daunting to hear that Washington needs
to conduct a high-powered investigation
into finding out how to “remove irritants”
in relations with Russia.
about the US and its 28-member NATO military
alliance beginning to de-escalate the
unprecedented build-up of offensive forces
along Russia’s border? If Tillerson can’t see
how that threatening military encirclement
of Russia is a major irritant then the prospects
of a productive conservation are hampered
from the outset.
about Washington and its European allies letting
go of their unfounded mantra accusing Moscow
of destabilizing Ukraine? To anyone with an open
mind there are ample grounds to argue that
Ukraine has in fact been destabilized by US and
European illegal meddling in its internal
affairs. Washington and Brussels are living
in denial if they cannot acknowledge that an
illegal coup d’état took place in Kiev back
in February 2014.
Subsequent American and NATO military support
for a dubious regime in Kiev that is flagrantly
violating international law from its offensive
campaign on eastern Ukraine is a far more brazen
manifestation of actual Western interference
than is presumed about Russia.
back to President Trump. He says he now wants
to work with Russia to bring peace to Syria. One
additional good sign was that for the first time
this week, the US sent an official delegate
to the peace talks that were held in Astana,
Kazakhstan. There, a breakthrough was brokered
by Russia, Turkey and Iran on creating
“de-escalation zones” to help
towards implementing a broader ceasefire.
the deal worked out in Astana was immediately
undermined by hardline anti-government militant
factions who objected to the role being played
by Iran in brokering any agreement. The US and
Saudi Arabia also
militants, making provocative disparagement
of Iran’s role as a “supporter of terrorists”.
irony, of course, is that the militants opposed
to the Astana process and their Saudi and US
state sponsors are the main practitioners
of terrorism in Syria and beyond.
In his first overseas official trip
Trump is to visit Israel
and Saudi Arabia later this month. The White
House says Trump will seek to strengthen the
“cause of fighting terrorism, reining in Iran
and uniting the world against intolerance.”
Financial Times this week reported: “US
president plans to unite a coalition
against Islamist terrorism and Iran.”
hard to imagine a worldview so divorced
from reality than that. Saudi Arabia uniting the
world against intolerance and terrorism? This
despotic feudal kingdom has unleashed jihadist
terrorism all over the world, from the Russian
Caucasus to Europe, across the entire Middle
East to as far as North and West Africa. Saudi
oil money along with CIA “expertise” has been
the engine of global terrorism since the 1980s.
to say that he is going to Israel and Saudi
Arabia to form an anti-terror coalition really
shows that this president is totally clueless
about the world. The people actually fighting
terrorism are Russia, Iran and Syria, terrorism
which has in large part been fomented and fueled
by the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
began earlier, it is a welcome sign that the
Trump White House is at least prepared to talk
with Russia on a basis of partnership and
respect. Trump and his top diplomat Rex
Tillerson have both this week intimated that
this kind of engagement should be the way
forward to improve badly frayed relations.
that is only a tentative beginning. Far more
serious is the obstacle of American delusions
and downright ignorance about the real state
of the world and the destructive role
of American power.
Trump and his team can’t see that NATO’s
military forces pointing into Russia’s face is
an outrageous provocation, or if they think that
Saudi Arabia can be a reliable partner to fight
terrorism, then that does not bode well
for resolving problems.
an additional, perhaps ultimate, problem is that
Trump and his officials have limited control
over US foreign policy and power. Trump might
want to talk and even be prepared to learn a new
concept of world relations (which is doubtful).
shadowy, unelected forces that actually run
American power – the Pentagon, CIA and corporate
elite – are the real players behind the throne.
Their track record is one of belligerence,
militarism and hegemony – not one of peaceful
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