US foreign policy may look a bit schizophrenic at times. The good news is it can be broken down into simple terms after all.
The Trump administration’s upcoming summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin features rather schizophrenic US strategies, inherited from the Obama administration and moulded and adapted to suit new needs. It’s the case that the US says one thing but is seen to do another, all while appearing to intend to do something completely unrelated.
“We are actively engaged in an all-of-US-government approach in convincing European governments and European businesses alike that increased energy dependence on Russia is inconsistent with what it is we’re all trying to do in pushing back against Russia,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently told the Senate Appropriations Committee, at a hearing about the 2019 State Department budget.
So, on the one hand, the Trump administration is actively trying to hobble relations between Europe and Russia, yet it is about to meet with Russia for a ‘summit.’ Behind the scenes, the two countries have set out on what both presidents have acknowledged is the impression of a new “arms race” between the two nuclear powers. Working with Trump to supposedly come to a form of détente with Russia is National Security Advisor John Bolton himself, who views Russia as being a nuisance, poised to disrupt US world hegemony.
The Key to Understanding: Turn off your TV
If the American people want to better understand where their country is headed, they would do well to turn off their popular TV show “Keeping up with the Trumps” and focus on the reality of the outside world. This poorly scripted reality TV show has gone out of its way to try and convince the world that Donald Trump is some sort of “Kremlin stooge” working at the behest of that evil genius, Russian President Putin. Mixed in with this drama are episodes in which the corporate media parrots anonymous intelligence officials who continuously claim that Trump was more-or-less appointed as US president by none other than Putin himself; yet there is a consistent failure to provide hard evidence of any meaningful Russian interference.
The reality, of course, is something wholly different. Unfortunately, the main talking heads of the mainstream media still don’t seem up-to-speed. For example, barely days ago, it took ‘cool kid’s philosopher’ Ben “Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage” Shapiro to inform Bill Maher that Trump “has been a lot harsher on Putin than Obama was.” When Maher appeared gob-smacked at this lamentation, Shapiro followed it up with a rather lenient:
“Not in terms of his rhetoric, in terms of his actions. He’s armed the people of Ukraine with deadly weapons which Obama would not do. 200 Russian soldiers were killed in Syria by US forces under Donald Trump, not under Barack Obama. It was Barack Obama who was saying to Dmitry Medvedev that he wanted to provide them with flexibility in 2012. Crimea was annexed under Barack Obama.”
People like Maher don’t get it, because they are too busy watching ‘Keeping up with the Trumps’ and never bother to look outside the window and see what’s really out there. When Maher followed up with the “he tweeted yesterday defending Putin,” a non-thinking quip that so often has plagued our TVs of late, Shapiro responded with a simple “I agree, he says a lot of crappy stuff.”
Trump’s unspoken hostility towards Russia
As annoying as the sound of Shapiro’s voice is, you don’t have to like him personally to admit he is right in this context. In fact, Shapiro didn’t even go far enough in illustrating his point. Let’s not forget that Trump ordered the closure of two Russian consulates and expelled over 60 Russian diplomats in March this year, after another unfounded allegation, that Russia had poisoned a former double agent and his daughter in the United Kingdom. This isn’t 4D Chess; it’s just a continuation of the same policy playbook that has existed long before Obama and that, in your peripheral vision, thrives just to the left of Trump’s Twitter account.
The Trump administration has also engaged in an anti-Russian policy of derailing what is known as Nord Stream 2, the expansion of the Nord Stream pipeline opened in 2011, because the expansion would allow the “Russians to have the capacity to exert political influence – not only in Germany, but all around Europe,” according to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Under the Trump administration, the US military has publicly and openly struck Syrian government facilities, in a direct and cynical contravention of international law – twice. Remember that the Syrian government is a firm ally of Russia, Russia having effectively intervened in the Syrian conflict to prevent the total collapse of the current Syrian state. The Obama administration had tried to do what Trump has done multiple times, but only successfully bombarded Syrian troops, in what it claimed was a “mistake” in Deir Ez-Zor in September 2016. On the other hand, the Trump administration has struck pro-government troops in Syria so many times in less than two years that it’s almost pointless comparing the two administrations. In the incident which allegedly saw a number of Russian mercenaries killed in a barrage of US strikes earlier this year, it was Trump’s then-secretary of state nominee – that delightfully charming Mike Pompeo – who actively bragged about the claim the US killed “a couple hundred Russians” to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Killing Russians might have even qualified as a scandal under the Obama administration. Under Trump’s, it has all but been swept under the rug as if it never happened, even as they openly celebrate it.
Can the US be trusted? – The Blunt Truth
Russia knows better than anyone not to take the United States’ word at face value. Never mind that Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear accord, to the dismay of Russia and even against the better judgment of his closest European allies; Russia has been dealing with American dishonesty for years. Despite popular opinion, the US openly lied to Russia at the waning of the Cold War, pledging that NATO would expand “not one inch eastward.” Recently declassified documents show that, in fact, Russia had received assurances from former US secretary of State James Baker, then-President George H.W. Bush and former CIA Director Robert Gates, to name just a few (and not including US allies such as Margaret Thatcher).
On the campaign trail, Donald Trump was viscerally anti-Chinese, blaming the Asian state for almost all of America’s problems. He even once accused Saudi Arabia of committing 9/11 – before he inherited the US presidential throne and had no choice but to bow down and provide the Saudi leadership with billions in arms to continue doing what they do so well, maiming innocent civilians in Yemen, Syria and elsewhere. After threatening Kim Jong-un with “fire and fury” he then went on to make a video presentation for his new friend from the Korean peninsula. If people like Maher were made to explain these decisions using only Trump’s Twitter account, they would soon see the problem with merely focussing on what people say and remaining completely blind to everything else that the US government does.
What I am trying to say is the blunt truth about this upcoming US-Russia summit is that there can never be any major concessions made by the US to Russia without something very important being given up on Russia’s side first.
So perhaps we are asking the wrong questions. We shouldn’t be asking whether or not the US should be trusted in dealing with Russia. We should instead be asking: What could Russia be possibly standing in the way of that would make someone like John Bolton want to sit down and talk with them? What equation is it that Bolton wants to resolve so badly that Russia could potentially remove itself from so that the US could do what it does best?
Lest we forget, Bolton promised the Iranian exile group Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK) a regime change in Iran before 2019, meaning he only has half-a-year to bring to fruition his neo-con dream of destroying Iran. Russia, a longstanding ally of Iran, is, of course, the major barrier to achieving such an ill-advised goal, so don’t be surprised if this topic more openly arises in the weeks before and after the summit, especially in light of Iran’s recent protests.
It would seem that it is business as usual for US foreign policy, the one thing the US can be trusted to remain consistent on, despite the schizophrenic reality TV show that its leaders and media talking heads put on for us to drown ourselves in, morning, noon and night.