Few understood that the election of Donald Trump may have changed the world forever.
When President Trump spoke against the EU, against China, and in favour of Russia, few understood where he was really going. It was much easier to dismiss him as a madman, a lunatic, a provocateur.
But Trump may be changing world history.
In 2014, by supporting the mass violent protests(1)in the Maidan, in Kyiv, the US lit a match under the explosive box called Ukraine, right at the door steps of Russia. The Maidan Revolution removed the democratically-elected president Viktor Yanukovych who was pro-Russian and replaced him with a rainbow coalition ofpro-western liberals and neo-fascists(2). Two of the south-eastern regions broke away(3), and Crimea was snatched by Putin(4)to the delight of local residents.
Since 15 March 2011, the US has been supporting forces(5)that are antagonistic to the sovereign and independent policies of President Assad of Syria. These ranged from moderates as the Free Syrian Army to Al Nusra and Al Qaeda(6). Now after 7 years of war and over a half a million of casualties, the US has failed. Assad is in power and Syria in its entirety has been liberated although pockets of Kurdish fighters remain in the northeastern part of the country. Now the US is evacuating the anti-regime White Helmets from Syria (7) who are running for their lives. Mission not accomplished, mission failed.
At this point, if America-sympathetic forces are to be kept in Syria they will be kept there not since they have a reasonable chance of toppling the iron-clad Baathist regime, but only to cause a headache for the Syrian state.
Now Trump is talking about US forces leaving Syria. He met with President Putin and displayed his respect and affection. He also did not speak about Ukraine as something the US should be worried about. Heck, he even spoke against tiny Montenegro joining NATO!
Meanwhile, Trump is launching the largest trade war in world history against the People’s Republic of China(8)and Trump believes that the EU is an enemy of the United States(9). He is embarassing Canada’s Trudeu and Germany’s Merkel on every possible occasion. But never Putin.
Trump wants to reverse the course of US history and in its place in the world
One. Trump wants to totally turn around the post-war US-led global order, put in place since the 1948 Marshal plan. That deal created wealth in Europe. US economic surpluses were recycled in Germany, who in turn consumed US goods. The miracle years of the 50s were ushered in. Europe was made a partner against the Soviet Union. But now, via Trump, EU is no longer a partner, it is a competitor. It Is producing goods that compete with US goods. It is a danger to US supremacy. Therefore, it must be destroyed.
Two. Russia is no longer an enemy. Russia is a partner and an ally of the US. Russia’s economy is very weak. Russia needs America. Trump wants to isolate EU and China, by aligning with Russia. Truth be told, Russia poses no economic challenge to the US.
What we saw in the Putin-Trump meeting may be the new Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. In 23 August 1939, Hitler and Stalin agreed to split Poland and ensure a non-aggression pact. Many countries simply happened to fall under the Nazi or Soviet sphere of influence. Now Trump and Putin want to break the EU apart and share the spills. They are both supporting, in their own way, anti-EU forces(10).
Judging from the signs of enthusiasm by which the Russian media has treated Trump since his meeting with Putin, and by the eagerness with which Putin shook Trump’s hands, it seems that more than dividing the EU is at work. It is quite possible that Trump wants to go for the big prize: isolating China with Putin on his side.
In 1972 Nixon came to China with Kissinger. In one move, China became a trade partner of the US and USSR was isolated. But China has become too big and too powerful. It stopped simply producing cheap things, and started developing its own technological companies as its GDP grew. By 2030, China is expected to become the world’s largest economy. Needless to say, the US cannot possibly be happy about that. China is growing at roughly 6.8%. The US is growing at roughly 2.2%. The US is in a relative decline that it cannot stop. But it can stop China’s growth by launching a trade war.
Trump wanted to dump US technological goods on China, but the Chinese wanted to become a leader in 10 sectors including artificial intelligence, robotics, aerospace and clean energy cars (11).
Trump’s trade war deeply worries the Chinese. Every passing day the Global Times, one of the official newspapers of China, explains to the Americans that Trump’s the tariffs will leave them out of goods. Trump won’t be able to get Trump flags for the mid-terms, the Chinese plead(12). The Chinese are trying to hit the US in the soft-belly, where it hurts. They are trying to hit back on tariffs that will affect Trump’s supporters in areas such as soy-beans and beef. What the Chinese don’t understand is that Trump’s supporters are actually quite ideological. They are not motivated only by the question of profit but also believe in a particular notion of America that Trump represents. They are unafraid of temporary setbacks.
And Vladimir Putin knows that Trump needs him on China. The question is only, what kind of price will he ask for from the Americans?
Putin is a careful player. If Russia hands over China to the US, and cuts it off from Eurasian integration, what is to stop the US from going after Russia after it consumed China? Possibly nothing. But Putin is in deep economic hardship. The Russian state cannot provide sufficient pensions to many ageing Russians. The young are fewer in number than the old.Putin may look for financial guarantees spread over decades that will be off-limits for any future Democratic president who will seek to reverse the tremendous destruction caused by the visionary Trump or he may come up with another mechanism. But he would prefer to avoid a blunt deal in which the terms will be overt and the degree of his betrayal of China will be obvious for all to see. Instead, following his reception of Trump in Moscow in September or October, Putin may simply raise the oil prices to $150 a barrel. This step may take place only after the November mid-term elections in the US. Such a move will slow down the economic development of the Chinese and Europeans, and will put money in Russia’s coffers. It will slow down China.
Putin has already shown he has no problem going against his traditional allies. By supporting Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu’s initiative that Iran must leave Syria, Putin has already showed that he is willing to turn his back on old alliances. Many Iranian soldiers shed their blood in Syria in protection of the regime, but that did not stop Putin from back-stabbing a traditional ally of Russia and agreeing its forces must leave.
Some may argue that Russia will not isolate China since it has a defence pact with it. Additionally, in a first, Vladimir Putin just received a medal of friendship with the Chinese people from President Xi (13). However, Russia has powerful nuclear weapons and it does not need China, a country lagging behind in its nuclear capacities, for its protection. Others may argue that the US deep-state may not allow the US to form a pack with Russia. It is true that Trump faces tremendous opposition. However, ultimately he is the president and can find things make his way eventually.
The Soviets never had a positive view of the Chinese, and never saw them as equals. They withheld from them nuclear weapons, even when the USSR and Maoist China were allies (with the possible exception of the Stalin-Mao relationship).
Historically, the Soviet Union has been a loyal friend to its allies but only when they were weaker, as in the case of Cuba and Venezuela. Not in the case of China.
A key Putin aide already made his opinion clear about Russia being surrounded by a “horde of Asians” (14) and facing 100 years of solitude due to the western sanctions).
If the Russians were truly committed to a multipolar world they would have completed the bridge connecting Tongjiang to Nizhneleninskoye and would have allowed the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative to run smoothly from China to Europe, via their land. This would allow products from China to flow smoothly to Europe. But the Russians have been dragging their feet on this issue, each time presenting a different excuse (15).
Kissinger famously said that “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.” There is no fundamental reason why what is true for America will not be true for Russia too. Moreover, the Russians tend to be overconfident in their ability to make deal with western forces, be they Hitler or Trump.
The Russians want the US as an ally that treats it as a global power. Trump wants to bring down China even while harming US consumers and companies. Putin will gladly shake Trump’s hand and agree to isolate China, 36 years after Chairman Mao shook the hand of Richard Nixon.
While during Obama’s era the EU was a partner against Russia, now the EU is the enemy.
And Russia may be America’s new partner against China.