“It is the fundamental national security interest of the United States to retain its leading global role and confirm that a liberaI international order is good for other countries as well. Russia wants to undermine this leading position, and for this reason is an unequivocal opponent, even if this does not pose a direct military threat to the USA.
“Through Trump Russia can achieve two key elements serving its interests. It can destroy the USA alliance system and weaken the United States’ influence in the world at the same time. Moscow wants to destroy the existing world order and replace it with chaos in which each state is able to fish in troubled waters.”
Translation of “Behold Putin’s devilish plan: the formation of a new world order” published by Hungarian online business daily napi.hu on January 18th, 2017.
Vladimir Putin wants to do away with the world order led by the United States. It may be replaced by a chaos in which every state can attempt to fish in troubled waters. In its naivité, the new US administration is an involuntary partner to implement this plan.
Two cabinet nominees of key importance to Donald Trump, who is about to take office, have contrarian opinions of the Russian leadership, begins Vladimir Frolov, political analyst for the Moscow Times, in an article on expected changes to Russian-American relations. The two future cabinet members presented their opinions at their congressional hearings.
Nothing to see here!
Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson believes Russia’s foreign policy is predictable. Moscow does not want more than to secure a place at those meetings where the leaders of world powers agree on solutions to global problems. They think they are entitled to this opportunity since Russia is a nuclear power, after all.
As the leader of America’s foreign affairs, Tillerson wants to take their ambition into account. He wants to conduct open and honest dialogue with the Russians, which he says will help the USA in defining its own foreign policy objectives. Florov, however, is of the opinion that Tillerson was explicating the Kremlin’s foreign policy of the past.
Sure enough, it exists!
By contrast, Trump’s nominee to run the Defense Department, James Mattis, painted a much darker picture of Moscow’s intentions. He thinks Russian President Vladimir Putin’s primary goal is to destroy NATO. This is the largest threat since the Second World War to the world order, he added.
The way Mattis sees things, following the settlement between the United States and Russia – the Yalta agreement in 1945 dividing up the world – there were fewer and fewer areas in which they could cooperate. In other words, whereas Tillerson considers the Russian-American relationship to be the third most important problem confronting American leaders, Mattis sees this as the number one problem.
The Secretary of State nominee’s opinion is closer to the soft attitude of his boss vis-à-vis Putin. The Secretary of Defense nominee’s position rather mirrors the “Russian containment” politics of American Republicans. Florov thinks the latter is closer to the truth.
With regard to military strength, Russia is the enemy of the United States, and for this reason Russia is fundamentally interested in weakening the USA’s global position. In this regard, the situation is the same as in the 1970s and 1980s.
Putin thinks it is possible for Russia to regain its great power status at the expense of the United States, primarily in Europe, but also in the Middle East, writes former deputy state secretary William Burns in The New York Times, who is currently the chairman of the board of regents of the Carnegie Endowment’s foreign research institute.
For this reason it is the fundamental national security interest of the United States to retain its leading global role and confirm that a liberal international order is good for other countries as well. Russia wants to undermine this leading position, and for this reason is an unequivocal opponent, even if this does not mean a direct military threat to the USA.
But what if . . . ?
What would happen if the leaders in Washington did not see the USA’s basic interests in the former, but rather were willing to divide the maintenance of the world order with others? Russia would certainly not say no to such a vision, and would be willing to work as a partner in redistributing responsibility of the United States for guaranteeing world security.
Moscow welcomed Trump’s victory in the presidential election with open arms. It considers the naivité of the politically inexperienced real estate investor as a kind of resource on which to base the destruction of US foreign policy. Another thing contributing to this is the retired general Michael Flynn nominated as national security advisor who is also looking to cooperate with the Russians, which could destroy the workings of the government from within.
Russia considers Donald Trump’s election as president as being to the net detriment of the United States in the global political struggle, which it can take advantage of.
There will not be a deal
And it can do this quickly, at least this is what it infers from Trump’s recently expressed idea that the two countries can “do a deal” in which, in exchange for removing sanctions relating to the Ukraine, a new agreement on reducing arms can be concluded with Moscow.
This “deal” would really mean that Moscow could retain all of its winnings in the Ukraine (Russian could swallow the Crimean peninsula and retain the position reached in south-east Ukraine by supporting separatists), while it decommissioned some nuclear warheads that are not worth much. It might even persuade the USA to withdraw its missile defense system from Europe.
The ball is with Putin
In the end, the question is how Putin plays the Trump card. Will he initiate a round of geopolitical intrigue, as the Soviets did, to the confusion of their American partners while taking advantage of Trump’s inevitable mistakes? Or will he keep its appetite in check, and after achieving its main goal – the division of Ukraine – suspend its geopolitical advances and be content to play a role in world affairs.
The scam in the scam
For Moscow, the most promising opportunity is working together with the new Washington administration on defeating “radical Islam.” This can only play into Flynn’s hands, as he believes in common action in Syria. Trump could justify the parties cooperating in Syria this way by saying it was not the American army that bombed the positions of the ISIS terror organization with who knows how many civilian victims, but the Russians.
However, reducing the USA’s international role opens the way for Russia to make advances if the US tries to get away with having Moscow do the “dirty work” in the world’s chaos zones, as stated by George Washington University professor Henry Hale in his recent study.
The end result is devilish. It would be as though Putin was doing the USA a favor by helping to reduce its world political responsibilities in accordance with the Trump administration’s isolationist intentions (America first!), as it would cooperate with it in this solution.
If it conducts these policies with the necessary caution, then through Trump Russia can achieve two key elements serving its interests. It can destroy the USA alliance system and weaken the United States’ influence in the world at the same time.
He wants a new world order
Putin made it perfectly clear in 2007 that he is not satisfied with what the West offered Russia, namely that it acknowledge the security interests within the zone of former Soviet republics. Rather, he wants the West to give up expansion of NATO and the EU. Moscow wants to move beyond the Helsinki accords, which guaranteed the status quo of the two political blocs during the Cold War.
The Russian president wants a new Yalta, writes Russian political analyst Alexander Morozov recently about the division of Europe at the end of the Second World War at the American-British-Russian summit. It wants to reorganize the world in a manner that suits the two or three (if China is included) global superpowers.
Or something else
At the time of Yalta the parties did not foresee NATO or the establishment of the European Union, which satisfied the needs of the West. For this reason they do not want the new world order Moscow is hoping for. For this reason it is possible that the Kremlin will accept less. This is indicated in gestures made recently to Japan, for example. It offered to resolve the 70-year-old dispute over the question of which country the Kuril islands taken after the Second World War belong to if the island nation, as Moscow put it, conducts a foreign policy more independent of the United States. This is precisely the same advice which the Kremlin is giving the European countries!
State Secretary nominee Tillerson could be correct in that Russia has a right to play a role in the restructuring of the world order. What he does not take into consideration is that Moscow actually wants to destroy the existing world order and replace it with chaos in which each state is able to fish in troubled waters. Defense secretary nominee Mattis has a detailed understanding of this. The big question is who their future boss, Donald Trump, will listen to?