Has the Trump/Putin Thaw Finally Begun?
It’s becoming increasingly clear as the Coronapocalypse wreaks havoc on all of our lives that the relationship between China and the U.S. has changed, and not for the better. At every level of state actor we’ve seen a huge increase in the rhetorical hostility between the two nations.
From President Trump calling COVID-19 the “China Virus” to the Chinese officially accusing the U.S. of seeding the virus in Wuhan back in October, these interactions signal a big shift is underway. Alexander Mercouris of The Duran has been saying for months that the U.S. and China have been headed for a divorce. And that this divorce is one of Trump’s strategic goals.
He recently upgraded that divorce to that of a new Cold War and I have to agree with him. We’re seeing a sudden shift in anti-China coverage coming from CIA house organs like the New York Times and the Washington Post. Both sides are effectively accusing the other of engaging in bioweapons deployment and attack which is very serious when one considers the U.S.’s current nuclear posture.
I don’t want to alarm anyone with this statement, because the likelihood of anything like that happening are incredibly low. Instead I want you to consider what the purpose of such rhetoric is.
It’s an excuse to ratchet up the domestic propaganda as cover story for how and why both countries are getting very ready to “take their toys and go home.”
Against this backdrop of a fundamental shift in U.S./China relations I want to bring up the recent phone call between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Because I feel this phone call highlights a number of significant changes to the landscape both domestically and internationally.
Here’s the first one. Putin and Trump talked and the U.S. press didn’t go into apoplexy. The absence of irresponsible histrionics by the likes of Rachel Maddow and Jake Tapper at CNN. Speaker Nancy Pelosi wasn’t rushing to a microphone denouncing Trump. Adam Schiff (remember him?) is AWOL.
You would think they would be trying to eviscerate Trump over talking with Putin at this moment in time. The talking points are ready made. “How can this president spend his time taking orders from his master Putin when there are thousands dying in New York?”
Because Trump secured a plane full of needed medical equipment from Putin. And these same people are the ones whose lives are now directly threatened by COVID-19. I guess we may have found the limit to their depravity, when their lives are in danger they will back off on the petty, divisive and toxic politics.
Maybe they’ll save it for the weekend talk show circuit, but the lack of coverage here even after Trump’s tweets about massive oil production cuts from Russia and Saudi Arabia is telling.
While Russia denied this initially, Saudi Arabia called for a new OPEC meeting right after Trump ‘spilled the beans.’ It seems MbS got the message, “You cut now or I cut you off. Russia will do what Russia does.”
The simple truth is that Trump and Putin came to a quick deal for assistance to the U.S. similar to what happened after Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Putin spoke.
Putin’s early handling of the Coronapocalypse placed him and Russia in a strong position to render aid quickly. Even though he and his country have been treated abysmally by Trump and the EU there was no hesitation. In both cases, aid was on the way withing 24 hours of the phone call in question.
To me this is a big deal. It shows what happens when everyone’s priorities shift to that which is truly important, human life, and away from that which isn’t, ideology and personal power.
It’s an easy political win for both Putin and Trump and highlights the insanity of their detractors in the West. This is something that will go a long way with Trump. For all of his faults Trump is a patriot. He values American lives and anyone helping him to save them will have his trust in the future.
This isn’t to say his actions always are the best for the American people, but that he acts with that in his mind. Does he care less about everyone else? Likely. Be as cynical as you want about what his or Putin’s motives are but that doesn’t change the conclusions in the dispassionate analysis.
Putin is someone Trump can deal with.
On the other hand, the accusations flying from the U.S. at China speak to something far different. From Trump’s perspective, right or wrong, China withheld information about COVID-19 from the U.S. and threatened to cut off drug precursors.
That puts them in the “to be dealt with” pile on Trump’s desk rather than the “to cut a deal with” pile.
But the real question still remains whether Trump is someone Putin can, or more importantly should, deal with. That comes in the future. And the phone call which secured the medical aid for the U.S. also covered other issues, namely oil production and what Trump’s concerns are for U.S. oil and gas production.
Trump is very committed to U.S. independence in energy. He may finally see that his ‘Energy Dominance’ policy has failed miserably. But judging by the way his administration is handling Venezuela still, I very much doubt that. Russia’s move to buy Rosneft’s stake in Venezuelan energy assets signals that they are not abandoning Nicolas Maduro despite continued pressure by the U.S.
But, at the same time, getting Putin to agree to some form of production cut to help the, now crippled, U.S. fracking industry has to be counted as a win. The big question is what did Putin get in return? Because there is no way he hands Trump that win without getting a major concession.
There are a number of issues outstanding here which could be the basis for an upcoming deal. Most of them involve sanctions which Trump, thanks to CAATSA, doesn’t have much say over since that law puts the removal of those sanctions applied under Congress’ control.
We’ll find out in the coming days but Trump has to make a decision as to who is in a better position to help him save his domestic production, Russia or Saudi Arabia. The Saudis may have come to the end of their life as an ally for the U.S. if it can’t control the Arab producers and, by extension, protect Israel.
In the end, Putin is the far better choice on both of those fronts since he and Russia are in a position to deliver on their promises. Meanwhile, bin Salman has proved beyond incompetent in containing the Axis of Resistance or marshalling the other Arab states into an effective counter force to cover the U.S.’s strategic withdrawal, something Trump wants.
Given this and Trump’s looming re-election giving him new opportunities this phone call may be the first in a series that finally gets us back on track for a grand bargain in the Middle East that looks a whole lot different than what’s been on offer the past few years.
By Tom Luongo
Source: Strategic Culture