MAKE RUSSIA GREAT AGAIN VERSUS AMERICA FIRST
Caption: QUIET ENGLISH WEEKEND, JOUER DEJEUNER OR LIGHT RELIEF BETWEEN ANGELA AND VLADIMIR (dailymail.co.uk)
The same herd of elephants in NATO head quarters will move to the President’s palace in time for the Trump Putin meeting. It is almost certain two important issues will not be properly addressed.
The issues are the fallout from the unilateral decision by Present G W Bush to withdraw from the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001 which spawned another arms race between Russia and America. The second issue is the annexation of Crimea and the destabilisation of Ukraine by Russia in 2014. Hot potatoes like North Korea, the Iran nuclear program, Russian interference in Syria, cyber security will be discussed at the expense of the really serious.
ERSTER GANG–FIRST COURSE
Caption: ‘FOE” AND FAUX PAS, NATO, BRUSSELS
- The United States requires Europe to remain a strong strategic and financial buffer between the American homeland and the Russian Federation. Just as Russia requires Eastern Europe and Ukraine to be a buffer to NATO and China requires the Nine Dash Line as a first line of defence, so America requires the same. As a digression, China is increasing its influence in the Pacific Islands north-east of Australia which could affect the security of Australian maritime trade.
- In 2001 America withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in order to improve its missile defence systems as a precaution to counter the rise of terrorism. This inevitably triggered a renewed arms race which made Russia nervous of American military power. This has resulted in Russia upgrading its military capability that is now perceived as a threat to European security. Putin recently made an unusual reference to the development of anti-ballistic missile defence systems and other offensive military equipment.
(Russian Military Buildup, 4 March 2018, National Interest)
The European Union is America’s most important trading partner, despite the current adverse terms of trade; by contrast Russia is twenty-third in the list. Also, America requires a stable Europe and a more indefinable, but important, resilient Trans Atlantic Community. (Newsweek, 16 January 2018)
America is still a superior power compared to Russia but ‘boots’ on the ground might pose a threat:
- The Russian ‘Zapad’ military exercise in September 2017 involved up to 100,000 troops, heavy armour and aircraft adjacent to the Polish and Lithuanian borders. (Washington Post, 23 September 2017)
- By contrast, a major US led NATO exercise, Sabre Strike 18, only involved 18,000 soldiers from nineteen NATO countries which were spread across Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The exercise was ‘a demonstration of commitment and solidarity to the alliance”.
(US-NATO Lead Exercise, 3 June 2018, Associated Press)
Prior to Sabre Strike 18, the Polish Government had requested an American armoured division (15,000 men and 44 tanks) to be based in the country to counter Russia’s increasingly aggressive posture along the border. The Polish document referred to Russian aggression in Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014.
(MENI-ONET, 20 March 2018)
Russia appears to have more ‘boots on the ground’ than NATO at any one time, To counter a hostile act, NATO maintains 30,000 equipped troops with only a 20,000 strong rapid response group that could be mobilised in thirty days. (Die Welt, 3 June, 2018))
Last year there were only 30,000 American troops in Europe. (Business Insiders, 30 August 2017) This information may explain why NATO members must contribute 2% of GDP to increase its deterrent capacity.
(Written before the Summit)
The flash points for discussion between Trump and Putin in Helsinki have been well aired. The elephants have now arrived at the Presidentinlinna from Brussels. While Trump made enemies in Britain, they will conclave to ensure that crucial matters will not be addressed. These matters are the destabilisation of Ukraine and the military build up by Russia along the Eastern European border lands.
- Irrespective of Trump’s view of deficient contributions by NATO members, the security of Europe is important to America as its primary trading partner; Russia ranks twenty-third. America must maintain the integrity of European borders.
- America has a special relationship with Ukraine which makes it surprising that America has permitted Russia to cross a ‘red line’ and annex Crimea and destabilise Eastern Ukraine. Trump should make it clear to Putin that these incursions will not be tolerated. Unless a hard line is taken, Russia will commence incursions into Eastern Europe – note Poland’s concern.
- American policy is complicated by America’s special relationship with Ukraine. Since independence in 1991, Ukraine has has been a good ally for the United States. The country gave up its nuclear weapons following the implosion of the Soviet Union and signed a non-proliferation treaty with America. In 1994, the Budapest Declaration signed by Russia, America and Britain guaranteed the sovereignty of Ukraine. Russia tore up this document with the annexation of Crimea and the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine. This has crossed a ‘red line’. In 2008, Ukraine supplied three battalions to the Iraqi Coalition and was fourth with ‘boots on the ground’ after America, Britain and Poland. Soon after, President Bush attempted to bring Ukraine into the Atlantic Alliance but this was not supported by Nato members.
KAFE I VODKA–COFFEE AND LIQUEUR
(Written after the Press Conference)
Caption: “THE BALL IS IN YOUR COURT”, PUTIN TO TRUMP, HELSINKI. (ABC NEWS)
The Press Conference produced a furious, disgusted reaction in the United States at the performance by President Trump: no substantive issues were discussed to a conclusion. The mood is best summed up by John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, quote “Today’s Press Conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American President in living memory.” (The Guardian, 17 July 2018)
The Press Conference ended with a brilliant tactical move by President Putin when he threw a soccer ball to Trump with the quip “The ball is now in your court!” President Trump, almost expressionless, quickly threw the ball to The First Lady. Trump has returned to the Washington “Swamp” much discredited and to face the fury of many people.
There was no meeting of minds between the two leaders; the incompatibility of ‘Make Russia Great Again’ and ‘America First’ ensured there was no common ground. Major international issues were virtually ignored as both leaders were mindful of their domestic politics and their support base. For Trump, this was a difficult meeting as Russian interference lurked just under the surface. It was probably Trump’s intention to blame the Obama administration for the poor relations between the two countries, not the Trump administration, but the message was lost in translation between the brain and the vocal chords. The move by Special Council Mueller to indict Russian agents threw Trump into confusion which resulted in Trump endorsing Putin’s view of the election interference situation. This was a PR disaster for Trump.
A diplomatic leak (Gazeta Express, Kosovo, 25 July) from the closed door meeting mentioned a discussion on the partition of Kosovo between Serbia and Albania. Should this proceed then serious boundary disputes and fighting could erupt in Bosnia and Macedonia leading to widespread unrest. ( Geopolitical Futures, 1 August 2018)
Concerning ‘dirt’ on Trump – if there had been, the Russians would not have permitted the press conference to proceed. Strange as it may seem, Russia wants to increase Trump’s standing in the West as he is such a divisive influence: this assists Russian foreign policy objectives.
In this sorry saga, real damage has been done to one politician, Trump. The electorate and his base know him and the latest ratings show him at 47%. Nothing much will change in the heartland but a deluge of comment can be expected from his critics. Post Helsinki nothing will change. The slow shift in power politics will continue, but if hostilities should erupt, then a little more rapidly.
(The Trump Putin Meeting, 18 July 2018, Geopolitical Futures)
Caption: JOHN McCAIN, CHAIRMAN, SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE>
JOHN HUGH HILL
Current Affairs Flash Points – towardsthefinalhour.com