Trump Foreign Policy Enters Lame Duck Period

Trump and Putin shaking hands in Helsinki

There was a time when President Trump’s personalised diplomacy seemed a hydra-headed phenomenon with tentacles reaching far and wide. He engaged such diverse politicians — from Shinzo Abe and Kim Jong-Un to Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi, from Mohammed bin Salman and Recep Erdogan to Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel.

But as time passed, the circle began shrinking and the scope for personalised diplomacy altogether diminished as coronavirus epidemic spread and countries turned inward, including the US.

Today, Trump is left largely with Putin’s company – although they have had only one formal summit in Helsinki on July 16, 2018 – to whom he keeps going back with an extraordinary frequency. Trump and Putin have held at least seven calls since March 30, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On July 23, Trump again spoke with Putin. He hasn’t spoken to any other foreign politician so frequently this year. And the paradox is that while Trump is famous for his pursuit of transactional relationships, there is very little transaction taking place between the US and Russia.

The Kremlin often describes these Putin-Trump phone conversations as ‘constructive and substantive’, although we hardly see any concrete results. The two leaders strove to create and atmospherics but failed to create content in the relationship — foreplay without consummation.

The leading think tanker at Moscow Carnegie and author, Dmitry Trenin tweeted after yesterday’s Putin-Trump conversation that they ‘appear as a parallel universe with no connection to real Russia-US relations. Weird.’

Indeed, the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had said only a fortnight ago that the Russian-American relations have touched their lowest point. But since then, Trump and Putin spoke with each other twice!

After yesterday’s conversation, the Kremlin readout said the two politicians once again ‘thoroughly discussed’ arms control and strategic stability, as well as the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (which is due for renewal by February).

They agreed on ‘the great importance of Russia’s initiative’ to hold a summit of the permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Russia’s keen interest in the renewal of the START is well-known. On this issue, a rare bilateral consensus exists in the US, which Trump could easily have exploited to issue an executive order to renew the pact.

But Trump held back and would now like Putin to visit the US for a crowning ceremony over START renewal. Trump seems to link the Putin visit to a summit meeting of the P-5 in September.

Unsurprisingly, Trump is desperately keen to display a foreign-policy trophy before the November election. But there are insurmountable obstacles. Russia is a very toxic subject in America and a ‘stand alone’ visit by the Kremlin leader is simply unthinkable.

The latest controversy over alleged Russian bounties to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan puts the Kremlin in a very bad light.

Furthermore, the British government, which has fallen in line with Trump’s wish to roll back ties with China, will expect a quid pro quo from Washington — keep Russia out in the cold. In fact, the UK government just released a dossier on Russia’s interference in British politics.

Over and above, this is not an opportune moment to hold a P5 summit on American soil — when Washington and Beijing are sparring with growing fury. Why should the Chinese Communist Party move a little finger to boost Trump’s re-election prospects?     

The Kremlin readout said Putin and Trump ‘touched on’ the Iranian nuclear programme. It added, ‘Both sides emphasised the need for a collective effort to maintain regional stability and the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.’

This seems implies a tacit understanding that Washington will not make any precipitate moves to kill the JCPOA, but in turn, expects Russia also to exercise restraint in supplying advanced weaponry to Iran even after the UN embargo expires in October so that ‘regional stability’ is maintained.

In the past also, Moscow refrained from arming Iran in deference to American and Israeli requests. Interestingly, Moscow is lately putting some distance between itself and Tehran.

Although Iran’s Foreign Minister claimed to have had a hour-long phone conversation with Putin in Moscow on Tuesday to reach a ‘comprehensive strategic partnership’ agreement between the two countries, the Kremlin remains silent.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin-linked think tank Valdai Club featured a commentary on Wednesday (after Zarif’s visit to Moscow) highlighting differences between the two countries on key issues. The commentary, entitled Strategic Mavericks: Russia and Iran in a Post-Covid Middle East, says:

“Moscow has maintained a tactical alliance with Tehran in the Syrian conflict… It is not often that differences between Moscow and Tehran.. are mentioned outside the expert community. But the important thing for politicians is to keep these differences from spilling over to neighbouring regions or problem areas, let alone allow them to ruin the spirit of cooperation that both countries have worked hard to create in recent years. Reforming the Syrian security system is possibly one of the most difficult items on the bilateral agenda, but it is certainly one of key importance.”

Trump and Xi
U.S. President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping arrive at a state dinner at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017

Moscow is weighing options in a regional scenario where the presumptive Democratic candidate Joe Biden wins in the November election and succeeds Trump in the White House, and thereupon proceeds to revive the JCPOA (2015 Iran nuclear deal, which is an Obama legacy), and directly engages with Tehran.

In such an eventuality, the situation around Iran may radically change and Iran’s integration into the West cannot be ruled out during a Biden presidency, which would of course badly isolate Russia in the Eastern Mediterranean and Levant. Moscow’s predicament is rather acute since Biden may also adopt a tough line on ‘revanchist Russia’.

Suffice to say, as Trump’s first term is about to end, the Kremlin feels frustrated that he could do nothing to salvage the US-Russia relations which have been in free fall. The Kremlin’s calculations in putting all the Russian eggs in Trump’s basket turned out to be counterproductive, as Moscow became the punchbag for the anti-Trump forces in the US.

Evidently, Trump has tried hard to give a positive spin to the US-Russia relations. But time has run out.

Trump lacked a ‘big picture’ — and even if he had one, he had no cohesive team and he himself lacked the tenacity and discipline to command his administration officials and ensure that they carried out his directives and wishes. His choices for key cabinet posts were appalling for such a successful businessman of his repute.

Ironically, in the contemporary world politics, Putin and Xi would have been Trump’s most cooperative and helpful allies on the campaign trail as he bids for a second term in November. But his administration officials have inflicted such serious damage to the US’ relationships with both China and Russia that it is a moot point now.



Originally published by The Indian Punchline



Republished by The 21st Century

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of 21cir.

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One Reply to “Trump Foreign Policy Enters Lame Duck Period”

  1. Why Russia is cozying up to the evil hedgemon US of A defies logic!
    The US is a war criminal terrorist state alongside its criminal terrorist ally UK, murdering and looting third world countries around the world. To top it all, US is a racist intolerant nation run by racist , deranged mad politician psychopaths like trump, Pompeo and corrupt greedy Congress filled with mentally sick individuals who would sell their mothers and children for dollar riches. Pathetic and criminally insane lot.

    Globally, it is widely believed that the United States tends to use terrorist organizations as hired guns in order to pursue its own interests all over the world. Since September 11, 2001, the White House has been implementing its expansionist policies, under the guise of the ‘War on Terror’, to seize natural resources and riches of other nations. And this was especially evident after the US interventions in Libya in 2011 and then Syria, and Washington’s actions in Afghanistan and the entire Middle Eastern region. The cost in human life is staggering. Since World War II alone it is estimated that the U.S. has killed at least 30,000,000 people in over 37 victim nations. In response to the killing of 3,000 U.S. citizens on September 11, 2001, the U.S. killed at least 1,000,000 Iraqis who, along with their government, had nothing to do with the 2001 attacks on the U.S.
    US wars of aggression have killed millions of innocent men, women and children around the world. Yet more often than not they have been based on weak evidence, questionable motives, and outright lies. Why, then, do large portions of the public staunchly support the US troops? Why are so many Americans satisfied with the U.S. bombings of Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other Middle Eastern countries, knowing that this is creating starvation and refugee crises of catastrophic proportions?
    How the U.S. Rally Support for Wars That Kill Millions of Innocent People Worldwide: Propaganda, Lies and False Flags:
    The pattern consists, first, of brandishing “false flags”—that is, perceived threats, dangers or human rights violations such as Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction and involvement in 9/11, or alleged chemical attacks by the government of Syria that were never corroborated. Next comes the use of propaganda to manipulate public opinion and enlist widespread buy-in. Quoting and parroting the government, the media helps spread this propaganda. This approach has successfully garnered support for both official warfare and acts of aggression such as plundering other country’s resources and removing left-leaning foreign leaders.
    The many revelations in Propaganda, Lies and False Flags include:
    • The testimony that sparked the first Gulf War—the Nayirah testimony—was entirely falsified to further the agenda of Citizens for a Free Kuwait, a US-backed organization. And Nayirah? She was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US, not a hospital volunteer as she claimed in Congressional testimony.
    • In 2020 the US assassinated Iran’s General Qassam Soleimani, head of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and then considered retaliation from Iran an unprovoked aggression that went to the brink of triggering an invasion.
    • The US government developed a narrative positioning Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate president despite not being democratically elected by the people of Venezuela, enabling Guaido to stage a bloody albeit unsuccessful coup. Ultimately it was not about democracy, but oil.
    • The 2011 US intervention in Libya for “humanitarian purposes” following Libya’s attempts to quell violent unrest belied resentment for Libya’s support of Palestine and the desire to seize Libya’s rich oil assets.
    The sheer length of the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and Washington’s inability to achieve its desired goals all point to the true motives behind the US ‘War on Terror’. At first, the United States and its allies decided to use al-Qaeda (terrorist organization banned in the Russian Federation) to destabilize the situation in the region and overthrow legitimate governments there. Then, after the plan failed, the US helped establish the Islamic State (also known as IS, ISIS, ISIL and Daesh, a terrorist organization banned in the Russian Federation), which was to be used as a direct means of intervening in the region.
    Such an approach was clearly evident in Syria where, throughout the conflict, the United States illegally supplied tons of weapons, worth billions of dollars, to terrorists from Daesh. The CIA and the Pentagon used various schemes to bring arms from Eastern Europe and the Middle East to the war zones. Only in 2015, Washington supposedly provided Daesh militants with $500 million in funding. According to a US Defense Department Inspector General report, from 2017 to 2018, the Pentagon lost track of more than $700 million worth of weapons and equipment
    It’s hardly a secret that Washington did not only help jihadists financially but would also regularly save their lives by evacuating them from dangerous areas and transporting them to US military bases, where they were subsequently trained. Afterwards, these militants could kill Syrian soldiers who essentially stand between Washington and Syrian crude oil. Numerous reports in various media outlets have, on many occasions, exposed USA’s clandestine schemes in Syria. And still, Washington continues to openly provide direct and indirect support to terrorists.
    It has already been reported earlier that, according to a former colonel of the Syrian Armed Forces, Sultan Aid Abdella Souda, detained for desertion, “there is a direct connection” between militants in Idlib and the United States. The US trains the militants in Idlib to stage attacks on oil/gas and transportation infrastructure, and to plan and carry out acts of terror in the territories under the control of Syrian government forces.
    Recently, schemes used by US armed forces to operate in Syria in order to justify their presence in the country came to light. A key witness for Damascus and a former field commander of Syria’s armed opposition, Hannam Samir (also known as Abu Hamzi) has shared his views on US military tactics in the region. He has affirmed that the Pentagon and the CIA have established networks for recruiting mercenaries in southern Syria. Hannam Samir also talked about the logistics of supplying Islamist terrorists with weapons. He was the commander of an outpost near the Rukban refugee camp. According to his statements, instead of trucks full of humanitarian aid, convoys with weapons and food travelled unimpeded through guard posts and the camp, where the US al-Tanf military base is also located. Using recruited “moderate opposition” as cover, Americans, at some point in time, stopped fulfilling any of their promises, with salaries and food provided only once in three months. Disagreements arose among field commanders and, subsequently, Abu Hamzi and his unit decided to defect and surrender to Syria’s governments forces. Unquestionably, all of the evidence pointing to Washington’s ties with terrorists instead of US efforts to wage war on terror, should be made publicly available and used during international court proceedings as proof of USA’s dirty policies in the Middle East.
    The US and its vassal puddle UK arrogance is shameless. Instead of mutual cooperation, they intimidate china with war, sanctions including using terrorists to try and distabilise Hong Kong and Ugur region.
    China is strong and has already won the moral high ground against the known US terrorist state .

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