This series of posts has been longer than anticipated and there will likely be one more, rife with my personal speculation, in a few days. To set the context for that it’s important to fully appreciate the agendas of both Putin and Trump in the upcoming summit.

First, it’s important to note that Putin wants good relations with the U.S. He views the U.S, China and Russia the fundamental global super powers, the political forces that should control the security and resources of the planet. It’s even possible he would prefer stronger US / Russian relations as a balance against the Chinese – who are in direct territorial contact with the Russian Federation across all its eastern borders and who are themselves busily working to control SW Asian and African resources that the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union viewed as under their hegemony.

Second, Putin personally hates NATO and the EU and would do anything in his power to weaken those alliances with the United States, as well as to ensure that Russian energy influence over Europe is maintained. Along with those aspects of his agenda he is highly motivated to preserve Russian influence within OPEC and maintain Russian oil revenues – the key to the Russian economy and to finance his military developments (as well as Russian economic development of the Arctic; which he understands is critical to Russia given climate change – which he most certainly does recognize).

In short he would actually like a strong U.S. / Russian partnership – if it is on those terms.  To do so he is perfectly happy to court American business interests as well as its political right wing, and interestingly enough there appears a great desire to work with Russia within both those sectors.  In other words, Putin has a very solid sense of where to target Russian political appeal towards America.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/02/europe/russia-us-relations-political-will-intl/index.html

In listing his summit priorities I would project they would focus on reinforcing Trump’s own disdain and mistrust for traditional American alliances and agreements. In essence Trump’s America First political agenda is quite literally the same as Putin’s so anything Putin can do to reinforce that in regard to the EU, to BREXIT, to the WTO and most importantly towards NATO will be points Putin’s personal persuasion.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/01/politics/trump-world-trade-organization-tariffs/index.html

As to Trump’s agenda, he would very much like good relations with Russia for a number of reasons, most of all because he is personally obsessed with maintaining that Russian “meddling” had nothing to do with his winning the 2016 election and imposing his own political will in terms of his campaign statements in regard to doing business with Russia. This is a very personal issue of legitimacy and will to him – whereas Putin is driven largely by strategic national issues, Trump is in a very different and much more personal space in the talks.

Trump faces a hugely escalating budget deficit, a potential cliff in economic growth as a result of his tariff policies and a dramatically escalating military budget.  I speculated in Shadow Warfare, some four years ago now, that Putin was using the Reagan Star Wars gambit of baiting the U.S. with new weapons systems and deployments – potentially forcing the U.S. to commit to a new wave of military spending it could not afford. The downside risk was the price of oil and Russian oil revenues.

https://www.defensenews.com/congress/2018/06/26/underwater-will-rising-debt-spark-pentagon-cutbacks/

 

Up until the election of 2016 things were looking increasingly as if Putin was indeed playing the Star Wars card effectively, forcing a huge increase in American spending – but that the falling price of oil had made the operational deployment of such weapons questionable.  However the new 2017/2018 Trump accords with Saudi Arabia, his ongoing political warfare with Iran and pending American economic sanctions against Iran’s trading partners things have dramatically changed.  Those America moves have now destabilized the world oil market to the extent that Russia is in an increasingly better position to at least sustain Putin’s projects. At this point Russia is most definitely the economic winner in terms of the new American/Saudi alliance against Iran.

American economic/budget exposure puts Trump in a position to be amenable to Putin proposals which would limit new weapons development, potentially point towards a new era of nuclear disarmament negotiations, and set the stage for deals which allow reduction or even the pulling out of American forces from Syria, potentially out of Korea and even out of Europe – blunting the resurgence of NATO and American support for the Ukraine as well as other Eastern European nations where Putin very much wants to weaken confidence in Western support and reassert Russian political control.

I’ll get down to more specific speculation on deals in my final pre-summit post, but my view of the overall summit context is that  Putin will be suggesting deals to Trump that Trump will be very much driven by his own personal agenda and his America First political promises to accept.

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10 responses »

  1. DAVID S, Brown says:

    Every Soviet policy and every US policy has pros and cons, especially the Democrat’s policy of imposing Soviet meddling on Trump.

    Your analysis would benefit with a more thorough presentation.

    David S. Brown
    dbrown1940@gmail.com
    630 323 0374

    • larryjoe2 says:

      David, the Russian (not Soviet) political warfare against the west – which began in 2014- and continues today -is certainly not a matter of just the 2016 election. Its far more pervasive than the election, which is one of the problems of viewing it strictly in that party context (by either American political party).

      Unfortunately Trump has chosen to view it in that manner and so has his congressional majority. That is as much a part of the context of the upcoming summit as is the American failure to acknowledge or even discuss the the western political “meddling” in the former Soviet republics and in Russia under the auspices of the federally funded American democracy initiatives and by the Western democratic action NGO’s.

      Putin himself clearly understands the situation, publicly stating that Western actors have been free to “meddle” in elections throughout the former Soviet republics, so why should we be shocked if free and independent Russian actors chose to do the same in the West.

      As to my presentation, I couldn’t agree more – and that level of detail will be available this month in my new book, Creating Chaos. The good news is that just this afternoon the publisher advised me that the electronic version had gone to press and should be available shortly.

  2. Anthony M says:

    Thanks for yet another interesting article.

    Sadly it corresponds all too closely to my own reading of the situation, although Russia potentially has quite a major strategic choice to make here (as does Europe, in reaction to events).

    Pondering ‘indicators’ that may help us interpret events around which way this goes…may come back on that as thoughts firm up.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Larryjoe2, thanks! And thanks for sharing your great posts every week!

  4. Anthony M says:

    A possibly interesting data point on links between the new Italian government and Russia (the second item in today’s (5th July) Eurointelligence briefing)
    https://www.eurointelligence.com/public.html

    • larryjoe2 says:

      Given the lack of success in any of the high level diplomatic negotiations on the Chinese trade issue, driven by representatives directly from the White House, its hard for me to see an American ambassador in Germany doing a deal that would resolve the European side of the equation, even with a single nation.

      Overall, at least to me, the current American agenda on trade seems not to really involve tariffs (which overall had been at historically low levels) so I’m not even sure the answer is in any such independent dialogs.

      I see the Administration trade initiatives as more of a domestic American political issue, playing out on the international trade stage. It has to do with campaign promises, and political will on Trump’s part. And from what I’ve studied of his business dealings, his tactics have largely been to create enough discord and fragmentation in deals so that the parties on the other side of the table ultimately fold. If that does not happen, neither does the deal.

      Given that I have no idea how the evolving trade wars end; they certainly are a part of the chaos that is evolving but only a part, the total deconstruction of traditional alliances, military/security/economic is the larger picture I’m trying to grasp. At the moment its easy to characterize but I don’t think I’m bold enough to make any predictions beyond the upcoming Trump/Putin summit – and those will come in my next post. After that I’ll have some things to say about other subjects, including some new work relating to the JFK conspiracy and the Gene Wheaton disclosures.

      • Anthony M says:

        Sorry…the link I gave opens to the most recent briefing…I was thinking more of the 5th July one (that was at that time the latest one) on relations between Salvini’s party in Italy and United Russia (link to it at the end of the most recent eurointelligence briefing)

  5. Anthony M says:

    Preliminary thoughts for whatever they’re worth.

    A few core assumptions:
    • The US sees China as the major future threat to its global hegemony. The strategy of attempting to bring China into a market led global economy (and therefore allowing US corporations to dominate) has failed and to date the Chinese model has proved effective (but with significant risks for China going forward in terms of various imbalances).
    • The ability of the US to sustain its extreme budget deficit and therefore its very strong military is critically dependent on several structural features in the world economy. Perhaps in particular the petrodollar system with Saudi Arabia and the role of the dollar as a global reserve currency stand out (others will know more about that than me, very much developing my understanding of that side of things). The alliance with Saudi Arabia is therefore fundamental to sustaining the petrodollar and therefore US hard power.
    • Domestic political considerations mean that the alliance with Israel is non-negotiable.
    • The US sees three major powers in the mid-21st Century, itself, China and Russia. It does not want to see a fourth or fifth emerge and would prefer there to be one – itself.
    • The US political system is totally controlled by the interests of the major corporations and a few extremely wealthy individuals. US foreign policy is heavily oriented towards increasing the wealth of these groups and US economic power is an important weapon in achieving foreign policy objectives in addition to military power.

    And therefore… This is my initial working scenario (sincerely hope I am wrong)!

    Back in the 19th Century Otto von Bismarck stated (or words to the effect of) that when there are five great powers the aim is to ‘a trois’. To adapt that concept, when there are three great powers the aim is to be ‘a deux’.

    It will not be possible for the US to form an alliance with China, that leaves Russia which is the weaker of the three.

    The alliance (mutual dependence?) of the US and Saudi combined with a ‘zero sum’ attitude to geopolitical issues and the alliance with Israel all point to a desire to isolate Iran and ultimately destabilise that country. Turkey is also a factor here.

    A ‘peace deal’ on Syria which pushes Iranian influence out in return for consolidating Russia’s and Turkey’s position in Syria may be desirable to the USA. The Kurds are likely to lose out in this, although they might be tempted by a deal which gives them something in return for directing their efforts against Iran rather than Turkey. Israel and Russia would be the big beneficiaries of such a deal. It may be worth noting that tension (and especially actual war) in the Middle East greatly increases the value of the oil exports of the USA and Russia (and Saudi Arabia, assuming production isn’t disrupted).

    Why would Russia want to co-operate with the US? This would be a purely pragmatic judgement call based on a transactional relationship. Neither could possibly trust each other an inch (and no-one else can either). What does Russia want from this? Simply consolidating its bases in Syria can hardly be enough. If there is any coherence in the current US strategy it is (in this scenario) around a view of creating a world order based on three hubs (US, China and Russia), each with its sphere of influence and with the fundamental US aims being to contain China and maintain the petrodollar system to allow it to sustain its hardpower advantages by keeping flows of capital into the dollar.

    Russia may well want an agreement (no doubt unstated in public) that it will have a free run at its sphere of influence. This would be at least the former Soviet states except possibly the Baltic countries, although I suspect it may go a lot further than that.
    Neither the US nor Russia would want a strong Europe in this scenario – if Russia and the US become strategic allies of convenience against China, why would they want a fourth major power? There is no need for the US to have a strong Europe as a buffer against Russia if Russia becomes a key ally. The very clear strategy of destabilising Europe including working with far right and nationalist groups will therefore continue with both Russian and US covert operations against Europe. Sadly my own country (the UK) may well decide to throw its sad lot in with the US rather than helping defend Europe if the current government survives.

    This could leave Europe as a ‘contested space’ between US and Russian influence (I do not see the US seeing Russia as an ally in the sense that the UK and the USA were allies once upon a time, the model is more ‘partners of convenience’ that may well act against each other is some areas and collaborate in others). The US may well be thinking that its corporations are more powerful / competitive than Russian ones, they will win any battle for control of Europe. Russia may well think that its oil and gas resources and effectiveness at ambiguous warfare means it will win. This may explain US moves against Nordstream 2 although this could also be an indicator that I am wrong and the US does not intend to abandon Ukraine to a Russian sphere of influence.
    Reality may end up being rather messy with Europe fracturing into its component states, some heavily influenced by Russia and some (including probably the UK) locked into the de facto control of the US.

    Or…
    Germany could wake up and smell the coffee and go hard and fast with Macron’s agenda (not optimistic though). China’s Belt and Road Initiative may well be an important opportunity to bring in a counterbalance to the US in a world in which the US is not so much an ally as an economic empire aiming only to exploit everyone else to the maximum extent possible (as of course would the Chinese and the Russians if they got the chance).

    A sad, sad situation.

    Indicators to watch for:
    • A shift in Russian – Iranian relations
    • A shift in Turkish – Russian relations
    • A truce of some sort between the Turks and the Kurds
    • An increase in covert operations in Iran
    • A ‘peace deal’ in Syria that is cutting out Iran
    • Moves towards ‘deals’ between the US and Russia (e.g. arms control)
    • A further escalation of trade disputes impacting Europe and particularly Germany (in addition to China)
    • US moves in relation to Nordstream 2 and more generally around support for Ukraine
    • Separating the UK (post Brexit) out from moves against Europe
    • Increased funding and technical capabilities of nationalist groups in central and western Europe ( probably covertly) by the US and in Eastern Europe from Russia
    • A libertarian model being followed in the UK with extremely close policy alignment of the UK and the US.
    • In the event of a Labour government in the UK with very left-wing policies,operations to damage the UK will begin (as in Venezuela etc.)

    Sincerely hope I am very wrong on this

    • larryjoe2 says:

      I think you just preempted my next post…grin. Some very good thoughts and I’m afraid much of it is on the mark in my own personal view. The caveat being that at this point in speaking of the U.S. and Russia its a bit less national and a lot more personal so the individual power issues of Putin and Trump come into play regardless of the national economic agendas. China is considerably more “unified”, which gives it a less ambiguous position and certainly a more focused one in the economic/recourse space it is pursuing. That is clearly illustrated by the analysis in this link:

      http://warisboring.com/china-is-muscling-india-out-of-the-maldives/

      The upcoming summit should give us a very good idea of the extent to which the Trump and Putin agendas will actually merge, and of how much Trump is willing to give away. Its hard to see Putin having to trade much in a geopolitical sense but he may well offer up some deals in the areas of weapons limitations and even in space cooperation.

      • Anthony M says:

        Thanks…very good point about the personal egos and ambitions being a factor….although that is many ways even more depressing.
        Some say the chaos around Trump is a sign of psychological problems whilst others that it’s a strategy….I hsveb’t formed a firm opinion but inclining to the view that it’s a combination of the two, which is very disturbing.

        Putin on the other hand (and Xi) come accross as exceptionally ruthless and, although equally amoral as Trump, also showing very high level abilities and sound judgement (in terms of achieving their own agendas).

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