Israel Shamir

The Fighting Optimist

What Would Putin Tell Trump?

FRENCH TRANSLATION: Ce que dirait Poutine à Trump

The first date is a decisive one, as we learned in college, while courting Nancy or Alice. The coming first date of two Presidents, the two superheroes of our generation is likely to set the trend for coming years. How will it go? What will they say? The consequences can be joyous – or fatal.

The two leaders are the best these two great countries have produced for many years. Russia has had no leader equal in stature and public support to Putin since Stalin – in a recent poll for the greatest personality in history, a plurality of Russians placed Putin and Stalin at the top, preceding Pushkin, the Russian poet who occupies a place safeguarded for Shakespeare in English hearts. Trump, with all his shortcomings, is a great and good leader in the beginning of his statesman’s career, head and shoulders above his recent predecessors since Richard Nixon.

They are very, very different. Their biggest difference lies in experience. Putin has led his country for (more or less) 17 years; he learned the tricks and skills of the power game the hard way, from being a frontman for the seven Jewish bankers who privatized Russia in Nineties, to a fully independent autocrat comparable to the penultimate Russian Tsar Alexander III, or to Napoleon III. He is a wise ruler, in the Confucian way, forever hiding his steel will under a velvet glove; always modest, moderate, temperate, not given to a momentary abandon of passion. He is in full control of himself, and the Sages tell us this is the most difficult and sublime subject of control. He is also a responsible and reliable statesman; his word is as good as his bond: he kept the ridiculous promises he gave to Yeltsin’s family. He is also very popular with his subjects.

Trump has just recently and in mature age embarked on the statesman’s path, after a lifelong pursuit of business and pleasure. He sorely lacks experience, his hold on power is precarious. He is surrounded by open and hidden enemies, by people who pray for his failure. He is opposed by his own secret services, by the media, by his own party. His popularity isn’t certain.

He is a flamboyant and passionate person, likely to give vent to his feelings and emotions. He is an extrovert, while Putin is an introvert. He is a showman, while Putin had worked in the shadows, being a close approximation to a Russian James Bond.

Such differences could form the basis for a beautiful complementary friendship. If these two persons of different skills and abilities were to work together for a common purpose, they could guide mankind out of its present impasse. Their differences are the differences of ‘two strong men standing face to face, tho’ they came from the ends of the earth’.

However, both leaders are severely handicapped. Trump is handicapped by the poisonous campaign insinuating that he had been elected due to Russian interference and that he is in thrall to Russia; at any conclusion short of a military strike the New York Times and CNN will smirk that he surrendered the crown jewels. Putin is handicapped by the fact that Russia is weaker than the US in every way excepting Doomsday weaponry. Russia is surrounded by US military bases; the US military budget is ten times bigger than the Russian one. Putin has very little leeway to retreat and he is likely to respond in force to a provocation.

If Putin were to speak his mind freely to Trump, and it is not likely, as their conversation will certainly be bugged, recorded and leaked by the NSA to the hostile media, he’d tell him:

– Donald, you can fulfill all your wishes, make America great again, reach all the realistic objectives of the US, if you take a leaf from the book of your great predecessor Richard Nixon, the last independent American President. Even today, after years of inflation, an American worker takes home the same wages his father took in the days of Nixon. If there was a golden age for Americans, it was then. Nixon created the basis of prosperity, he established a long term foreign policy for the US, which is still good and still functions albeit in need of corrections, based on China trade and Arab oil. Nixon ended the wars in SE Asia and brought détente.

Nixon made a U-turn on Vietnam. He ended the war that had snowballed for years, without winning it: he recognized the futility of the war. You can do a U-turn on the Middle East wars your country has carried on for too long. These wars are futile. Everything you want to obtain in Syria, you can have without shooting a single bullet, without sending a single soldier.

I thought of that a few days ago when I was visited by the new Vietnamese President. The US fought in Vietnam for years, you lost 50,000 men and killed hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, and still you were defeated and expelled from Indochina. And the bottom line? The Vietnamese now are best friends of the US. They like Americans more than they like us, the Russians, or the Chinese, though we supported them through thick and thin in their wars against you or against the French. What was the Vietnam War for? In a few years, the Americans will ask you: what for did we fight that war in Syria and Iraq? You would be lost for an answer.

Nixon dared to make a U-turn on the generation-old policy of containing Red China. He built bridges with China and achieved peace and prosperity for the American people, and for the Chinese, too. You can do a U-turn on the policy of containing Russia, Iran and other smaller independent states. Build bridges instead, and we all shall prosper.

Let us consider Syria first. What does the US want to have in Syria? You name it, you can have it, and without war, without expenditure, without trouble. And I do not mean in a part of a broken and fragmented Syria under occupation, I mean one Syria, united and complete, with its capital Damascus, and its president Bashar al Assad. There is nothing within reason that President Assad would refuse you and I’ll second his promise. Do you want to trade, to produce, to sell, to transit? Welcome and Ahalan we-Sahalan, Assad would tell you. There is nothing he would like more.

The same is true about Iran. This great and ancient country is keen on American friendship, trade and investments. They elected a very pro-Western and liberal president just a few months ago. They agreed to the quite humiliating conditions of a nuclear deal. They never sent out a single terrorist to the US or Europe.

The conditions? The same conditions President Nixon accepted in dealing with China. No interference in internal affairs. Nixon did not demand that the Chinese disarm, forfeit their Communist rule, sell their industries and natural resources to American companies or even fully open their markets to the US. Likewise, you may give up interfering or getting involved in the other countries’ internal affairs.

Iran wants to be an Islamic Republic and allows its priests called ayatollahs to oversee their government. Fine, it is their business! It is neither better nor worse than the Saudi Arabian idea that one family, descendants of Saud, should rule and have all the benefits; or the Israeli way of privileging their faith, or the European way – all that is a matter of choice of people. We do not tell them what to eat, how to choose their mates, or how to rule their lands. Nobody is perfect, as they said in Some Like It Hot.

Some people like to meddle. They say:too much power in Syria belongs to the Alawites. We say: it is their business. They do not tell you that too much power belongs to Jews, and you do not tell them about Alawites. Let Syrians deal with it the way they find fit.

I would not worry about disarmament, too. Nixon did not. If he was to wait for China to disarm, you’d have no Chinese goods in your shops.

Now your military budget is bigger than all military budgets of all states in the world. If you are worried about disarmament, cut your own down to a reasonable size, and other states will follow.

And oh yes, there was a matter of Taiwan. Taiwan claimed sovereignty over China, kept its place in the Security Council, its powerful lobby blocked every attempt to change this status quo. Richard Nixon made a U-turn on Taiwan, as well. He did not “sell out” nor “abandoned” Taiwan, as Taiwanese lobby claimed. He just downgraded Taiwan to its legitimate and reasonable place in the American politics.

Taiwan continued to prosper, it has good working relations with mainland China, it has good relations with everybody, even its own people gained freedom and human rights – it just lost its unreasonable claim to China and its veto over American policy.

There is a “Taiwan” in the Middle East, called Israel. Its claim of superiority and ascendancy in the Middle East is the main reason for your wars on Syria, Iran and Iraq. You can deal with it like Nixon had dealt with Taiwan.

I am the last person to wish ill to the Jewish state. I visit it frequently, I pay pensions to hundreds of thousands of Israeli pensioners, I receive their leaders very often, I have there friends of my childhood. I am well known for my good attitude to the Jewish people. I gave a month’s salary to the upkeep of the Jewish Museum in Moscow, which is the biggest Jewish Museum in the world. Our Jewish community prospers. The Chief Rabbi, who belongs to the same Chabad branch of Judaism as the synagogue your daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared are members of, comes to me and always find help and support.

Jews are wonderful people, no doubt. However, you should not allow these wonderful people to ride upon you as upon a horse. This was a saying by Vladimir Lenin, that I learned as a young Communist. Lenin was very, very friendly to Jews; he had many Jewish colleagues, but he never allowed them to ride upon him. Neither do I.

The Taiwan treatment would be in the best real interests of people of Israel. In recent years, some hundred thousand Israelis have moved to Russia. We accept them, for they aren’t very happy in Israel as it is. Free from its ambitions, Israelis will find their peace in the Middle East, their national home.

Russia is a good friend of Iran and Syria, and it does not interfere with our friendship with Israel. Israelis understand that for us they are a Taiwan, while the rest of the Middle East is a China. You can do the same: make peace and friendship with Syria and Iran, while retaining friendship of Israel. They will understand; perhaps they will whine for a while, but they will eventually find a new modus vivendi.

Before getting into a war, define your objectives. If you will do this regarding Syria, you’ll see that you are getting into a war for the interests of the army command, for the interests of global banking and for Israeli interests. I’d respect these interests, they are perfectly legitimate, but they aren’t your interests, they aren’t interests of the American people.

Generals like wars, that is their occupation; they want more wars, a bigger part of budget, more promotions. But a good ruler commands his generals, he does not follow their command. I have sent home three quarters of my generals, and my popularity did not suffer. How come? I appointed a silly-looking non-professional guy for Secretary of Defence with the brief to slim down the Army. He did it and he got all the flak. At the end, I fired him and the Army loved me even more.

You will really prosper and you will be called the best president of all time, if you will slim down your military. Russia has had many bases abroad, from Cuba to Vietnam, from Aden to the Arctic North; we disbanded them all, and we did not regret it for a day. Bases are an expensive thing, and it is better to do without them.

You know, my generals beseeched me to send troops into the Ukraine, but I didn’t. We’d better spend money on the improvement of our citizens’ life. Now a few million of Ukrainians have voted with their feet: they moved to live and work in Russia, because our way of life is better than theirs. And bear in mind: the Ukraine had been the richest part of the USSR in the time of the Union’s breakup in 1991. Now they are quite poor. It is better to improve the economy than to fight wars.

The global bankers also like wars. I respect their wishes, but I do not intend to oblige them. The Jews like wars, but it is not necessary to grant them every wish. The US has not a single real interest to fight for Syria or Ukraine. Or for Estonia. I can promise you: our tanks will not roll into the Baltic states, though they were a part and parcel of Russia for three hundred years. Just take away the NATO bases from our vicinity. If you won’t we’ll have to defend ourselves.

Nixon also made a U-turn on his policy towards Russia. Instead of confrontation, he chose détente. It was so effective, that in 1990, all Russians chose to support America, follow America and accept America’s model. I was very pro-American myself. In the Oliver Stone film, I admit it. I was first to call President Bush offering my help on 9/11. I gave him transit facilities when he decided to go to Afghanistan. It took years of American support for terrorist rebels in Caucasus, of NATO encroachment eastwards, of vicious campaigns against me and our Russian way of life, of attacks on Iraq, until I changed my mind about the eternal benevolence of the United States and I made it clear in my Munich talk.

You can make this U-turn, too – from confrontation to détente with Russia, like Nixon did. You will find in me your best and most reliable ally.

What would you say to this offer, Donald?

Israel Shamir can be reached at

This article was first published at The Unz Review.

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