-Will he sign, or won’t he? – Moscow’s John Bull pub customers tried to second-guess the US President. The pub on the Nikitsky Boulevard in the centre of Moscow is a good watering hole that is frequented by the Foreign Office minor officials and sundry intelligentsia. – He won’t sign his own surrender, fervently said A Pint of Bitter. – No way! He would not like to become a lame duck after just seven months in the White House. The Constitution is on his side! – Oh yes, he will sign, insisted Gin-and-Tonic. – He can’t deny the will of Congress. As for constitution, the courts took over his right to decide on immigration, now the Congress takes over foreign policy. He will decide where to spend his vacation, that’s all.
This is exactly what happened, as you all know. Donald Trump obediently if grudgingly signed the sanctions bill, and decided to spend the vacations playing golf in New Jersey, while his erstwhile buddy Putin departed for a fishing trip in Siberia, and even speared a giant pike after two hour long pursuit in the cold lake. Not as big as one he had caught four years ago, but that was before the US sanctions.
Apparently the bill was not bad enough to send him hiding into bunker. Perhaps Putin had been calmed down by Rex Tillerson’s insistence that the legislation should be regarded “as a sign Americans want Russia to improve relations with the U.S.” for what could be more calming and relaxing than a good laugh? Tillerson’s statement was surely as hilarious as Don’t run, we are your friends scene in the Mars Attacks! movie. Great Hollywood movies often presage the future events.
While at movies, The Game of Thrones seems more apposite to the present situation. President Trump vs. the Swamp is the ultimate battle for dominance, like that of Cersei and Daenerys. Putin’s Russia is an outsider that does not really want to get involved in the struggle beyond cheering the winner. Putin doesn’t want to bend his knee either to the Clinton Collective nor to Trump, though his – and many Russians’ – sympathies were for Trump. If sympathy and preference amount to interference, then the Russians interfered in the US elections, otherwise they didn’t. We know that from the best source: from Seymour Hersh, the most trustworthy US journalist.
The Russian Prime Minister Mr Medvedev summed the situation in a brief and to the point post in his Facebook page, conveniently in Russian and English. “First, the sanctions law ends hopes for improving Russia’s relations with the new US administration. Second, it is a declaration of a full-fledged economic war on Russia. Third, the Trump administration has shown its total weakness by handing over executive power to Congress in the most humiliating way. This changes the power balance in US political circles.”
The Prime Minister is a man whose opinion matters. He is not the weakling that the Russian nationalist opposition branded him. While a President and a Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, on 8.8.8 (Aug 8, 2008, for slow thinkers) he disregarded the US calls and Russians’ divided public opinion, moved the tanks beyond the Caucasus mountains and defeated the arrogant Georgians with their Israeli and American instructors in a brief war. Still he is a liberal, his government carries out liberal policy, he is not seeking confrontation. If he says it’s war, albeit economic one, then it’s war the US declared on Russia.
Still the more important war goes on between the Establishment and the President, and this war is not over. Trump had been humiliated, it is true, he lost a battle but not the war. It is too early to write him off, as Medvedev suggests.
President Putin understood that as he ordered the mass expulsion of the US diplomats before Trump signed the bill, though previously he said he will do it after the bill will become a proper law. If Putin would wait a few days, the expulsion could be considered a response to Trump’s signing. But Putin preferred to make the Congress responsible for the action.
President Trump agreed with Putin, when he twitted: “Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low. You can thank Congress!” The Russia-baiting senator John McCain replied with “You can thank Putin”, but this line of accusations leads nowhere.
Trump is in one hell of a mess, but he has some solid support. I do not mean the people, I mean the real business sector of America. The Swamp has been fed by the virtual economy of Google, Microsoft, Facebook, mass media, the Federal Reserve, the spy agencies. Their enemies, the people of the real industry, support Trump, and they aren’t likely to surrender. The conflict crossed the Atlantic, and now it rages in Europe, where supporters of the Clinton Collective had found themselves in an unpleasant situation. They’re losing money, for American business does not want to support them anymore.
The Swedish elites, strong supporters of the Clinton Collective, discovered that at their peril. Their great TNC Ericsson suffered huge losses last year. When they have tried to make some deals with American companies on basis of their previous contacts they discovered that the American businessmen are underwhelmed and had sent them home without signing the deal. (I wrote about it previously) Such signals make lasting impression.
Recently there were some emissaries coming to Moscow and asking Putin to take sides in the battle, to get rid of the liberal wing of his the government. But Putin is not keen on it. Russian liberals are still playing ball, they do not interfere with his rule. Putin prefers to keep Russia out of this struggle altogether; if he will fail it won’t be for the lack of trying.
Sympathies of Putin and his supporters still are with Trump, with American nationalists, for we can imagine a deal that can be reached with them, a deal that will allow Russia to live peacefully in its own niche of the world and of the market. It is hard even to imagine a possible deal with devoted globalists who want to remake the world including Russia after their own image. Still, Putin does not intend to get involved in the intra-American quarrel.
The nearest and the best he could do was waiting for half a year before acting on December expulsion of the Russian diplomats. Now we are entering a new stage, a full-blown Cold War.
Here I must admit that it is not bad for the world, not bad at all. A great harmony between Trump and Putin would be even better, as I described, but Cold War is surely second best solution.
There are too many aggressive American actions all over the world. Before 1990, they were partially blocked by the USSR. Since then, the US could do whatever it wishes, with dire results. Interventions in Afghanistan, Panama, Iraq, and elsewhere would not have happened if there would be some counterweight to the US. And Putin’s Russia didn’t want to take the role of major counterweight. The Russians acted only within very limited territories and by very limited means. They saved Crimea from being turned into a NATO military base; they stopped the destruction of Syria. This is very good, but far from leading global resistance to the Empire. At best, they refused to cooperate with American designs.
If the Cold War accelerates, Russia will be forced to do more. An American foreign policy expert, ex-State Department man, provides a hint: “There are considerable differences between refusing to cooperate with the United States, and working assertively to resist U.S. policies and damage America. Are Americans ready for a Russia that turns the tables on Washington in Afghanistan, providing the Taliban with surface-to-air missiles to shoot down U.S. helicopters and jets? Or a Russia that signs new trade deals with North Korea and works to stabilize the Kim regime’s struggling economy? Or perhaps a Russia that provides equipment and training to anti-American terrorist groups?”
Surprisingly, these measures would only mirror American actions. The US provided al Qaeda in Afghanistan and in Syria (where it is called Al Nusra) with surface-to-air missiles to shoot down Russian jets, or even shot down Syrian jets. The US works to stabilize the rotten Kiev regime. The US provided equipment and training to anti-Russian terrorists in the Caucasus, in Syria and in the Ukraine.
But why stop at these measures? A la guerre comme à la guerre. Russians could return their ICBMs to Cuba and move them to Venezuela, encourage the white militias of Montana, actively support the independence of Texas and California, and that still would remain within a mirroring of US actions. What is more important, these and other measures would be good for the people of the world, including American citizens.
By voting for President Trump, the people of America manifested their will to end foreign wars, to end immigration into their country, to dismantle NATO (Candidate Trump called it “obsolete”), to stop the practice of regime change. The will of the American people should be done.
The developments of last six months in the US amount to a coup d’état. The elected President Trump has been hunted, persecuted, stripped of his powers by the Neocon gang of warmongers. They usurped the power vested in the President by the American people. It would be good if Russia were to help the American people to restore democracy in their land.
Provided that the usurpers want to unleash the dogs of war upon Korea and Venezuela, upon Syria and Iran, provided that they insist to continue their unlawful occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, of Germany and France, provided that they interfere with the elections in all European and Latin American states, and hinder free trade for Russians and Europeans, resisting their policies would be good, moral and legal in the highest sense of the word. And the Cold War will give those who resist the usurpers – the nuclear shield and the nuclear sword.
A Cold War may save Venezuela, Iran and Korea from the impending US intervention, it may roll back the US occupation forces. It will be beneficial for the world.
And it will be beneficial for Americans. The worst Putin can dream to do against the US: forcing the US to close its military bases, end their interventions and regime changes, destroying the Federal Reserve and the position of US Dollar in international trade, will be good for you. Your country will not invade the world and invite the world. Americans will again have work, and meaningful work. Your country will blossom.
It will be also beneficial for the Russians. Not in the sense you’d expect. Putin’s authoritarian regime gave the new Russian nobility of money and state positions too much leeway. They built the biggest yachts, they threw money like there was no tomorrow, while ordinary Russians had a very, very modest way of life. Deputy Prime Minister Mr Igor Shuvalov flies his wife’s corgisin his private jet and owns $100 million worth real estate, while average Russian salary (excepting Moscow and St Petersburg) is around $200 per month. Before the sanctions, rich Russians did not give a damn about their less fortunate fellow citizens. They went for holidays to Cote d’Azur, they sent their children to study at Oxford and Yale. They were as removed from ordinary Russians as Leo Tolstoy’s nobles were.
The sanctions helped a bit. Some of the Putin’s officials have been forbidden to travel and thus they were forced to discover modest discomforts of their homeland. If the Cold War will cut them off their properties in the West and will annihilate their offshore savings, they will contribute more to their own country.
They surely do not want that; that is why the new rich of Putin’s Russia are the force against Cold War. They already call for a surrender to US mercy. The new Cold War will make these people irrelevant, as the US communists became irrelevant in the harsh climate of Cold War I.
The sanctions law is not a bad thing for Europe, too. By meddling in European elections, the US created a comprador political class. These blind followers of American invade/invite liberals were a real disaster for Europeans. With the advent of Trump, they began to get weaned off the American tit. Sanctions are likely to strike the Europeans’ tender spot, their pockets. They are already annoyed by what they consider exterritoriality of American law, by heavy fines applied to European banks for doing things forbidden in the US, but perfectly legal in Europe, like trading with Iran. The US attack on their supply of cheaper Russian gas is likely to release them from their American tenets. So it is also positive thing.
In short, the new Cold War II is a good deal. Yes, harmony would be better, but until it comes, give us Cold War!
* * *
P.S. I’d like to conclude on this upbeat note, but as I am paid neither by Putin nor by Trump, I’d add that Cold War is not here yet. Putin, despite his macho ways, is a very cautious politician. He is not rushing into more confrontation with the US than it is strictly necessary. He is ready to wait.
We observed it in the case of diplomats. Obama expelled 35 diplomats, Putin patiently waited for seven months. During this waiting time, he reminded of the debt many times. Only met with American stonewalling, he decided to act, and then he expelled twenty times more diplomats. (The exact number is not clear yet, but it is about 700 carriers of US diplomatic passport.) This is Russian style. Russians procrastinate, stall, postpone, and when you think they forgot or gave up they produce a lot of quick action.
Now, after the sanctions, Putin’s Russia voted today Saturday Aug 5 in the UN Security Council for the US-proposed draft with new sanctions against North Korea. The U.S.-drafted resolution bans North Korean exports of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood. It also prohibits countries from increasing the current numbers of North Korean labourers working abroad, bans new joint ventures with North Korea and any new investment in current joint ventures, says Reuters. Thus Russia is punishing itself (it is an importer of Korean goods, it employs Korean workers and there are quite a few Russian – North Korean joint ventures) and sanctioning its North Korean ally while doing American bidding.
I regret this decision, but this is Putin: he does not want to aggravate the Russia-US rift. He is ready to launch a counterstrike, if necessary, but he is not in a rush to Doomsday. He does not want to give a chance to both Cersei and Daenerys to unite against him. He’d rather procrastinate a bit more, while the two queens fight it out. I’d prefer very, very cold war with a lot of ice and a twist of lemon, but then, I didn’t pursue a pike for two hours in cold Siberian water.
Israel Shamir can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was first published at The Unz Review.