A Trump Plus: Reduced Tensions with Russia

For many Americans, the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was painful – a classic case of choosing a lesser evil – but William Blum sees at least some hope in Trump’s turning away from war with Russia.

By William Blum

That he may not be “qualified” is unimportant. That he’s never held a government or elected position is unimportant. That on a personal level he may be a shmuck is unimportant. What counts to me mainly at this early stage is that he – as opposed to dear Hillary – is unlikely to start a war against Russia.

His questioning of the absolute sacredness of NATO, calling it “obsolete”, and his meeting with Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, an outspoken critic of U.S. regime-change policy, specifically Syria, are encouraging signs.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry listens to Russian President Vladimir Putin in a meeting room at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, at the outset of a bilateral meeting on July 14, 2016. [State Department Photo]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry listens to Russian President Vladimir Putin in a meeting room at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, at the outset of a bilateral meeting on July 14, 2016. [State Department Photo]

Even more so is his appointment of General Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser. Flynn dined last year in Moscow with Vladimir Putin at a gala celebrating RT (Russia Today), the Russian state’s English-language, leftist-leaning TV channel. Flynn now carries the stigma in the American media as an individual who does not see Russia or Putin as the devil. It is truly remarkable how nonchalantly American journalists can look upon the possibility of a war with Russia, even a nuclear war.

(I can now expect a barrage of emails from my excessively politically-correct readers about Flynn’s alleged anti-Islam side. But that, even if true, is irrelevant to this discussion of avoiding a war with Russia.)

I think American influence under Trump could also inspire a solution to the bloody Russia-Ukraine crisis, which is the result of the U.S. overthrow of the democratically-elected Ukrainian government in 2014 to further advance the U.S./NATO surrounding of Russia; after which he could end the U.S.-imposed sanctions against Russia, which hardly anyone in Europe benefits from or wants; and then – finally! – an end to the embargo against Cuba. What a day for celebration that will be! Too bad that Fidel won’t be around to enjoy it.

We may have other days of celebration if Trump pardons or in some other manner frees Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, and/or Edward Snowden. Neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton would do this, but I think there’s at least a chance with the Donald. And those three heroes may now enjoy feeling at least a modicum of hope. Picture a meeting of them all together on some future marvelous day with you watching it on a video.

A protester marching in support of whistleblower Bradley Manning.

A protester marching in support of whistleblower Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning.

Trump will also probably not hold back on military actions against radical Islam because of any fear of being called anti-Islam. He’s repulsed enough by ISIS to want to destroy them, something that can’t always be said about Mr. Obama.

International trade deals, written by corporate lawyers for the benefit of their bosses, with little concern about the rest of us, may have rougher sailing in the Trump White House than is usually the case with such deals.

The mainstream critics of Trump foreign policy should be embarrassed, even humbled, by what they supported in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. Instead, what bothers them about the President-elect is his lack of desire to make the rest of the world in America’s image. He appears rather to be more concerned with the world not making America in its image.

In the latest chapter of Alice in Trumpland, he now says that he does not plan to prosecute Hillary Clinton, that he has an “open mind” about a climate-change accord from which he had vowed to withdraw the United States, and that he’s no longer certain that torturing terrorism suspects is a good idea. So whatever fears you may have about certain of his expressed weird policies … just wait … they may fall by the wayside just as easily; although I still think that on a personal level he’s a [two-syllable word: first syllable is a synonym for a donkey; second syllable means “an opening”]

Trump’s apparently deep-seated need for approval may continue to succumb poorly to widespread criticism and protests. Poor little Donald … so powerful … yet so vulnerable.

The Trump dilemma, as well as the whole Hillary Clinton mess, could have probably been avoided if Bernie Sanders had been nominated. That large historical “if” is almost on a par with the Democrats choosing Harry Truman to replace Henry Wallace in 1944 as the ailing Roosevelt’s vice president. Truman brought us a charming little thing called the Cold War, which in turn gave us McCarthyism. But Wallace, like Sanders, was just a little too damn leftist for the refined Democratic Party bosses.

William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others. [This article originally appeared at the Anti-Empire Report,  http://williamblum.org/ .]

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28 comments for “A Trump Plus: Reduced Tensions with Russia

  1. Luther Blissett
    December 2, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    The election was between two factions of the elites.

    Clinton represented the majority of Wall Street and neo-con elites, the liberal corporate media and its’ viewers. Trump represented a minority of Wall Street and neo-cons and the American Right (with its modern roots in evangelicals and reactionary working class elements).

    Either way, the outcome was more neo-liberal economics (and another Goldman Sachs alumni in Treasury) and more war. The choice was ramping up the war in Syria and a continuing of Obama’s ‘pivot to Asia’ -or- war with Iran and a return to the obsessive focus of placating Israel. We got the second option.

    The question of whether the Deep State will stop its’ decades long tradition of allying with Islamic terrorists to defeat nominally socialist countries (Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria) is unclear – but it would seem unlikely as the use of such terrorists against Russia is too valuable to discard. Trump’s fickle ego poses no challenge to the Deep State.

    I think the single largest factor in the incoming Trump’s administration is that every single appointee from CIA to NSA to Defense to UN Ambassador has openly called for attacks on Iran and Mr. Blum acknowledges that “Trump will also probably not hold back on military actions against radical Islam.” We almost saw this attack occur in Bush Jr’s second term and the neo-cons have continued working toward this goal.

    The question then becomes how will Russia react to an attack on Iran.

    • backwardsevolution
      December 2, 2016 at 5:17 pm

      Israel wants an attack on Iran. Israel wants to wipe out Syria, Iraq and Iran. I doubt whether Donald will go that route, especially once Putin asks him: “For what purpose? To help Israel?”

  2. December 2, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    As a man of 76 years and with children, grand children, and great grand children, I do hope that his promise to mend relations between the US and Russia bears fruit. To old men like me nuclear war holds no fear, but for my extended family with their future still ahead of them it holds nothing but terror.

  3. Ragnar Ragnarsson
    December 2, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    The single most important reason I voted against Hillary Clinton was her position on Russia. Hearing Trump say something along the lines of wouldn’t it be better if we were on friendly terms with Russia, made me pull the lever for him.

    As far as the deep state goes, they’re not a unified entity and it’s more than likely the faction that knows the PNAC bozos have utterly failed will rise in power and make some of the shifts Trump has talked about. We’ll see what happens soon enough.

    • Exiled off mainstreet
      December 3, 2016 at 2:17 am

      I agree and followed the same pattern. In light of the openness of the harpy’s position, I think it tainted those who supported her. I am embarrassed that California gave her more votes than any state has given any candidate, the basis of her popular vote victory. This is an utter disgrace given California’s history of scepticism when it comes to the establishment and militarism. A war criminal and loose cannon war monger should not have been so successful.

  4. Joe Tedesky
    December 2, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    A commenter here the other day brought up how Nixon by befriending both Russia, and China, put the U.S. in between these two super powers, which benefited the U.S. in a neutral way. This was good, but the commenter went on to say how now the Obama Administration has, by it’s Pivot to Asia, and by it’s placing sanctions on Russia, now brought Russia and China closer together.

    So here’s my point; could Trump by getting closer to Russia have a plan to team up with Russia, and then together the U.S. and Russia would apply pressure onto China, and find benefit by doing so?

    If the Trump foreign policy is aimed towards reaching out to all nations this is good. If the Trump policy is just another clever by half move to dominate the world, then the next question should be, can we really afford this, and what will the backlash be like?

    Time will tell.

    What Trump should always keep in mind, is that he doesn’t have the majority of the Americans behind him. Donald Trump will need to win over the majority, if he really wants to to go on to his claim to be great, then he will have to earn the public’s approval.

    I must mention, how I always enjoy reading William Blums essays.

    • Joe Tedesky
      December 2, 2016 at 1:39 pm

      I forgot to mention how although we could argue to whether Trump has a mandate the Republicans nationwide won so big that the message the public send, was that the Democrate’s loss. I’m not sure what this means going forward, but it surely shows that the Democratic Party has a lot of soul searching, and work to do, to win over the majorities love and votes.

    • jo6pac
      December 2, 2016 at 6:26 pm

      I also like my so-called govt. to lower the tensions between us but I don’t see Russia trusting Amerika enough to cut the ties to China. There way to much money in play between them and Amerika is on the way down. Russia and China are on the way up and the Silk Road coming on line all they want to do stay out the of the falling former Giant. Then again what do I know?

      Thanks WB always a thoughtful article to think about.

      • Joe Tedesky
        December 2, 2016 at 11:17 pm

        I would like to see all the super powers work together to build a better future for all life on this planet.

  5. Bill Bodden
    December 2, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    Trump being less likely to go to war with Russia and “[h]is questioning of the absolute sacredness of NATO, calling it “obsolete”, and his meeting with Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, an outspoken critic of U.S. regime-change policy, specifically Syria, are encouraging signs” and good and encouraging points.

    “We may have other days of celebration if Trump pardons or in some other manner frees Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, and/or Edward Snowden.” Pardoning these courageous citizens would certainly be cause for celebration, but I would be astounded if Trump took that step. Too many of his supporters and, very likely, Trump himself regard these whistleblowers as traitors.

    If Trump scraps all of those corporate-friendly trade deals that would be another plus, but overall the negatives he is likely to bring will outweigh the positives. I would be delighted to be proved wrong on this.

    • John
      December 6, 2016 at 6:08 pm

      I think the main plus for a Trump presidency over a Clinton presidency is the lower probability of a nuclear war with Russia. Unfortunately there will never be any way to prove that Trump avoided a nuclear war that Clinton would have gotten us into, so you might be wrong but will never be proven wrong.

  6. Sally Snyder
    December 2, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    Here is an article that compares the submarine capabilities of Russia and NATO in the North Atlantic:

    http://viableopposition.blogspot.ca/2016/08/submarine-warfare-in-north-atlantic-who.html

    It certainly appears that NATO has its work cut out for it if it hopes to successfully defend the North Atlantic and Baltic Sea regions.

    • Abe
      December 2, 2016 at 3:00 pm

      The “comment” on submarine warfare refers to a major neoconservative think tank: the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

      Neocon and liberal interventionist think tanks now disseminate their “regime change” propaganda across the internet via countless web blogs and links to social media.

      Of course, understanding the intricacies of submarine warfare in the North Atlantic can work up quite an appetite, so be sure to check out the other blog of “A Political Junkie” https://www.blogger.com/profile/03342345936277964422 for his all time favorite Walnut Cheddar Loaf recipe.

      “You can quickly see where the problem lies.”

  7. Herman
    December 2, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    As much as I liked Sanders thoughts about universal health care and steeper tax progressivity, I think his foreign policy intentions were little different than Clintons. His performance at the end of his campaign, falling so quickly in line with Hillary says a lot.

    Our foreign policy is the issue and the one where the President can have the greatest influence. We can only hope there were no commitments made by him that will put us back to square one in the Middle East and that he plows through the thicket to forge better relations with Russia and China.

    Despite the endless barrage of propaganda about Russia, people have become wary enough of our ordained truth tellers to be swayed by honest talk on foreign policy. Of course it helps if the media establishment and the security establishment are unable to block all the fake news from Consortium and the like.

    • Exiled off mainstreet
      December 3, 2016 at 2:24 am

      I agree. I also agree that Sanders’ toadying to the Clinton machine revealed the truth of those accusing him of being a sheepdog or even a judas goat. He knew that he had been cheated of the nomination through party hack machinations in Iowa, Nevada, and in later states, including possibly actually hacked voting machines. He also knew that the harpy’s policy of confronting Russia with a no-fly zone in Syria on behalf of el qaeda was recklessly dangerous. He also had knowledge of her war crimes in Libya. He also knew that her position on the corrupt sovereignty-destroying anti-legal “trade” pacts was fraudulent, as revealed by the platform fights on the issue, but went along anyway. What did he really have to gain by this in comparison with the destruction of his reputation. Meanwhile, Stein, by becoming the willing foil in the phony “recount” battles based on false fascistoid accusation of Russian hacking of voting machines, has permanently destroyed her reputation. If there really was a threat as Stein stated during the campaign that Clintons’ foreign policies could lead to World War III, why did she lend herself to this hail mary effort to overturn the election results?

  8. steve brown
    December 2, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    a calm, succinct, still comprehensive, clear-eyed analysis of what has transpired is deeply appreciated. as always, Mr. Blum is one of the very best.

    also agreeing with Ragnarsson!

  9. Bill Bodden
    December 2, 2016 at 3:54 pm

    Let’s hope some of the possibly good points referred to above become realities, but Trump is like all presidents before him demanding a strong dose of skepticism. Ralph Nader gives some reasons for being wary – http://us6.campaign-archive2.com/?u=c5cfd22327c3214afb5955d02&id=1591b27d18&e=3ac7cbe274

    • Exiled off mainstreet
      December 3, 2016 at 2:26 am

      I agree fully that Trump is likely to do a poor job and we should definitely be wary but the harpy was absolutely certain to do one and was a serious threat to our survival. In Blum’s empire report, of which this article was a part, he has additional items on Trump and the reasons to be thankful that the harpy did not succeed, and on Cuba which doesn’t follow Trump’s disappointing following of the mainstream line, which should be looked at.

  10. Zachary Smith
    December 2, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    I hope author William Blum is correct on all accounts, for needless tensions with Russia are insane.

    What worries me are the indications I’ve been reading all year about Obama expanding his spying and war-making powers, despite his own presidency winding down. After the election of Trump, this trend has not ended.

    Obama Is Expanding Trump’s War-Making Powers on His Way Out the Door

    The latest reporting suggests that, rather than restraining and limiting Trump, the Obama administration, in its final weeks in office, is further expanding the geographic scope of airstrikes, the nature of combatants who can be targeted, and the legal justification underpinning such strikes. The incoming president-elect, who has previously pledged to “bomb the hell out of ISIS,” will have the capabilities and authorities to do just that — for the Islamic State and other terrorist and militant armies.

    I’m concerned that since the neoconservatives didn’t get Hillary, they’re working to make it as easy as possible for Trump to ease into that role. With Obama’s assistance, he sure won’t have as many legal problems as he might have!

    For some reason Turkey’s Erdogan has recently been feeling his oats and spouting off about how he’s going to take down Assad after all. Russia quickly stomped that one down, but where did he get such a notion anyhow? Did the neocons whisper in his ear that Trump would be a great new buddy? It does seem to be a fact that Russia and Syria have shifted into high gear their efforts to make major gains in Syria before Trump is sworn in.

    Obviously I know nothing about what Russia believes will happen with Trump, but I’m going to guess that it worries about his tendency to make impulsive moves. The real military power of the US is in decline, but it continues to be enormous. Since Russia has a mere fraction of the strength of the USSR, that could very well worry them.

  11. Vitaly Purto
    December 2, 2016 at 10:10 pm

    Mr. Blum, you rightly pointed to the most important issues which make Trump a blessing as future American President. However, if I were you I would not pay attention to Trump personality, least of all call him by names. For Trump from the very beginning of his campaign 18 months ago indicated precisely the point in history to which he wants to bring this country back. It is April, 1945 when the last President of the self-proclaimed North American Republic died. Alas, very few people today realized that major objective in WW2 for FDR was disassembling of British Empire, which he brilliantly accomplished with the help of Joseph Stalin putting aside all attempts of main loser Winston Churchill to save Empire.

    It is profound irony of Madam Clio that postwar World Order was conceptualized in November 1943 in Tehran, which at that time was buzzing with Nazi and British spies so much that only save place for American President was the Soviet Embassy reliably protected by NKVD.

    It is even more profound irony of Madam Clio if Tehran, which started in 1943 disintegration of the Empire of Steam, in 2017 may start disintegration of Empire of Oil.

    But it is the most profound irony of Madam Clio that in centennial of the 1917 Revolution that started it all it is an American billionaire with strong survival instincts may help to violate Marxian adage “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce” and save the USA of its self-delusional self.

    For 2017 will commemorate centennial of the 1917 Great October Revolution that started world wide movement to break yoke of colonialism. It is China, India, Iran, Turkey and scores of other lands and nothing can stop it.

    If it does not make sense to you I cannot help it.

    • Zachary Smith
      December 3, 2016 at 12:28 am

      Alas, very few people today realized that major objective in WW2 for FDR was disassembling of British Empire, which he brilliantly accomplished with the help of Joseph Stalin putting aside all attempts of main loser Winston Churchill to save Empire.

      Roosevelt disliked the British Empire, but so far as I know he simply refrained from helping Churchill prop it up. Stalin? Looking at an ancient map, I can’t see a single thing he took from the Empire.

  12. ltr
    December 2, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    The coming president has been a frighteningly inconsistent person, repeatedly saying the crudest of things, and I am afraid of what these years will bring unless the president can act calmly.

    • Vitaly Purto
      December 3, 2016 at 12:04 am

      Dear ltr. You posted that “coming president has been a frighteningly inconsistent person”. I have been closely watching Mr. Trump for last 18 months and have found him the most consistent of all candidates save may be only Senator Rand Paul. Have you ever thought in your life that most of the time humans attribute to others their own deficiencies?

      I strongly advise you to try to understand my previous post.

      • Exiled off mainstreet
        December 3, 2016 at 2:29 am

        You are correct. Actually the tape of a Trump appearance on Phil Donahue’s show 29 years ago reveals a continuity in his foreign policy beliefs.

  13. john o'callaghan
    December 3, 2016 at 1:20 am

    I have always being a progresive left leaning person also i am not American,but the one positive i feel with Trump is his attitude towards Russia,and although i am on Clintons side of ploitics i think she is a war monger and possibly could have started a world war.

    If Trump wants better relations with Russia then surely that can only be a good thing one would think.””””””””

  14. F. G. Sanford
    December 3, 2016 at 11:53 am

    So far, I haven’t been able to drink enough coffee or smoke enough cigarettes to divine the cryptic reasoning behind Vitaly Purto’s mysterious riddle. Off hand, I’d guess some elements of ‘popular parapolitics’ would assume he’s referring to the ‘illuminati’. That would seem to insinuate Trump’s true objective is the dissolution of certain banking and petroleum oligarchies often conflated with the unseemly alliance between the two most influential allies dominating the Middle East. I’d say…good luck with that.

  15. F. G. Sanford
    December 3, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    I should probably add…so far, Paul Craig Roberts’ analysis entitled “Trump’s Appointments – – What Do They Mean?” Makes the most sense to me. There’s a big “wait and see” factor here, and I think much of the panic is just Hollywood style histrionics.

  16. David Walters
    December 3, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    I was completely torn about for whom to vote for president, until the thought crystallized in my mind that Clinton wanted war with Russia. Then it was Trump for me.

    Right up to the morning of the November 9, 2016 I was convinced Hillary would win. So, in the months of September and October I took several steps to ensure my family would survive. I helped my son, an engineer, secure a job overseas which starts before the date that would have been Hillary’s coronation and I made arrangements for my daughter and her Cuban born paramour to have immediate access to sufficient cash to fly out to Cuba via Mexico City and to sustain themselves for six months in the welcoming arms of his Cuban family.

    It was much more difficult for me and my wife, though. We own an executive home here and we are both professionals. I’m 64 and she’s 58. So, almost all of our net worth is either in property or qualified investment accounts which are very hard (expensive?) to liquidate. And, we’d be leaving Medicare and SS behind.

    But we live in Texas. So, studying the FEMA maps we decided that the Big Bend Region of Texas would survive Hillary’s war and we visited there and made arrangements for refuge if needed. Needless to say, it was costly.

    Anyway, that’s how much that Killary who thinks that she’s Caesar without the testicles worried us. She should have worried all of you in the same fashion.

    Now that Trump’s to be inaugurated, instead, barring any currently unforeseen obstacles only my son will be leaving. That bitch would have gotten us all killed certainly in her first term in office and probably within six months of taking office.

    I’m very grateful she was not elected.

    LF

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