Putin, Trump, and the EU

Like I said yesterday in comments, I’m bored with the impeachment follies, it’s bullshit and it’s going nowhere, although it may well give President Trump a landslide victory, and that very fact may allow reasonable Democrats to get control of their party. But don’t hold your breath on that either. We’ll come back to it, sadly, when there is something to talk about.

Meantime, it does us no harm to look out over the parapet and see what’s going on in the world. So today, there is an excellent (I think) assessment of Putin by Areg Galstyan at American Thinker. Let’s have a look…

Vladimir Putin has ruled the country since 2000, and over these 19 years, influence groups around him have been fighting each other for a special position and status. Unlike most of his associates, Putin is indeed an ideologically motivated leader who perceives himself not just as a politician and an official, but as a sovereign, such as Peter the Great and Alexander III — the beloved emperors of the current Russian leader.

One of my blogfriends, a Briton living in Siberia, categorically states he is also a Christian, that may be so or it may not be, but he undeniably supports the Russian Orthodox Church, whether out of conviction or statecraft doesn’t really matter. Interesting that Putin and Trump, the two largest nationalist leaders, also profess as Christians, not many others do, as they attend St. Mattress almost every Sunday.

The new ideology that is called Putinism is uniting principles and foundations that have remained unchanged throughout all the historical stages of the development of Russia. Its foundation is the concept of National Democracy. It implies that the process of democratization and the formation of an active civil society is inevitable but it should not be carried out according to any foreign model. The Russian nation, like any other, has its civilizational, social, and cultural features. Today, 190 peoples live in Russia, and most of them retain their language, traditions, and mentality. From this point of view, Moscow is always under the permanent threat of external forces using any interethnic disagreements for their purposes. If, for example, a political decision was made to allow same-sex “marriage” in the deeply conservative regions of the North Caucasus, Tatarstan, and Siberia, riots would begin. And they would lead to the most unpredictable consequences. For a large part of the progressive West, this may sound wild. Yet for Russia, it is a matter of national security.

It is important to understand that Russia is not limited to Moscow or Saint Petersburg. These cities, like any major megalopolises, are centers of the dominance of progressive and liberal ideas. No one will argue with the fact that the United States does not begin and end in New York and California; there are also Texas, Tennessee, Utah, and other states. The victory of Donald Trump vividly demonstrated that it was conditional Texas and Kentucky that were the heart of America, not Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The situation is similar in Russia: Putin is guided by the mood of the regional majority, not the liberal minority of the capital. There are a lot of sensitive problems, and any Russian ruler has to maintain internal balance in order to keep the country’s physical integrity. This is an extremely difficult task. At certain periods of time, Emperor Nicholas II, and then the last general secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU, Mikhail Gorbachev, did not cope with this task. This resulted in the collapse of the Russian Empire and the USSR, respectively. Thus, the essence of Sovereign or National Democracy is in a banal formula: everything has its time. In other words, Putinism advocates an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary model of development.

There is quite a bit more, all of it good.

My takeaway is this, I don’t think Russia is much of a threat to the US. It is a big European/Asian power, yes, and it could do serious harm to the US, but why. The converse is equally true, and I don’t hear any American thinking we should destroy Russia.

We compete yes, especially for oil sales. As an aside, last month for the first time in 70 years we became a net exporter. But providing Germany’s fossil fuel doesn’t translate to a justification for war.

A key point is this, our interests are in fact, while not identical, similar, and until the 1917 revolution, Russia was (more or less) our friend, as much as any great power (saving only Britain) was or is. We pretty much know now (and probably should have before) that a lot of the Washington swamp hasn’t gotten the memo that the cold war is over. I’d guess that there is a similar cabal in the Kremlin. If for no other reason than its good for the arms manufacturers, and their subsidiaries in Washington and Moscow.

But we’re both interested in suppressing terrorism, especially after our ‘experts’ made the mid-east so much worse. And frankly, it is not really in either of our interests to encourage the Chinese, let alone the North Koreans.

NATO was formed 70 years ago to “Keep the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down”. It has done well on the first two, and after the failure of the Soviet Union pretty much failed on the last. That will I suspect have consequences as Europe returns to be the cockpit of internecine conflict. The EU will implode, probably in this decade, and then the great game will restart as the Germans once more try to form a European Empire. In truth, the EU itself is an attempt by Germany to form an empire by economic means rather than military, that is why Macron’s nose is so out of joint.

If as the linked author says, Putin believes in Westphalia, Vienna, and Potsdam and Yalta, then he is pretty much the Russian form of Trump. And as we know, now if we didn’t before we elected him, he’s not out looking around for wars to wage. I doubt Putin is either. Both have better things to do for their countries.

And I think it entirely possible that Putin is more trustworthy than either Macron or Merkel, let alone this new German running the EU.

Syria, Turkey, the Kurds

Well, we talked about the President’s Kurdish strategy yesterday. Like some of you, I was supportive but a bit worried. We just plainly cannot go around the world interfering in every conflict, no matter how rich it makes the military-industrial complex. As is usual, as soon as I talked a bit about it, the situation changed. How? the Kurds struck a deal with Syria. That to me makes far more sense. If anything in the mid-east makes much sense at all. Seraphim Hanisch writing in The Duran is quite a bit more positive than I am, so let’s take a look.

President Trump was right again. According to a new Fox News piece published late Sunday evening, Kurdish forces negotiated a deal with Damascus to face off Turkey’s offensive. Russia is involved in the dealmaking as well.

The New York Times reported that the deal– which was announced Sunday evening– would enable President Bashar al-Assad’s forces to attempt to regain a foothold in the country’s northeast. The Kurdish fighters had few options after the United States abandoned them, and it had been anticipated they would turn to Assad’s government for support.

“An agreement has been reached with the Syrian government — whose duty it is to protect the country’s borders and preserve Syrian sovereignty — for the Syrian Army to enter and deploy along the Syrian-Turkish border to help the SDF stop this aggression” by Turkey, the SDF said in a statement.

The Washington Post reported that the deal was reached after three days of negotiations between the Kurdish forces, Russian envoys and Damascus. […]

The media is portraying this as a Terrible, Awful, Not-so-Good, Unbelievably bad move for Trump who, as the American MSM, now even including Matt Drudge and more and more people even from Fox News will be happy to tell you, is facing the early termination of his Presidency with a growing level of “support” for impeachment and removal from office, per the Compleat Fake Impeachment Scandal.

These anti-Trump forces – basically globalists, secular humanists, represented in a very large number by the ranks of US Representatives and Senators in our own government, and reinforced by the severely biased globalist, secular humanist-biased Western press – are engaged in all-out waragainst the American president.

However, President Trump is playing the long game, and as usual, the foreign policy moves he makes (when he does so unfettered by “advisers”) are practical, needful, and nearly perfect. He is not afraid to gamble as he did with this Turkey / Kurd situation.

I don’t know about you, but I see little in that to argue with. In fact, the howl that went up from all the usual (globalist) suspects told me it was probably an excellent idea. I’m not very enamored of Russia’s involvement, to be honest, but Syria even with the support of others in the neighborhood, probably isn’t big enough to carry the ball alone. The best thing is that those 50-100 American special forces are not in the line of fire.

There are reports that Turkish troops/auxiliaries are killing civilians, including women and children. That probably helped precipitate the deal. It’s also normal Turkish practice, they practically invented ethnic cleansing. In this case, they are bringing opposition to them into the field, and that too is good. Erdogan is getting much too big for his britches and needs a lesson.

President Trump spoke about this situation the other day:

About That Greenland Deal

The President has been taking considerable heat from hither and yon about wanting to buy Greenland. It’s actually a pretty good idea on several fronts. Senator Tom Cotton wrote about it last weekend in a NY Times oped, I saw it via John Hinderaker at PowerLine. Both are links worth following, Senator Cotton reasons this way.

The acquisition of Greenland would secure vital strategic interests for the United States, economically benefit both us and Greenlanders, and would be in keeping with American — and Danish — diplomatic traditions.

Strategically positioned in the Arctic Circle, Greenland has long attracted the attention of American policymakers. As far back as 1867, Secretary of State William Seward explored the acquisition of Greenland around the time that he negotiated the purchase of Alaska from the Russians.

You remember Secretary Seward right? He bought Alaska from Russia, and it was called far and wide “Seward’s Folly’. Hasn’t looked much like a folly in the last 150 years or so though. Greenland is not all that different.

In 1946, the Truman administration offered $100 million to Denmark to acquire Greenland, arguing that the island was “indispensable to the safety of the United States” in confronting the growing Soviet threat, just as it had been in World War II when American forces used bases in Greenland to deter Nazi aggression. While the deal didn’t go through, we kept troops on the island throughout the Cold War. Today, the Air Force’s 21st Space Wing is stationed at Thule Air Base in western Greenland to support our ballistic-missile defenses and space missions.

In the last few years, China has also been trying to buy the island.

Beijing understands not only Greenland’s geographic importance but also its economic potential. Greenland is rich in a wide array of mineral deposits, including rare-earth minerals — resources critical to our high-tech and defense industries. China currently dominates the market in these minerals and has threatened to withhold them from us to gain leverage in trade negotiations. Greenland also possesses untold reserves of oil and natural gas.

That too is a good strategic reason, not terrifically important, maybe, as long as Denmark owns it, but… And remember, we are now looking for energy dominance. Oil and gas has something to do with that. But rare earth minerals are critical for such things as lithium-ion batteries, and China has most of that market, even if we don’t go with plug-in hybrids, almost all of our portable electronics, even military ones, use lithium-ion batteries.

This is also important:

An agreement to transfer Greenland’s sovereignty must also serve the interests of our good friends, the Danes, and the 56,000 Greenlanders as well. Their considerations ought to include the fact that despite Greenland’s long-term potential, a lack of infrastructure and financing still hamstring the island’s economy today. Greenland’s economy is less than one-tenth of Vermont’s, America’s smallest state economy. Every year, Denmark transfers $670 million in subsidies to support the island.

The Danes (and possibly the EU) might find they have other uses for that money, and Greenland is pretty close to us physically, easier to support and to help the Greenlanders where we can. Nothing really new about us and the Danes doing this either. You may recall that President Wilson purchased the Danish West Indies – which we know as the US Virgin Islands.

Tom Daly at American Thinker also reminds us that Denmark, through Greenland is a member of the Arctic Council, along with Russia, Sweden, Norway, Canada, Finland, Iceland, and through Alaska, the US. He says:

While for a few years the cooperation was relatively peaceful, relations started deteriorating in the early 2000’s. Russia became focused on investing and expanding rapidly in the Arctic, even planting their own flag on the North Pole. Their military buildup has been quick and efficient and so far, greatly outpacing even the U.S.

The Arctic’s global value is increasing yearly. The Arctic ice cap seasonal melting allows faster ships to opening up new trade routes, which are shorter thanks to the spherical shape of the Earth, in 2016 it was assessed that just the portion of the Arctic that could be measured was hoarding almost 25% of the world’s known oil and natural gas reserves. Consider this: wars have been waged for a lot less.

And the Council’s efforts to forestall some of what Russia is doing in the artic are not going well. I’m not doing the Russia, Russia, Russia thing, but Russia is a great power and it is the artic where we tend to run afoul of each other. Doesn’t make much difference to the Greenlanders at present as Denmark is certainly a western power, and a member of NATO, but it could, and China certainly is not. Personally, I think Trump’s idea is a good one, at nearly any reasonable price.

Besides they’re distant cousins of mine since Denmark got the island when they lost Norway (more or less voluntarily). Be nice to have them back in the family. ??

In truth, part of this looks like the President surprised the Danes by talking about it publically, and they reacted more out of their (normal European) dislike of him as anything else. Their PM has apologized for some of her language. Well, he shouldn’t have done that, but Trump is Trump and he does things his own way. Usually, it works out well, and in time it may here as well. Time always tells. Truman didn’t get it done for a $100 million, but who knows today.

NATO at 70

Walter A. McDougall has a superb article up at Law and Liberty, recapping the history of NATO. While it’s quite long as articles go, it is the best short form history of the alliance I’ve read, as far as I can remember, ever. So you should too.

In just a few days, delegations from the member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will gather in Washington to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the longest-lasting multilateral alliance in modern history.

They shall recall how NATO fostered unity, strength, and will among Western democracies for 40 years and prevailed over the Soviet bloc without a shot being fired. They shall also congratulate themselves on the subsequent 30 years during which the membership expanded from 16 to 29, the mission expanded far beyond collective security, and the area of operations expanded as far afield as Afghanistan. But unchecked inflation is often a symptom of institutional senility rather than vitality.

Perhaps the Americans who steered NATO on its present course were simply anxious to provide new raisons d’être for an alliance whose real target disappeared with the Cold War. Perhaps President Donald Trump had a point when he called NATO obsolete. Perhaps the years of its life are “three score and ten, or by reason of strength fourscore” (Psalm 90:10), in which case, this decennial may be its last.

The threat that gave birth to NATO—the communist bloc—ceased to exist 30 years ago. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics collapsed two years after that, reducing Muscovy back to its 17th century boundaries. During the 1990s Russia’s economy contracted by 45 percent and has not grown much since. The Russian defense budget today is 72 percent less than the last Soviet one. And while Vladimir Putin pretends Russia is a world power, even he admitted in his Munich address of 2007 that the Cold War’s bipolarity had been replaced by a hegemony in which the United States is the “one center of authority, one center of force, one center of decision-making,” and has “overstepped its national borders in every way.”[1] Most galling for Putin was the fact that the United States exploited Russian weakness to expand NATO up to and even into the boundaries of the defunct Soviet Union.

Nothing resembling the threat of Josef Stalin’s empire and Red Army exists today and Europeans are well aware of that, which is why only three European governments met the target—2 percent of GNP—for defense spending in 2017. Germans, French, and Italians simply do not feel threatened by Russia. Hence the “free rider” dilemma of a United States that accounts for 71.7 percent of NATO’s defense expenditures in 2017 has only become more acute, not less, since the end of Cold War.[2]

The voracious engulfment by NATO of nearly all countries west of Russia likewise risks its cohesion. The alliance motto, which looms on the wall overlooking the grand conference room in its Brussels headquarters, reads: Animus in consulendo liber (“A mind unfettered in deliberation”). But the fact is that NATO’s deliberations have always been fettered by its unanimity rule. Consensus was hard enough to achieve among the original 12, not to mention the current 29 governments each with own agenda . . . unless, of course, member states just surrender to the will of the United States.

It would appear that NATO today has become both “too big to fail” and “too big to work.” Some day, NATO’s credibility will be put to a test that its constituent states will be unable or unwilling to pass.

Empire by Invitation

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, like so many initiatives identified with the United States, was a British invention.[3] In 1948, Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin begged Americans to identify with the Brussels Pact, which Britain, France, and the Benelux countries had just concluded. Bevin’s premises were that Soviet obstruction had crippled the United Nations as an instrument for collective security; that Europe’s postwar democracies were too weak to defend themselves; and that the Marshall Plan could not succeed unless Europeans were assured of a U.S. military commitment.

There are lots of truths here, not least of them that, while I would not use the term empire, Europe has become an American (and to some extent, British) protectorate. Not so much because we wanted it to, as because it is certainly easier to let someone else defend you, especially if you are a believer in globalism. Most of Europe is, that’s why the European Union keeps talking about unity.

If the US hasn’t done anything else, we’ve made an intra-European war nearly impossible for the near future, they’ve all disarmed.

One of my friends is a British expat living quite happily in Siberia, I think from what we tell each other, he would agree heartily with the conclusions in this article, and I see much merit in them as well.

I can’t say that America really wishes Russia any ill, because I don’t think we, in general, do, but we often don’t think things through very well before we do stuff, often for domestic reasons, that may have adverse effects on others.

In any case, read the article linked above, and tell me what you think.

The Venezuelan Implosion

In case you missed it in the uproar over the Covington Kids (God bless them) over the last few days the situation in Venezuela has come to a head.

A few days ago there was what looked like an attempted military coup which was put down. Only two days later the President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Juan Guaido, has declared Maduro’s presidency as constitutionally illegitimate. He has been recognized as the legitimate head of the government by the United States, Canada, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and others. Mexico and Bolivia have not. Maduro has severed diplomatic relations with the US and given US diplomats 72 hours to leave. The State Department has replied that Maduro is no longer head of Venezuela’s government and we are not leaving, quite brave on Pompeo’s part, or foolhardy, depending on how things turn out.

And so that is the situation now in the country with the largest oil reserves in the world, and with a government that Bernie Sanders would be proud of, as people fight over rats to eat and haven’t seen toilet paper in years.

Now what?

The big powers in the western hemisphere are the US, Brazil, and Colombia. Brazil has a pretty new, right-wing populist government under Jair Bolsonaro, and yes, there are many parallels and comparisons to Trump. There were also reports that the refugees from Venezuela played a part in his election, after years of a left-wing rule of their own.

So Brazil is somewhat weaker than it has been but it is still the neighborhood leader and an ally of the US. Colombia tends to follow Brazil.

Maduro is backed by Cuba, Iran, and Russia. In other words, the usual suspects. Solve this correctly, and we not only save many, many Venezuelan lives but we also damage terrorism in the western hemisphere quite a lot. Both matter.

It’s probably (according to most analysts) a bad idea for the US to get directly involved militarily, but it would also be very unwise to sit by idly.

I think Brandon J. Weichert has it reasonably close to right in The Spectator when he says this.

From its perch in North America, the United States can do much to support a humanitarian aid mission into Venezuela (air dropping supplies, for instance) while lending covert assistance to Colombia, Brazil, and Venezuelan dissidents. Yet, the most powerful punch that the United States could pack would not be through overt military force, but rather through covert action and diplomacy.

For instance, Cuba is key regional problem in this scenario. Cuba has been the conduit through which Iranian, Russian, and Chinese support for the Maduro regime has flowed. America must impose harsh sanctions against Havana until it ceases its illicit involvement with Maduro. I never understood why the Obama Administration attempted to normalize relations with Cuba. It only empowered Havana to misbehave more in Latin America.

Also, the United States Southern Command must be given greater resources. At present, USSOUTHCOM is woefully underfunded and has few military assets that it could deploy to help buttress American allies in the region. Some U.S. Navy warships should be diverted from other theaters and sent to operate under the command of USSOUTHCOM.

The essential element in this scenario would be American leadership as opposed to direct American military intervention. While this method may take longer and, therefore, prolong human suffering in Venezuela, this is the only viable option. After all, freedom isn’t free, and the United States has had ample evidence over the last several decades that it cannot fight for other peoples’ independence.

The locals must do the heavy-lifting here and the United States being a global power must put pressure on the outside forces (namely Cuba) that are empowering the Maduro regime’s disgusting reign.

That sounds pretty sensible to me. There’s always resentment when US troops are involved, but something needs to be done, and Brazil (and perhaps Colombia) is likely the best one to do it, with US backing and support. Both have borders with Venezuela. Nor would it hurt to have a USN presence to hold the ring.

And as the local superpower, and acting in accordance with long tradition, going back to President Monroe, it is the American role to let our South American neighbors figure out their own problems, without other powers sticking their noses in.

I also note that the hospital ship USNS Comfort is close to wrapping up a mission to various South American countries. It probably should be extended if necessary in the area.

Selling Out the British

This is quite remarkable, not to mention rather horrifying. What Theresa May’s government is doing in their negotiations is nothing less than selling the UK’s sovereignty to Brussels (and you can easily see Berlin’s hand running the puppet that is the EU.

Britain is, of course, the fourth or fifth largest economy in the world, depending on how you measure, and many believe it is the second most powerful country in the world, second only to the United States, and the only other one able to intervene anywhere around the world.

Amazing, isn’t it? The people voted clearly to leave the EU, and the government has used that as cover to give them a worse deal, a similar influence on how they do things, but without even the (mostly sham) vote. One could call it selling their sovereignty, but one would be wrong – they aren’t getting paid, well probably May and the Civil Service have some golden prospects for their treachery, but we don’t know that yet.

There is, of course, a backstory, of how it got that way. Peter Hitchens lays it out as clearly as I have seen.

Amazing story, isn’t it? I’m pretty much convinced that the overall point is true. I don’t agree with every point, although some of that may be my prejudices speaking, of course. Specifically, I do believe in the special relationship between the US and the UK, although I’m not sure the British really do. Still, overall, he makes an excellent case.

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