Siim Kallas: I’m starting to see the grand logic of Donald Trump’s strategy more, and more

US President Donald Trump at NATO summit. Photo: White House/Flickr

Of course, I don’t know how or what the American president is thinking. But I’m tired of having to read through the maze of bureaucratic-like comments about it. These commentators, in my opinion, do not have a strong understanding of the US president’s thought process or his advisers.

Estonian comments focus on details that, in one way or another, have not been sufficiently worked through. According to this manner of thought, the drafting of the Estonia-Russia border agreement should have begun first with the actual marking of border posts, and not the political decision to mark border posts.

Trump’s decisions seem logical

The great political decisions that have changed the history of the world, have never started with details. Take for example, Munich 1938, the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939, the Western Allies’ Tehran (Conference) the agreement to grant Eastern Europe to Stalin in 1943. Leonid Brezhnev, the leader of the Soviet Union, signed a treaty with the U.S. President to curtail strategic offensive weapons, despite the objections of Brezhnev’s marshals.

I’m not saying that I like Donald Trump, although I predicted in August 2016 that he would win the election. I’m beginning to see the great logic of his decisions more and more. Maybe I’m wrong.

Let’s leave the present trade war aside and look at the U.S. President’s security policy steps – although security policy has influenced the trade dispute as well.

A front is broken from only one spot. Therefore, we should outline what the U.S. President regards as the greatest threat to the security of the United States.

The abandonment of Iran’s nuclear deal, the moving of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, the use of military force in Syria. Note that these have been very effective when they were used.

In the United States, Christianity and Judaism are both very strong. Is it not the conflict between the Judeo-Christian and Islamic worlds that is seen as the main threat to world and U.S. security?

In this context, the agreement between the United States and North Korea seems very logical. The potential for conflict in eastern Asia is simply bothersome. It needs to be removed from the daily agenda.

Just like Russia, the current U.S. leadership is also attempting to break up the European Union in order to be able to enter into separate agreements with the Member States.

Saudi Arabia is a friend, Iran is an enemy

It is logical that in the fight against Islam, the entire billion-strong community cannot be confronted. The target is the most militant, ideological and irreconcilable Islamic country, which is also large enough. This is of course Iran. Trump does not seem to want any kind of agreement with Iran, it’s better to have Iran as an enemy. On the contrary, American-minded Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia are a source of support for the US and are welcomed as friends.

European tolerance regarding Islam is unacceptable for the U.S. president. Just like Russia, the current U.S. leadership is also attempting to break up the European Union in order to be able to enter into separate agreements with the Member States. The Allies’ meager contribution to NATO, which is considered to be a taking advantage of America, is also unacceptable. It makes sense for the Western Allies to take care and safeguard their own homes, by expending a sufficient amount of effort. NATO seems to be more of a problem than a solution for President Trump.

A major U.S.-Russia security agreement would lay the groundwork for a new world order, in the centre of which would be a U.S.-Russian military alliance.

If the emerging security concept is to be taken seriously, then the United States is naturally looking for allies. Europe alone will not suffice. China will not interfere, but will certainly not go to war itself.

There is a military superpower with which cooperation seems logical. And this is Russia. The official ideology is Christian; it’s Russian Orthodoxy, which has been in conflict with Western Christianity, but in America there are various very strong Christian churches, so the struggle between churches hasn’t much significance today. Russia has major problems with Islam. Not so long ago, a bloody war was being waged in the Islamic Chechen Republic (the current Chechen leader and close ally of Vladimir Putin, Ramsan Kadyrov, gave the title of “honorary citizen” to a Russian Muslim footballer, who scored a goal for Russia in The World Cup!).

Today, there remain strong Islamic republics in Tatarstan, Bashkortostan and Chechnya within Russia, which are not quite loyal to Russian central power. Russians are rather worried because these states have direct ties with Islamic countries, such as Saudi Arabia. The countering of an “Islamic assault” is also a priority for Russia.

The U.S. will recognize Crimea as belonging to Russia. In Ukraine, Russia will stop supporting Russia’s Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, but Ukraine will grant them a degree of autonomy.

A security-political agreement would lay the foundations for a new world order

The U.S. and Russia are quite similar in many respects. Both prioritize military power and place economic priorities further down the policy line. For Europe, economic prosperity is a priority and avoiding war an inherent priority.

Europe’s vast, growing commercial superiority is also pushing America towards befriending Russia. When visiting Brussels, President Obama spoken about Europe’s trade surplus as a phenomenon deterring transatlantic relations.

Recently President Trump said that Crimea belongs to Russia. Was this by chance? In the United States, there is a scandal over Russia’s participation in the US presidential election. A scandal surrounding Russia’s alleged meddling in the U.S. presidential election is seething in the US. An investigation is ongoing, people are being questioned. A person close to the US president, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who has met with Russian figures linked to the Kremlin, has also been questioned. They have met. But will they meet again? Kushner is, by the way, a devout follower of Orthodox Judaism. This guides his attitude towards the Islamic world.

There may be a major security policy agreement between the United States and Russia.

The elements of this agreement would look something like this:

The U.S. will recognize Crimea as belonging to Russia. In Ukraine, Russia will stop supporting Russia’s Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, but Ukraine will grant them a degree of autonomy.

In the Middle East, the United States and Russia will act together, which essentially means America would lead while respecting Russia’s allies (i.e Syria). The war will end.

An agreement will be reached on joint action against Iran as a potential nuclear state.

NATO troops will be pulled away from Russia’s western border.

Nothing like this agreement has ever been publicly discussed. This may mean that there are no plans for such an agreement or that it is being carefully prepared through hidden channels (i.e. Kushner) and that the agreement will take everyone by surprise.

These insights of mine have been inspired by Kaarel Piirimäe’s book “Roosevelt, Churchill and the Baltic Question”,  and the recently published book by Eero Medijainen “Threads of the Iron Curtain: Propaganda, Public Opinion and the Baltics 1939-1944”.

A major U.S.-Russia security agreement would lay the groundwork for a new world order, in the centre of which would be a U.S.-Russian military alliance. There is currently no military counter force against such an alliance.

The American voter will not accept the current situation

An economic confrontation could, however, complicate such a security policy scenario. Economics has often defeated military might.

There are currently no signs of a softening of the current trade conflict either. Europe and China have stepped up strong U.S. counter-actions, which will certainly have an impact. Everyone will suffer losses, ultimately, the United States will not emerge as the victor in this long and complicated chain of events.

The stability of the world order until now, which is largely based on institutional decisions following World War II, has been replaced by unexpected surprises, that are based on the new unpredictability of the United States.

There are two points worthy of thought for European politicians. Would it not be sensible to try to look for some kind of compromise in the trade dispute? Europe’s continued supremacy is something with which it is possible to irritate the American voter. The American voter will surely not accept the current situation. However, this will be president Trump’s domestic political trump card, which could bring him back to power in the next elections.

The second point is security policy. America’s defense costs truly are much higher than that of the Allies. This is yet another issue that can be used domestically to anger the American voter. This is a topic of discussion in NATO circles. Increasing Europe’s contribution reduces confrontation, although in domestic politics this is also a major concern for the Allies (a significant enlargement of Germany’s armed forces may cause concern in Poland and France).

What will become of us? What will be happen when American and NATO tanks retreat? What political, economic and military capabilities do we have to respond to the unexpected issue that may emerge? Do we have the power to predicit these? What is our flexibility, and reaction time like? Above all, our political flexibility and speed of response?

Translated with kind permission of the author by Riina Kindlam

Original Estonian version: EPL

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1 Comment

  • As someone who grew up in New York in the 1970s and 1980s I can assure Mr. Kallas that Donald Trump is neither purposive nor cunning enough to foment this sort of “strategy”. His entire career he lurched from one crisis to another, made money, lost money, got married, had mistresses, got divorced.

    His performances in Brussels and the UK this week have been nothing but assertive stupidity.

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