Tags: russia | trump | economics

Taming the Bear: What Trump Should Do With Putin

Taming the Bear: What Trump Should Do With Putin
President Donald Trump waves as he steps out of Air Force One upon arrival in Morristown, New Jersey, on July 20, 2018. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

By Monday, 23 July 2018 11:11 AM Current | Bio | Archive

We are less than four months away from a possibly game-changing midterm election.

If, as is quite possible, the Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives, the national government will shortly be paralyzed, as Democrats will begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump, as well as scores of investigations of the president and his personal finances, all designed to undermine his policies and his effort to transform the federal government.

The stakes are high, and this explains the tone of near-hysteria which accompanied President Trump’s recent summit with Russia’s strongman, Vladimir Putin. The Democrats and their echo-chamber in the mainstream media have suggested that the president is Putin’s puppet, and that Trump’s possibly ill-advised or inadvertent remarks indicating that he trusted Putin more than American intelligence agencies was characterized as treasonous, and as much of a manifestation of evil as the Holocaust or 9/11.

This was so far from the truth as to be risible, but for the fact that Mr. Trump’s opponents must have believed that this was the way to excite their partisans, to gather financial contributions for the coming political battle, and to continue the efforts to undermine Mr. Trump that we now know began with the Obama administration, and indeed, the very intelligence services quite properly questioned by Mr. Trump.

The continued effort to link Mr. Trump with the Russian misdeeds will eventually fail, as Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation finally comes to a close, and concludes that while the Russians, as they have done for generations, sought to meddle in our domestic affairs, their efforts were, in fact, negligible and ineffective.

All of this, however, ought to be an opportunity for American voters to consider the importance (or lack thereof) of foreign affairs to domestic politics. The ever-brilliant and irascible Ann Coulter astutely observed that, “Obsessing over irrelevant, unsolvable problems in remote parts of the globe is how liberals prove they are intellectuals. North Korea, Syria, Russia — that’s what you’re supposed to care about. Not your own country.” The equally brilliant and provocative Kurt Schlichter wrote this week that, “Any legit criticism of Trump’s policies is swamped by the insanity. But that’s part of the plan. They [Trump’s critics] want people so outraged they can’t, or won’t, think. This is a cynical ploy to ramp things up to a fever pitch and panic the weakhearts.”

So what is reality here? What ought to be our attitude toward Russia, and, indeed, the rest of the world? What is the emerging Trump doctrine and ought one to support it? As far as Russia is concerned Trump’s policy is simple. He seeks to make Russia an ally rather than an adversary. There is nothing extraordinary in this; in World War II it was Russian efforts on which we relied to defeat Hitler, and while there was, of course, a generation-long period in which we struggled with the Soviet Union’s communism for world domination, in 1989, when the Soviet Union collapsed, and the Berlin wall fell, that struggle came to an end.

Russia remains a great power, but it is no longer a hegemonic force for the reformation of the world economy along socialist lines. Russia is not exactly a Jeffersonian paradise, and, indeed, its autocracy would not be something Americans would want to embrace, but, in the long-term, Moscow could well turn out to be an important trading partner, and long-term Russian interests might well dovetail with our own.

Clearly Trump and his advisors understand this, and he appears to be laying the groundwork for securing Russian aid in ending or ameliorating conflicts in Syria, Israel, the Korean peninsula, and Iran. Remarkably, for example, at virtually the same time President Trump was engaged in dialogue with President Putin, so was Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, in a stark reversal of an earlier era where the Soviet Union was at loggerheads with that important American ally. Russia has its own interests, which will sometimes diverge from ours, but that doesn’t mean that diplomacy, of a type that the Trump administration is engaged in, cannot yield rich rewards.

It is more than astonishing that Democrats like to accuse Trump of economic subservience to Russia, when, in fact, it was the Obama administration, and Secretary Clinton, who pushed the famous “reset” of relations with Putin, and the infamous “Uranium One” deal blessed by Mrs. Clinton’s State Department that enriched some of her associates, and maybe even, directly or indirectly, Mrs. Clinton herself. This, however, is the nature of current politics, where the Democrats happily and hypocritically accuse the Republicans of doing the very things the Democrats have done.

International thuggery, of a kind practiced by Putin must be condemned, and prevented, if possible, but Moscow cannot be ignored, and Russian power ought to be enlisted, in the goal of promoting peace and prosperity. This is not treason, it’s common sense. Democrat hysteria to the contrary notwithstanding, it is this sort of common sense that is the foundation of Donald Trump’s appeal, and perhaps it takes a businessman rather than an ideologue fully to grasp the possibilities of a constructive alliance with Russia. Alexis de Tocqueville, the most profound critic of America ever, observed early in the Nineteenth Century that it would be the Russians and the Americans who would dominate global affairs. Tocqueville probably underestimated the continuing importance of Western Europe, South America, and China, but Russo-American relations remain significant and full of possibilities.

Trump is not a Russian puppet, but, managed properly, Russia could be a vital American partner. Trump deserves the chance to make that happen, and while Trump’s domestic policies are certainly enough to support him, his foreign policy increasingly appears equally impressive. This is the message that the Democrats wish to drown out in their efforts wrongly to impugn the president. That must not be permitted to happen.

Stephen B. Presser is the Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law, the Legal Affairs Editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and a contributor to The University Bookman. He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and has taught at Rutgers University, the University of Virginia, and University College, London. He has often testified on constitutional issues before committees of the United States Congress, and is the author of "Recapturing the Constitution: Race, Religion, and Abortion Reconsidered" (Regnery, 1994) and "Law Professsors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law" (West Academic, 2017). Presser was recently appointed as a Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado's Boulder Campus for 2018-2019. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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We are less than four months away from a possibly game-changing midterm election.
russia, trump, economics
Monday, 23 July 2018 11:11 AM
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