Trump must work with Russia

After the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey, Russia, the Erdogan government and Iran acted with dispatch. Vladimir Putin saw the killing as an attempt to break up an alliance and he wisely refused to rise to the bait. The three powers also exposed the weakness of the West.

With ISIS running amok throughout Europe, the United States reacted, predictably blaming everything from Donald Trump’s election to terrorism on Putin. Of course the State Department, the CIA and the lot would not blame their own policies. Everything they have done since 2009 was a pale imitation of George W. Bush’s disastrous policies in the Middle East. Indeed they went one better by egging on the horrific Arab Spring. It also encouraged a coup in Turkey which backfired. The ghost of the great disrupter Woodrow Wilson must have been wandering the halls of the White House.

Although the American and British press pushed the anti-Russian line, most of the world ignored the message. For Europeans the problem lies with radical ISIS-like terrorism, not Putin nor Erdogan. Barack Obama seems to understand this, though some members of his State Department do not. He managed to keep America’s military role to a minimum, for which he deserves only praise. If John McCain or Lindsay Graham had their way, there would have been “one, two, three” conflicts. And thanks are also due to John Kerry, who held back the madness.

For Rex Tillerson the task will be made harder. The 1947 Defense Act created two agencies which have been mischief-making from the start. The National Security Council, with its knife in the teeth style, and the Central Intelligence Agency, with its cocksure, but often wrong, estimates. At least Tillerson lives in the real world of profit and loss, not the playing with someone else’s life, which is the stock in trade of the NSC and the CIA.

If Trump abides by his better instincts he will work with, and not against, Russia, Iran, Turkey and China. He should avoid being manipulated, as the big powers were in 1914 when Serbian terrorists murdered Franz Ferdinand and set the wheels in motion toward war. Triangular diplomacy between the United States, China and Russia could very easily settle the host of the terror network.

Smaller powers can be nuisances in this effort and their considerations should be minimized. Perhaps the first attempts toward forging spheres of influence can begin after Trump takes the oath.

Certainly there is precedence for such an action. Charles Evans Hughes, Warren Harding’s secretary of state, pushed forward the Washington agreement which established limits on the size of navies commensurate with the powers’ perceived power. Forged after the chaos of Versailles, it was a recognition that the fanciful imaginings of Wilson were inadequate. It tried to crate a power structure that might last. Ultimately, it failed, undone by the bitterness of Versailles and the Great Depression that helped usher in Adolf Hitler.

Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger tried to recreate such a system in the wake of Vietnam. They opened up a bridge to Communist China and offered detente to the USSR. In time neo-conservatives, led by Henry Jackson, jumped on every issue from Refuseniks to alleged Russian superiority (which was not true) and undermined this effort. As with the current situation, the security forces were sources of disinformation, Trump should try to prevent these pernicious influences from succeeding again.