J.T. provides …
A few thoughts about Trump, actions versus talk, and negotiations with foreign leaders….
Trump understands negotiations like few others. He’s very much like Reagan in being tough on our adversaries, although they have a different style. Reagan, of course, called the Soviet Union “The Evil Empire,” and it was, and Reagan used very harsh rhetoric, and rightly so, considering the circumstances.
Trump won’t do that with Russia now, because it would be counterproductive. Putin is a genuinely bad guy. I think we all understand that, and that includes Trump. But, Russia is nowhere near as much of a threat nor is it nearly as powerful as the USSR was. Reagan’s was a different time and called for both different tactics and a different strategy. The way to get Russia to stop its nefarious ways is through a carrot-and-stick approach, much like before, except we can use a lot more carrot than stick, now, because Russia just isn’t as powerful as the old USSR was. Not even close.
Russia’s GDP in 2017 was less than a tenth of ours (1.577 trillion versus 19.390 trillion for us).
The EU’s GDP in 2017 was 17.277 trillion, also more than ten times Russia’s.
Germany’s GDP was 3.677 trillion in 2017.
France’s GDP in 2017 was 2.582 trillion.
Spain’s was 1.311 trillion.
The United Kingdom’s was 2.622 trillion.
Italy’s GDP was more than Russia’s (1.935 trillion). Even Canada’s (1.653 trillion).
All of these are NATO countries. And those aren’t all of the NATO countries, either. (Link : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Member_states_of_NATO )
(You can look at the other NATO members’ GDP at this link: https://tradingeconomics.com/country-list/gdp )
It’s quite easy to tell that Russia is the 21st century’s “sick man of Europe.”
In 2015, NATO countries’ GDP totaled 36.211 trillion dollars (from the wiki link above). That’s nearly 23 times as large as Russia’s in 2018 (Link: https://tradingeconomics.com/russia/gdp) .
I’m sure Putin knows this. I’m sure Trump does, too.
So, why did Trump treat Putin so nicely during the press conference? Because talk is cheap, which Trump also knows very well. Trump wants Putin’s help in corralling China and North Korea. He also wants help keeping Iran at bay and defeating ISIS, while guaranteeing Israel’s security. How does he get all that? Carrots and sticks.
Actions matter orders-of-magnitude more than talk. In April, Trump imposed a whole slew of sanctions against Russians. (Link: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/04/07/trump-sanctions-on-russia-this-is-as-far-from-collusion-as-can-get.html )
That hurts. I’m sure it got Putin’s attention.This, also, is the very opposite of “collusion.” Trump has been extremely tough on the Russians. Note that those sanctions are still in effect and were put in place months before the summit earlier this week. That’s the stick. Russia’s economy sucks and Trump gutpunched them in April.
Proving to foreign leaders that he wants to get along with them, because we’re all better off as friends than we are as enemies, is the exact same play he tried with Kim Jong-Un and with China’s Xi, as well. Did it work? Kim Jong-Un hasn’t fired any rockets off since then has he? Trump’s power of persuasion is his superhuman ability.
Trump is all about trying to get along with the foreign heads of state, but he understands that we sit in the catbird’s seat. Between us and NATO, we could cripple Russia’s economy if we needed to.
If Russia were an enemy, would Germany allow itself to get so dependent on energy from Russia?
Trump is right in calling Russia a “competitor” and not an enemy, much less an “Evil Empire.” That echoes what George W. Bush said about China when he said they were a “strategic competitor.” He’s also right to try to schmooze Putin face-to-face (as well as Mr. Kim and President XI), and make nice for the cameras in order to try to get cooperation (although the press conference was a mistake).
Will all of this work? Can he make “competitors” play nice? Well, it’s all about the economy, and between us, NATO, South Korea, Japan, and all of our other allies, we have Russia bent over a barrel.
None of us know what Trump and Putin discussed in their meeting. It was probably all sorts of things, and I bet trump pursued our national interests as hard as he could. Imagine how tough he was on Putin since he was so tough on our NATO allies.
I bet we’ll see progress on that front soon enough. It would help if the EU would be tough on Putin, too.
Putin quite obviously wants to reassemble the old Soviet Un