By Tom Luongo
There are few phone conversations more memorable than the one Peter Sellers has as President of the United States with the Soviet Premier in Stanley Kubrick’s classic black comedy Dr. Strangelove.
If you’ve never seen it, here’s a link. Go watch it. I’ll wait.
Note the situation. The U.S. as the aggressor versus Russia for all the thermonuclear marbles. A rogue element within the U.S. military decided this was necessary.
Up until Tuesday evening’s election results this was a real possibility. Except it wouldn’t have been an underling’s decision to go to war with Russia but rather the President herself.
Thankfully, enough Americans decided, whether they were aware of it or not, not to vote for war and elect Donald Trump.
Today the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and President-elect Trump had a far different phone call than the one brilliantly ad-libbed by Peter Sellers 53 years ago. And the world is a potentially much safer place than yesterday.
Not Putin up With It, Anymore
For all practical purposes U.S. has been at war with Russia since 2013. Officially? No. But we haven’t officially gone to war since 1941, so that’s irrelevant.
In a de facto sense, the Obama administration launched a hybrid war against Russia in the wake of Obama’s embarrassment over his failure to get a coalition to invade Syria over a false flag chemical weapons attack.
During those tense days Putin swooped in to mediate a settlement which allowed Obama to save face. He cast shade on the allegations against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and got Assad to give up his chemical weapons stores to deter an invasion.
After that it has been one provocation after another. From fomenting a coup in Ukraine to imposing economic sanctions and engineering a ruble crisis. The latest skirmish was the brazen attack on Syrian Army positions outside of Deir Ezzor during a brokered ceasefire agreement, hard won by the two countries’ top diplomats John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov.
As Trump’s chances to win the election improved and Hillary Clinton’s anti-Russian rhetoric became more strident Putin became more outspoken about the situation on the ground in Syria.
His move to publicly sail a fleet from the North Sea to the Syrian Coast just in time for the election was as clear a signal as anyone should need that Russia was done playing nice.
And, if Hillary was bound and determined to atomize Syria to oust Assad so her friends in Qatar could build a gas pipeline instead of Gazprom she would have to start World War III to do it.
A Trio of Trumpian Triumphs
Trump’s election creates a trifecta of potential outcomes not possible with a Clinton victory.
First, ending hostilities in Syria is no longer a hope resting on the battle-worn SAA forces and the Russian Air Force’s logistical prowess. Trump has already had an effect in Syria. Obama ordered U.S. forces there to begin attacking Al-Qaeda forces there.
This was something he refused to do for months. Obama already began bargaining with his successor, likely to save his own skin if his involvement in Hillary’s shady dealings are deeper than has been revealed so far.
Second, it further isolates German Chancellor Angela Merkel as she attempts to hold to a hard line on Russian economic sanctions. She’s doing this to appear strong in the face of local revolts all over eastern Europe.
In one week, the European map has become a lot less hostile to Russia. Estonia, Bulgaria and Moldova all threw out Russo phobic governments since Trump was elected on Tuesday. Individually, these states have little influence on EU policy.
But in the prevailing political climate they materially strengthen Euroskeptic movements in the core EU states like France, Austria and Germany itself where Merkel is struggling to hold back an insurgent rise of Alternate for Germany (AfD) who rise is threatening Merkel’s coalition.
And most importantly, Trump and Putin agreeing on foreign policy approaches could create the climate over the next four years to broker a lasting peace between Israel and the rest of the Arab World.
Putin’s maneuvered to bring Turkish President Erdogan across the Syrian border to thwart any resupply of Aleppo. For the past three years he has been strengthening ties between Russia and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Israel wants what Russia is selling. They also want access to Iran’s markets but want to do so under the protection of the Eurasian Economic Community. Trump can facilitate that by deftly removing our presence from the region after he and Putin cut off ISIS’s lifeblood completely, namely the oil Syria/Iraq and U.S. deep state largesse.
The Neocon Threat
All of this comes to naught if Trump takes his foreign policy advice from the same Neoconservative crazies that were the architects of this madness in the first place.
With the rumors swirling that Trump is considering either former U.N. Ambassador and crazed war-hawk John Bolton or former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani for Secretary of State, it doesn’t bode well in the short run.
That said, after Trump’s victory speech, Putin’s Spokesman Dmitry Peskov remarked how close the two leaders are in their “conceptual approach to foreign policy.” He added that he was moderately optimistic for the future of U.S./Russian relations.
Trump knows he has a bad hand to negotiate with in Syria. But there are a ton of chips to be brought to the table – sanctions relief, de-escalation of the Russian border, crafting a solution for Ukraine, etc.
All of these things Trump inherits from Obama and Clinton. Resetting the world back to 2013 before all this craziness began would be a legacy unto itself. One that any President could be proud of.
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