Every Monday, the WoW! community and our invited guests weigh in at the Forum, short takes on a major issue of the day, the culture, or daily living. This week’s question:
Russia, Friend Or Enemy?
Rob Miller: I think President Trump is taking exactly the right stance on Russia. They are competitors, neither friend or foe at this time. We will need Putin’s help to fight the war of jihad, and Putin is finally coming around that he can’t control Iran like he used to… he doesn’t want the Israelis taking matters into their own hands in Syria, which could lead to Russian casualties and a major war. Yes, he put out the de riguer language about how Iran’s nuclear power is ‘controlled’ but he knows what a lie it is and so does Trump. Both of them made a point of including Netanyahu in the loop and reaffirming their commitment to Israel’s security, and unlike a former U.S. president, Putin is serious about this and so is Donald Trump.
Russia, as Putin has stated before needs the U.S. as a superpower, but he’s essentially a Russian nationalist. As he said, he doesn’t trust Trump and Trump doesn’t trust him but both look out for the interests of their respective nations, and they are now, as Putin said ‘looking for points of contact and mutual interests.
The entire nonsense about Russia meddling in our elections is hypocrisy in the extreme. Putin was diplomatic enough not to mention it, but President trump’s predecessor openly meddled serious in democratic elections in Israel, the UK and Nigeria among others. Democrats, who said nothing about it at that time have their nerve raging about Russia meddling in an election. We even put a regime in power in the Ukraine that was openly anti-Russian. I wonder how we would react if Russia or China put a regime in Mexico that was blatantly anti-USA?
It’s a pity Trump felt compelled to apologize and back track on what was really courageous diplomacy. Instead of taking the easy way out, cancelling the summit over Mueller’s bull, he went ahead knowing that no mater what happened he’d be crucified by the Left and their media. If he had been aggressive towards Putin, they would have wailed about a war monger president he doesn’t understand diplomacy. Since he decided to really exercise true diplomacy and be honest about how both countries are responsible for th ebad relations between Russia and the U.S. he’s being crucified as a traitor and ‘Putin’s puppet.
It’s obvious who the real traitors are, at this point.
Don Surber:Any discussion of Russia should begin by drawing the distinction between this country and the Soviet Union, which was a far larger country that included Georgia and Ukraine. To its credit, the USSR was one of the few socialist states that had toilet paper.
Russia is larger than the United States with less than half the people. Texas has a larger economy than Russia with one-fifth the population.
While Russia has a lot of nukes, I cannot see much use for nukes in any kind of war. You blow one off, and the world will crush you.
Still, those nukes carry sway politically.
But the biggest asset Russia has is its natural gas and oil which Germany needs because it foolishly banned fracking.
Thus the USA cannot look at Russia as a friend or ally, but rather as a big old bear that is missing most of its teeth, but it has this very valuable pot of honey that our biggest frenemy in Europe wants. Putin has masterfully played the USA media into making him this larger-than-life Rasputin (McCain was no help when he said when I look into his eyes, I see KGB). Putin is an animal trainer in a third-rate circus with this bear on a unicycle. Interesting but not very practical.
Be wary, but friendly. His help with North Korea and Syria are appreciated.
Dave Schuler: Is Russia a friend or an enemy of the U. S.? Both. Neither. It is a different country from the U. S. and as such has foreign policy objectives different from ours. As has been mentioned by others today’s Russia is not the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was apocalyptic and milliennialist. Russia is irredentist. Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia have been parts of Russia or the Soviet Union since 1793 and Georgia has been since the first decade of the 19th century. All of these areas now have populations of ethnic Russians due to explicit programs of Russification in the 19th and 20th centuries. I don’t point these historical facts out to justify them but merely because of the role they play in present day Russian foreign policy objectives.
Those objectives may be summarized as
1. Present Russian territorial integrity.
2. Access to warm water ports, e.g. Sevastopol, Tartus.
3. Defense of Russians in Russia’s “near abroad”, i.e. Baltics, Ukraine, and the small population of Russians in George
4. Defense of Slavs.
5. Defense of Orthodoxy
Again, I’m not seeking to justify these objectives, merely identifying them. IMO following the collapse of the Soviet Union the U. S. squandered an opportunity for establishing a more cordial relationship between Russia the United States through a series of actions including
• Interfering with Russian elections and domestic politics
• Defeating Saddam Hussein, a major Soviet ally and customer, in the Gulf War
• Bombing Serbia without UN Security Council authorization
• Reneging on its promise not to enlarge NATO by admitting former Warsaw Pact countries
• Invading Iraq and removing its government without UN sanction
• Admitting the former Soviet Republics in the Baltic to NATO
• Assisting in the overthrow of the Libyan government in violation of UN Security Council mandate
• Threatening to admit Ukraine and Georgia to NATO
• Supporting Al Qaeda in its attempt at overthrowing the Syrian government
• Supporting the overthrow of the legitimately elected (and pro-Russian) government of Ukraine by an anti-Russian and purportedly neo-Nazi group
and there are others including generally dismissing, demeaning, and belittling Russia over the period of the last 25 years. That is a tragedy and contrary to U. S. interests. There is no more important bilateral relationship in the world than that of the U. S. and Russia. Our two countries are the only two either of which has the capability of destroying the world. A less hostile relationship can only be good.
Finally, China and Iran are not natural allies for Russia. Quite the opposite they’re natural adversaries. By comparison Russia’s interests and U. S. interests rarely interfere with one another. We should be able to cooperate with one another where they intersect.
One final word. It would be interesting to discuss this question (friend or foe?) in the context of other countries, particularly China, India, and Germany.
Bookworm Room: Is it too coy to call Russia a frenemy? The reality is that modern Russia is the tail end of a once great empire. Its current population is shrinking and its economy is a disaster, but it still has those nuclear weapons, a worldwide influence network, and at its helm an incredibly cold, cruel, effective leader. Putin’s leadership abilities (they may not be used for good, but they are still leadership abilities), coupled with eight years of Obama’s feckless “leading from behind,” has given Russia a lot more leverage than it should have. That’s the reality Trump has to deal with.
Meanwhile, there’s China: 1.5 billion people, the world’s largest standing army, a sense of manifest destiny that would have been comfortably in place at the height of the 19th century expansionist colonial era, and a willingness to cheat in the world marketplace, steal technology and other protected ideas, manipulate currencies, and do anything else to maintain an economic edge. That doesn’t make China a current enemy, as in on-the-ground hot warfare, but it makes it a very dangerous potential enemy.
When it comes to both Russia and China, it’s much better for the U.S. to have a working relationship with them than to have open enmity. Moreover, when it comes to balancing power, there’s a lot to be said for a Russia / U.S. alliance — a loose one — to offset China’s manpower edge.
The reality is that politics invariably puts us in bed with people and nations that are not nice. The Lefties weren’t upset when Roosevelt partnered with Stalin to defeat the Nazis. Of course, the Lefties adored Stalin even as he was mass murdering his own people but still…. Even now, 70+ years later, when the Lefties can no longer deny Stalin’s depredations, they’re still comfortable with Roosevelt partnering with a mass murdering former Hitler pal because it was necessary to do so. The enemy of my enemy is my temporary ally and all that.
As is the case with North Korea, I see nothing wrong with Trump offering to work with two dictators, provided that no harm comes to us. That these leaders — Kim Jong Un, Putin, and all the other nasties out there — are dictators is certainly a problem for their citizens, but that doesn’t mean in geopolitics that it has to be a non-starter for us.
The only thing Trump needs to do is make sure that these evolving relationships are mutually beneficial. The last thing we want is to see the Obama years repeated, with Obama giving up everything he had to dictators around the world while getting nothing in return for America. As long as there’s a quid pro quo that benefits America, both in terms of the economy and national security, world affairs demand that sometimes you make nice with bad people. Only Lefty governments believe that you make nice with bad people to America’s detriment.
Rather than waffle on here, I’ll just say that Trump represents the necessary end of the Wilson doctrine that insisted that it was America’s responsibility to shed her citizens’ blood on battlefields around the world, in order to export democracy to ungrateful, profoundly undemocratic nations.
Laura Rambeau Lee: To say our relationship with Russia is complicated would be an understatement. America and Russia are absolute ideological opposites with radically different objectives. That being said, both countries have apocalyptic capabilities and the possibility of mutually assured destruction requires we maintain a continuing dialogue. President Trump sees Putin and Russia as a competitor and understands we must find ways to work together when it is mutually beneficial. He has a lot of work to do to reestablish our position of strength in the eyes of the world and particularly with Russia, which became painfully weak during the previous eight years of the Obama Administration and Secretary of State Clinton’s bumbling attempts at diplomacy. I suspect after Helsinki, Putin knows without a doubt President Trump will not sell out American interests and that he will do what is necessary to maintain our position of strength on the world stage.
Well, there it is!
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