Putin and Trump aren’t conservatives: they’re reactionaries, Golts says


International, Opinion

Edited by: A. N.

Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump have managed to convince many others and perhaps even themselves that they are conservatives, leaders who back traditional values and are cautious about change, when in fact, both of them are reactionaries, men committed to turning back the clock radically at home and abroad.

In Yezhednevny zhurnal, Moscow commentator Aleksandr Golts suggests this is very much on display in the run-up to the Helsinki meeting of the two, a meeting in which both appear completely committed to moving the world “forward … to the nineteenth century.”

Even though the summit is still almost two weeks away, Putin has won a convincing diplomatic victory and in exactly the same way as Kim Jong-Un did – by prompting “the leader of the most powerful country” to talk to them despite all their violations of the international order and thereby help them escape from the status of “outcast states.”

“It is obvious,” the Moscow commentator continues, “that Donald Trump who has consistently destroyed allied relations with the countries of Western Europe is trying to achieve success by conducting talks with outcasts.”

His chief “innovation” is that he has only contempt for “Western values, the support of democracy, and the rights and freedoms of citizens.”

And the US president “doesn’t intend to defend” these values in Europe or anywhere else. “If you need American defense,” his message is, “pay for it.” Poland has already seen the way the wind is blowing and has offered to build a base for American forces with its own money alone.”

“In his primitive understanding of national interests, Donald Trump in a surprising way corresponds with Vladimir Putin,” Golts says. “Both presidents consider world politics to be a kind of new ‘Yalta forum’ at which ‘the great’ conduct an unending zero-sum game using as playing cards the ‘small’ countries.”

“All this fits into the conception of the Realpolitik of the 19th century,” the commentator says; and it is this which “both Putin and Trump de facto profess.”

This doesn’t mean they are going to be able to agree, Golts continues. “What is important here is something else.” Trump seeks American economic dominance and doesn’t see Russia as a competitor.” Russia in that is simply too small a player. “Therefore, Trump doesn’t understand” why the G7 spent so much time talking about Moscow.

Trump won’t lift sanctions unless Putin gives him something; and it is far from clear, the Moscow commentator says, what that might be. Putin can’t agree to any reduction in nuclear arms because that is the only thing that allows his country to claim the status of a major power. He won’t give on Ukraine, and Trump isn’t that interested in most things.

The best outcome that seems possible, Golts suggests, would be some kind of “general declaration which would give a start to talks not about new cuts in arms but “about the preservation of those agreements which already exist.”

Consequently, what remains is Syria and the possibility that Putin could give Trump cover to withdraw US forces from there and accept the continuation of Assad in power. “In exchange, Moscow would guarantee the security of ‘pro-American forces’ in the northeast of the country, and in addition, the Kremlin would secure the withdrawal of pro-Iranian and Iran forces.”

Moscow could fulfill such an agreement “in only one way.” It would have to end any talk of Russian withdrawal and in fact “launch a direct land operation.” Otherwise Iran will remain. And in any case, even if Putin wanted the civil war to continue, “thank God, he doesn’t have that possibility.” Syria is too far away to allow for that.

Thus, he concludes, “as a result of the talks, both Trump and Putin will get PR-dividends. One will have shown his supporters that he can ‘tame’ not just Kim Jong-Un [and] the other will confirm his status as a politician equal to the president of the US.” And that outcome has an important message for the world.

The Helsinki summit “will become a return to the logic of the 19th century in world affairs.”

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Edited by: A. N.
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