The world is in flux, as the post Cold War settlement unravels. NATO, designed to keep the Germans down, the Russians out, and America in, is obsolete, and a new international architecture is emerging. Signs of the disintegration of the old order, and the beginnings of the new, abound.
A partial list includes the warming relations between Israel and Russia, between Israel and Saudi Arabia, between Turkey and Russia, between Britain and Russia, the unravelling of the European Union, and the impending cooperation between the United Sates and Russia in the Middle East. Vladimir Putin is leading this world reorientation, and acting strictly as an old fashioned Russian nationalist and imperialist. Imperialism seems to be in the Russian DNA. That’s a reality of international relations that has been constant ever since Russia became a great power hundreds of years ago.
But Russia is not our permanent enemy. Nations don’t have friends or enemies. They have national interests. Rivals are not necessarily enemies if they are able to accommodate one another. Since the fall of Communism and the break up of the Soviet Union, Russia’s imperialism is not a drive toward world hegemony. Russia’s hand is far too weak for any such ambition. Putin wants to reassemble the old Soviet Union. He’s not a threat to us, or to Western Europe, but to his neighbors, particularly Ukraine and the Baltic states. He needs to be restrained by diplomacy, not threats of war.
By seizing the initiative in breaking up the old world order, Putin hopes to profit financially as well. He wants, above all, high oil prices. He needs them to keep his economy afloat. The Saudis are the key to the price of oil, and Thursday’s announcement that the Saudis are ready to work with non-OPEC partners (read: Russia) to “help the market rebalance” has led to a 5% spike in the price of crude. Mr. Putin knows how to play the game. He’s in the Middle East for the same reason we are: oil. We wanted its free flow. He wants a high price. Not long ago, American access to that oil was a vital national interest. But with the fracking revolution, that is no longer true. As we gradually join Russia as one of the great energy exporting countries of the world, our interests and theirs may coincide to a certain degree. China, Japan and Western Europe do need that oil, and we should all be cooperating to keep the situation somewhat stable. Everybody needs to sit down and have a good talk.
As it was 200 years ago, there are five main players in the game of international geopolitics. Back then it was France, Russia, Britain, Prussia and Austro-Hungary. Today it’s the United States, China, Russia, Western Europe and Japan. India appears to be ready to join the club soon. Each great power pursues its own interests, in cooperation or competition with the others. In a mere quarter century we’ve gone from a bipolar, to a unipolar, and now, once again, a multipolar world. As one of the five powers of the world, we seek friendly relations with all, and among all. All the powers are nuclear armed, excepting Japan, and that will probably change soon. The United Sates is uniquely positioned to be the balance of power in the world, in order to prevent the outbreak of war. Unlike any other great power, we are threatened, and are a threat, to no one. We are isolated and secure. Just as Theodore Roosevelt was the mediator in the dispute between Russia and Japan after their 1906 war, the United Sates can mediate disputes between Russia and Western Europe today, and between other great powers in the future.
After the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Europe had a century of almost uninterrupted peace. The powers were roughly in balance, and Britain was resolved to keep them that way. No one power would be allowed to emerge above all the others, and pose a threat to all. To work most effectively, each power must be free to align itself with any of the others. Then the Germans painted themselves in a corner by taking Alsace Lorraine from France. This made France Germany’s permanent enemy, and restricted its freedom of maneuver. Ideally, in a multipolar world, no one has permanent enemies. Everyone is both a rival and a potential ally, depending on circumstances. In a nuclear world, that’s more important than ever.
In this new world order the United States is the key to world peace. Britain and the Anglosphere may want to join us in this function. But in order to play this noble and indispensable role, we must be seen as a friend to all, and an enemy to none. Our one non-negotiable demand is freedom of the seas, and the United States Navy must continue to rule the waves as the British did not so long ago. The oceans around us are the source of our security, and our beneficent control of them is in everyone’s interest.
I like to think that Donald Trump discussed all this when he visited Henry Kissinger a few months ago. Trump may have an intuitive feel for the geopolitics of today’s world. He clearly wants to reach an understanding with Russia, and is not tied to the dogmas of the wizards of the post Cold War world, who have needlessly pressed America to overextend itself around the world. He knows NATO is obsolete, and has said so. He hints broadly that NATO’s Article 5 blank check that we gave to Western Europe after the Second World War will not be cashed today. Naturally this upsets the neocons and the other war hawks. 50 of them recently announced their opposition to him. The world they helped create, which is falling apart before their eyes, is a mess, and their solution is more of the same. For a definitive analysis of their failures, see this David Goldman piece.
Trump is much more suited to lead the United States safely through this period of transition than Hillary Clinton. She is the international missionary, smiting evil, as in Libya, for no other reason than she can. That’s pure Wilsonianism, and it’s the way to war, as it has always been. She doesn’t want to fight for America’s national interests, which are modest, and not a threat to any other power. She wants to fight for a higher cause, for human rights or some such. She’s a starry eyed idealist, and these are the really dangerous people when they have power.
After the death of Muammar Gaddafi, and before chaos and ISIS descended on Libya, Hillary Clinton, channeling the Roman tyrant within her, said, “We came, we saw, he died.” And then, as payback, we got Benghazi. Hillary Clinton broke it all, and she owns it all. And even at this point, it does make a difference.
If peace is your priority, it’s Trump over Clinton. It’s not even close. A deal maker over a crusader. An American nationalist against a starry eyed believer in one world government. A realist, not a naif.
[This piece was rejected by American Thinker because Putin is a bad man. The United States should only have friendly relations with countries ruled by good people. Admirable idealism, which, in foreign affairs, helped lead to the cataclysms of the 20th century. Crusading Wilsonianism is alive and well on the right. The national interest, even international peace, must be subordinated to making the world safe for democracy.]