Last week’s column concluded that President Vladimir Putin was “licking his chops” over the election of Donald Trump as the next American president. This column goes further in explaining why Mr. Putin will be one winner of this extraordinary election. Let’s assume this conversation is taking place in the Kremlin between President Putin (PP) and two of his specialists on America, code named “SR” and “SI.”
PP: While Mr. Trump has not filled his cabinet yet nor announced any of his plans, where do we think he is headed and what do you think his strategy will be for dealing with global politics and of course Russia?
SI: Mr. President, we have done psychological and historical profiles on the president elect. He has been successful in business but not as much as he says. We believe that his ego and his desire to succeed at all costs are manifested in his symbols of this success. Trump Tower and his Trump golf courses, especially the ones in New Jersey and in Florida, are expressions of his narcissism.
That he has had three “trophy wives” is another.
PP (smiling): I am told that the reason he has foreign-born wives is that no American will take the job.
SI (laughing): Yes and it is also true that a black family is being evicted from public housing replaced by a white billionaire.
SR: There are many jokes to be made. However, the strategy that is emerging appears to be to our benefit. I believe Trump is attempting to recreate a version of the Reagan doctrine, rearming America in order to force Russia not into bankruptcy but into conciliation with the U.S., along with a new Nixon Doctrine of triangular politics using this rapprochement with Russia as the way to tackle the China problem. This will require a “grand bargain,” emphasizing Mr. Trump”s perceived long suit as a deal maker. His view, still forming, rests on his belief in his unrivalled skill as a negotiator – I know Mr. President that you read “The Art of the Deal” – will lead to an agreement with Russia that will give him the flexibility to focus on China.
SI: Yes. And this grand bargain will include the issues of Syria, Ukraine and Crimea, the Islamic State (IS) and of course NATO.
PP: What do you think Mr. Trump wants?
SR: I think Trump will be prepared to cede Crimea provided we can offer a face-saving exit through creating some form of UN, CSCE or other international organization oversight to ensure the rights of Crimeans are respected. Second, Donbass and eastern Ukraine would be awarded a form of federalist status ending the conflict. This will go down well in Europe.
PP: What about Syria?
SI: Trump is so fixated on the Islamic State that Obama”s demand Syrian President Bashar al Assad must go will be reversed. With that, we can both agree that the Islamic State is the principal enemy.
PP: What about NATO?
SR: Resolving Ukraine is vital. Mr. Trump can offer concessions. For example, in return for re-establishing the NATO-Russia Council as a serious means of addressing our differences, a moratorium on mutual military exercises as confidence building measure can be proposed. Mr. Trump could also agree to remove the SM-3 anti-ballistic missiles now in place in Romania and soon in Poland on a temporary basis, keeping the launch sites with the proviso that the missiles could be returned if the threat from the east re-emerged.
PP: And what would be our quid pro quo?
SI: We would agree to begin standing down our forces in the west and begin a dialogue to ease tensions. Of course, a requirement will be the lifting of sanctions.
PP: Why would Mr. Trump agree to this?
SI and SR together: Simple. The critical strategic issue for the Americans is China. Mr. Trump wants to rebuild his military. He will realize he does not have the money to do that. And the U.S. military is far stronger than he admits at present.
PP: So returning relations with us to a far more positive condition allows him to focus on the Pacific.
SI: Yes. And the two of us will agree to make IS the combined threat. Iran will support this and this will be a lever on Saudi Arabia.
PP: What should we do?
SI: Nothing for the moment. Mr. Trump will take the first step. After all, he wrote “The Art of the Deal!”