During the rambling, semi-coherent press scrum as he was reluctantly heading for Quebec, Donald Trump declared “I have been Russia’s worst nightmare.” He also stated that Hilary would have been much better for Putin. All of this might have been a bit easier to take if it were not pinned between twin appeals to add Russia back into the G7.
Trump: It may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run. … They have to let Russia come back in. Because we have to have Russia at the negotiating table.
Russia was pushed out of what was then the G8 in 2014 after it invaded Ukraine and took control of Crimea. If there was absolutely no concern for human rights, international treaties, national sovereignty and simply using military force to beat up on a less powerful neighbor—and Trump has absolutely no concern for any of those things—there might be an economic argument for adding Russia back into the mix. After all, the G7 countries range in GDP from the US at number one and the rest spread out from number three (Japan) to number ten (Canada). Russia, at number eleven, is not that far behind Canada. Russia’s $1.7T GDP does include several billion dollars directly from the economy of captive Crimea and got a multi-billion boost from the availability of ports like Sevastopol. Even so, Russia’s GDP has actually decreased considerably since before the invasion.
But as Nancy LeTourneau reports in Washington Monthly, far from being “a nightmare,” Donald Trump has been Vladimir Putin’s dream date, giving the Russian dictator everything he needs to push his authoritarian philosophy around the group and promote Russian interests ahead of those of the United States.
Trump has isolated the United States from our traditional allies by pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, the Paris Climate accord and the Iran nuclear agreement. Talks have completely stalled on his attempt to renegotiate NAFTA. Finally, his announcement about imposing tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union for so-called “security reasons” seemed to be the last straw.
Trump could have done no better if he were following a checklist from Putin. And Trump may well be following a checklist from Putin. After all, they “have a world to run.”
Donald Trump’s declared intentions to break with not just multilateral trade agreements, like NAFTA, but to weaken multi-national organizations like NATO, have already profoundly weakened the US around the globe. Trump’s actions on the Paris agreement have demonstrated that the United States can’t be expected to negotiate in good faith, on the basis of either facts or even its own interests. Breaking—not withdrawing, but breaking—the nuclear treaty with Iran and six other nations, reinforced the idea that the US would act on Trump’s whim, with no regard to law or alliances.
The result has been a surge of efforts from nations desperate to seek other ports in the Trump storm. It’s been a benefit to China, which has followed through on trade agreements when the United States stepped away. And it’s a boost for Russia, which has seen continued aggression go unchecked and, as Trump’s statements in advance of the G7 demonstrated again, previous actions buried under heaps of Trump’s very special version of “nightmare.”
It is obvious that Putin is getting exactly what he wanted from a Trump presidency. Is that because he chose well in recruiting Trump way back before 2011 and knew this is what he would get for his efforts? Or is it because Trump owes him and this is the payback? The latter seems much more plausible to me.
Whatever the debt, Trump is getting America to pay the price.