In the midst of all the insane news that came out of the Trump-Kim Singapore Summit, I think we all are missing the big point. Sure, Trump saluted a North Korean General and elevated a tin-pot dictator to his level in direct negotiations, but that is a blip on the overall radar. In the long run, bringing North Korea out of it’s pariah status is a good thing, if it’s possible. Having a poor, starved, nuclear state sitting next to South Korea and Japan isn’t beneficial to anyone.
The important thing is the suspension of “war games” with our allies in Asia, coupled with our refusal to join the rest of the G-7 in the joint statement of principles at the end of that conference, our threats to pull out of NAFTA and other trade agreements, and our willingness to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement and Paris Climate Change treaty. Donald Trump is moving the United States towards isolationism, out of our world leadership role. A United States that doesn’t counter-balance Chinese power in the Asian Pacific, doesn’t lead in negotiating Middle East Peace, doesn’t lead on international trade, and isn’t part of solving global problems is simply not a superpower anymore. Trump is creating a militant, inward looking, isolationist state, complete with fraying alliances abroad and a nativist, nationalist identity driven immigration policy at home.
There is someone happy about that, and that’s Vladimir Putin. His stated world view is that there should be no United States superpower, but instead a collection of regional powers. Russia should dominate the old Soviet-bloc, China should move into the void we leave behind in Asia, we should dominate our hemisphere, perhaps Germany controls Western Europe, and someone should emerge in the Middle East. Even if all of that doesn’t work out, he just wants the United States to stop leading a strong Western coalition. If he can get us to break our bonds with Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, he’s happy. If he can get us out of Asia, even better. If he can get us out of the Middle East too, he now can grow Russian influence in every direction. For Putin, that’s the goal.
Trump’s foreign policy and Putin’s long held aspirations seem to be perfectly aligned. It’s beginning to be a lot less shocking that Putin’s Russia was so solidly supportive of Donald Trump’s campaign. After all, this is the new alliance that matters.