Well, I had so much fun writing this and posting it on Worthwhile Canadian Initiative that I decided it was worth posting here too!
In the wake of the Putin-Trump Helsinki
summit, there is much speculation about what was actually said between Putin
and Trump behind closed doors and the uncertainty spread throughout the
American government about whether agreements had been reached on issues such as
Syria and the Ukraine. The subsequent
invitation to Putin to visit the White house in the fall – probably just
before the November elections – has resulted in further uncertainty especially
after Putin’s statement that he proposed to Trump holding a referendum to
resolve the eastern Ukraine issue. So, what is really going on here?
Quite frankly, we have all have been
scratching our heads as the behaviour in some respects is reminiscent of 18th
and 19th century monarchs gathering to decide the fate of wide
swaths of the world in private meetings. Putin is an autocrat and Trump
is a business autocrat who admires political autocrats, so their personal level
diplomacy may indeed be a series of moves designed to remake the world and
return it to an age when Russian and American led blocs were the only game in
town. Both the Russians and the Americans have seen their political influence
decline in a multilateral world led by growing Asia-Pacific economies and both
countries have been less than comfortable with the rise of China.
One has to wonder if this is an attempt by
Trump to forge some type of private alliance with the Russians in an effort to
coordinate their interests and deal with their ebbing international influence?
The idea sounds like science fiction. Indeed, the idea of these two
countries getting together and establishing a CoDominium actually has substance
in an alternate reality – the science fiction world of Larry Niven and Jerry
Pournelle. In their novel The Mote in God’s
Eye, which was originally published in 1974, a series of treaties between
the Russians and the Americans establishing the CoDominium in the 1990s sets
the stage for a global government and the expansion of the human species out
into the galaxy. This of course would place Trump’s musings about setting
up a Space Force into quite an entirely different light. Indeed, is Donald
Trump drawing inspiration from a mythical civilization disrupting character
known as a Crazy Eddie?
Trump may be trying to engineer some broader type
of Russian-American political alliance to counter their waning influence in the
world driven by a nostalgia for the 1960s and 1970s. After all, the rise
of the Chinese economy and the growth of Chinese military influence is seen as
a potential concern in some circles. It does not matter how far-fetched
the idea may seem given everything else that has been happening lately whenever
Donald Trump takes the world stage. Disrupting the world, wrecking the
liberal economic order and creating chaos and then having America and Russia
step in to fix things may seem crazy but does it make sense to foreign policy
experts? And, while Trump may be thinking along these lines what is Putin
really thinking? I doubt he is a Niven and Pournelle fan.
Of course, one expects that greater formal
cooperation between the Americans and the Russians will ultimately require
Congress to sign-off especially if actual treaties are eventually negotiated.
On the other hand, if it is all kept informal and behind closed doors, who
knows what is eventually going to emerge?