We are relieved to see that the Obama Administration is now actively working with Putin’s Russia to resolve the conflict in Syria. It is a consummation we had fervently wished for since 2013-2014. To us the biggest mistake of Obama’s foreign policy was pushing Putin’s Russia almost into the waiting arms of China, the biggest long term challenger to America’s superpower status. It was a mistake that, we had said, might be causing Presidents FDR & Nixon to roll over in pain & disdain in their graves.
After all, both these Presidents had prevented the two largest adversaries of America from coming together against America. FDR had welcomed Stalin as an ally to pull his Soviet Union away from the alliance with Hitler. Nixon had flown to China to pull away Mao away from his alliance with the Soviet Union. So we watched in consternation as President Obama kept pushing Putin’s Russia into the arms of a delighted China.
Of course, we were not the only ones, not by a long shot. In fact, we had quoted Robert Kaplan in our October 2015 article – Is Donald Trump Right About Foreign Policy?:
- “Nixon would understand Russia’s geopolitical insecurities and partially assuage them, in order to gain some leverage over China, just as four decades ago he had moved closer to China in order to gain some leverage over Russia. Were the United States to give Russia more leeway in the Caucasus and Central Asia — rather than trying to compete with Russia in those regions — Russia might find ingenious ways to make China more nervous along its land borders. And that, in turn, would make China somewhat less able to devote so much of its energy to projecting power in the Pacific Basin, where it threatens American allies. None of this would remotely fall into the category of aggressive or irresponsible international behavior, mind you. Trying to adjust the global balance of power in one’s favor is a perennial goal of statesmanship.”
A few days ago we found out that the above views are not just of a few people like Donald Trump, Robert Kaplan & us. Apparently there is now a new school of “Nationalist Conservatism” in American foreign policy.
We found out about this new school from a true expert. Whom do we consider a true expert? Someone who has probably forgotten more about a subject than we know. In this case, we mean Dr. George Friedman who founded Stratfor & now has built Geopolitical Futures. Below are some excerpts from his article American Conservatism and Russia.
- “American conservatism has fragmented into so many parts since 1991 that it bears little resemblance to the movement Ronald Reagan presided over. However, of all the fragments, the most interesting and exotic is the one that appears to be pro-Russian, regarding Russian President Vladimir Putin favorably. I am not only talking about Donald Trump, although his speech on national security explicitly called for a working relationship with Russia to fight Islamist terrorism. I am talking about a faction of conservatism that does not see Russia, even led by a former dedicated KGB man (and therefore a former member of the Communist Party), as a strategic or moral threat to the United States, but rather a potential ally“.
Remember the old tenet that the enemy of my enemy is my friend?
- “In the same way that conservatives focused far more on ideology than they did on strategy, their moral objection to communism has transferred to the Islamic world. They are strengthened in this regard by what they see as liberals’ unwillingness to respond in kind. Just as the conservatives objected to liberal policy toward the Soviets as anything from ineffective to collaborative, so the same objections are being expressed about the liberal response to Islam”
Sometimes vices come to be viewed as virtues, don’t they?
- “The conservatives see Russia as a nation that confronted the Islamic threat inside its own borders and that makes no apologies for the measures it took to defeat them. When they look at Putin, they see a man who has confronted the enemy and dealt with it. The fact that he is authoritarian and suppresses freedom is a mark of his strength. For this faction, the world is an enormously dangerous place and strength is the essence of doing the right thing. If, in the course of doing the right thing, freedoms are reduced, then it is the price that has to be paid for safety”.
This is not just convenience. There is actually a deeper level than this, according to Dr. Friedman:
- “Conservatives of this fashion are nationalists. They believe in American exceptionalism, both ideologically and as a people. They are the ones, like Trump, who simultaneously can see Russia as a friend, yet oppose NATO or NAFTA. The only measure that is meaningful to them is that which protects the United States and its obvious interests, like safety and jobs, and opposes the internationalist faction in both parties that would sacrifice their interests”.
The next step in the reasoning is even more interesting, a step that leads to longing for a President Trump?
- “There was once a Communist International. A “Nationalist International” is emerging, made up of nations that, in their minds, are not ashamed of putting the interests of their own countries above those of others. These countries see international cooperation as a tool, not a principle. At root, this is what attracts them to Putin. Putin is neither a communist nor a liberal. He is a nationalist who resurrected Russia from the disaster of Boris Yeltsin and restored its pride. They respect him for that, and they long for someone as unambiguous as they think he is“.
Those who look carefully will see that Prime Minister Modi of India has followed this approach to build relationships with many countries including those who are enemies of each other. Saudi Arabia-Qatar & Iran are one such pair. India is also a natural ally in this US-Russia Nationalist International with India’s new strategic relationship with America & India’s long reliable relationship with Russia. Notice Lockheed Martin is trying to make India a base for F-16 support to other nations and Russia is trying to do the same with Kilo-class submarines.
Getting back to this new ‘Nationlist Conservatism”,
- “This is actually the old Reagan coalition. Reagan reconciled the tension between realpolitik and ideology. He hated communism and worked with China. He was an ideologue and a nationalist. This is a time of fragmentation and incoherence where the presidential candidates are disliked by most. Coalitions don’t form in these times. But some of elements of future coalitions can be glimpsed. The affection of some conservatives for Vladimir Putin is of great note, not because much will come of it, but because it points to the direction that the U.S. might move in the coming decade.”
To paraphrase something we wrote in December 2015 in Primal Desire, Wayne Gretzky Dictum:
- “So the next time Donald Trump says something that you find strange, do not react out of emotional ignorance and call him names. Look at his move from a Gretzky angle and ponder whether that is yet another place where the sentiment will follow Trump”
This is particularly applicable to TV anchors like MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough who openly laughed at Donald Trump about Russia & Putin without understanding the deeper & innovative rationale. Look Joe. there is now a formal conservative nationalist movement that supports what Trump has been saying. And take a look Joe, even President Obama has signed up to Trump’s suggestion and is now working with Putin to come to a solution in Syria.
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