Donald Trump’s reckless, disjointed foreign policy has played right into the hands of Russian President Vladimir Putin, leading his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to declare today that “the Western, liberal model of society is dying.”
Lavrov made the comments at his annual meeting with students and professors at the Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy, according to a report in Russian propaganda outlet TASS picked up by Tsarizm, a Russia-focused Web site.
The boast has less to do reality and more to do with propaganda, but in politics the perception of reality often has its own currency.
An objective examination easily refutes Larvov’s claim, but there’s no question about who’s actions are underpinning the boast–Donald Trump.
Trump has followed a scattershot approach to foreign policy, but one consistent theme has emerged time-after-time–his unbridled support for Putin, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and other anti-Democratic strongmen.
At the same time, Trump has complained repeatedly about NATO, despite a fundamental lack of knowledge about how the organization works, and undermined relations with the Western Democracies with his so-called “America First” foreign policy.
He’s unraveled the Western alliance by trashing or undermining key treaties like the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the Paris Agreement on global warming and the Iran Nuclear Treaty. All are back by NATO members.
He’s also imposed, or threatened to impose tariffs on long-standing allies like Canada and Germany that only end up punishing U.S. consumers.
In the Far East, he’s engaged in another ruinous trade war with China and coddled up to North Korea’s dictator, who humiliated him at their Hanoi summit in February.
The outcome, widely considered “disastrous” among foreign policy experts everywhere, except, perhaps, Fox News, should come as no surprise.
In typical fashion, Trump showed up in Hanoi with “no plan, no preparation, no coordination with allies” and left with “no deal,” according to Foreign Policy magazine.
In the Middle East, Donald Trump has delegated foreign policy to his son-in-law Jared Kushner. He’s tilted U.S. policy heavily toward Israel, in an effort to bolster right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In the process he’s alienated key Arab states and set back Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Kushner’s relationship with Saudi Arabia and other Arab oil states seems clearly driven by the needs of his cash-strapped real estate business.
Trump’s handling of the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul is a stain on American foreign policy that will take years to erase.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his close aides faced absolutely no repercussions for Khashoggi’s death, despite evidence linking them by U.S. intelligence agencies.
In the meantime, Trump tried to all but cede Syria and Iraq to Russia and Iran. His impromptu call for a complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Syria was immediately walked back by the Pentagon.
Fortunately, the Western alliance is resilient enough to withstand his assaults, but that hasn’t stopped Russia from having a propaganda field day on Trump’s destabilizing antics.
Lavrov’s statements are the latest example
“The Western liberal model of development, which particularly stipulates a partial loss of national sovereignty – this is what our Western colleagues aimed at when they invented what they called globalization – is losing its attractiveness and is no more viewed as a perfect model for all. Moreover, many people in the very western countries are skeptical about it,” Lavrov said.
“The US and its allies are trying to impose their approaches on others,” Lavrov noted. “They are guided by a clear desire to preserve their centuries-long dominance in global affairs although from the economic and financial standpoint, the US – alone or with its allies – can no longer resolve all global economic and political issues,” he said.
“In order to preserve their dominance and recover their indisputable authority, they use blackmail and pressure. They don’t hesitate to blatantly interfere in the affairs of sovereign states.”
His comments were in line with Putin’s own pronouncements on U.S. influence abroad.
Last October, the hard-line Kremlin boss bragged about the decline of America under Trump and the resurgence of Russian influence around the world. Putin particularly bragged about growing relationships in Asia and the Middle East, where America, under previous presidents, held the upper hand.
Trump was clearly the foil of Putin’s annual foreign policy speech. He referenced Trump’s disruptive influence around the world as part of his “America First” campaign pledge.
“Building up tension and hysteria is not our way . . . We are not creating problems for anyone,” Putin asserted. “I hope we can build dialogue.”
The overarching theme of Putin’s remarks at the annual Valdai Forum was that the United States was responsible for most global ills and had created “opportunities” for Russia and its allies.
He portrayed Trump as a mistake-prone leader. “Empires often think they can make some little mistakes . . . because they’re so powerful,” he said. “But when the number of these mistakes keeps growing, it reaches a level they cannot sustain.” he said.
That fact that Trump plays so neatly into the Russian propaganda has led some to call the president a “Russian agent,” or worse, a traitor. Trump may be more of a Russian stooge, but that’s because his interests are focused elsewhere–lining his own pockets.
After two years in office, Trump has virtually made the White House an adjunct of the Trump Organization. His focus has been on making millions of dollars through his Washington, D.C. hotel, his Florida redoubt, Mar a Lago, and his various golf clubs.
His one central obsession for at least the past decade has been to build a Trump tower in Moscow, a deal worth potentially hundreds of millions of dollars.
The project is so important to him, Trump continued to negotiate with Putin’s government right through the 2016 election, according to his own lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
Trump’s long-time lawyer and reputed “fixer,” Michael Cohen testified before Congress in February that Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump were regularly briefed about a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow. Trump Jr. claimed before Congress, however, that he was only “peripherally aware of it,” according to Vox News.
In all, Cohen said he briefed Trump Jr. and Ivanka about the proposed Trump Tower Moscow project at least 10 times during the 2016 election, according to his testimony.
Trump’s obsession can be traced back almost a decade, back to a time when he owned the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA beauty pageants.
In an elaborate bid to curry favor with the Russian government, Trump in 2013 cut a deal with a Russian oligarch to stage the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.
Aras Agalarov, the billionaire owner of the Crocus Group, a huge real estate development company, paid the Trump Organization a $20 million “fee” to stage the show, according to widely published reports.
It was during the event, that Trump bragged in an interview about having a “relationship” with Putin. He lobbied heavily to meet the Kremlin boss, but the meeting never came off.
Some of the more salacious claims about Trump’s conduct alleged occurred during the pageant. They surfaced in the so-called “Steele Dossier,” an intelligence report on Trump’s Russian involvement prepared by former British spy Christopher Steele.
The 2013 pageant was also reportedly part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump associates, or Trump himself, colluded with Russian intelligence to help him win the 2016 US presidential election.
The investigation, which wrapped up earlier this month, reportedly cleared Trump and his campaign of “criminal conduct” arising out of Russian involvement in the election, according to a controversial summary of Mueller’s report presented by newly appointed Attorney General William Barr.
But details about the extent of the campaign’s involvement with Russia and Trump’s push for the Moscow Tower project have yet to be made public.
In the end, Trump may be America’s first true Oligarch, cast in the mold of Putin, Kim Jong Un and other hard-line dictators. In that sense, his actions can be easily explained. He’s in it for the money.
Trump is trying to wring every penny he can out of his presidency, while it lasts. If there’s any doubt about the true direction of his foreign policy, just check to see how it aligns with the Trump Organization’s interests.
He’s selling out Western Democracies for his own personal gain. The lasting monument to his presidency may well be a Trump Tower in Moscow.