President Trump shows a Churchillian pugnacity

Geopolitical Notes From India

M D Nalapat

Say this for Hillary Clinton, she built (along with her husband Bill and daughter Chelsea) a superb campaign machinery working for her. Their reach was not just domestic but global, with key figures in the “Hillary for President” movement being in regular contact with diplomats, officials and experts from different countries, including the UK, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia, China and Russia. Of course, as Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s real task is to remove Donald Trump from office through concocting a case of entrapment, sexual and financial misconduct or collusion or whatsoever against the 45th President of the world’s most consequential country, he has not shown any interest in Hillarygate, nor indeed has the Trump administration, except for fiery words about the lady and her doings by a handful of aides who are genuine supporters of Trump.
The majority of key members of the Trump administration are “supporters by happenstance”, that being the need to profess loyalty to the billionaire in order to retain the high offices to which he has appointed them. And from the comfort of their suites of rooms and retainers, many (especially in the foreign policy field) have worked at sabotaging Trump’s vision of a 21st century Indo-Pacific world that no longer enshrines Russia as a hate object, the way the world’s largest country has been since Moscow under Marshal Stalin played a decisive role in the 1945 defeat of Adolf Hitler and the German Empire he led to such destructive effect, including the elimination of millions of the most productive human beings on the planet. Whether it be Defence Secretary Mattis or US Ambassador to the Middle East Nikki Haley, they continue to follow a doctrine that since at least the past two decades has benefitted only the European Union at the cost of core US interests, more and more of which are getting aligned to Asia and to the Indo-Pacific, which was first defined by this columnist as being the totality of the Indian and Pacific oceans and not simply slices of the two water bodies.
The EU as a construct was backed by three powers that in effect subsidized the entity, two of which were Germany and the UK, whose taxpayers met the bill for most of the other members of the European Union. The other is the US, which has hugely benefitted the EU through its military muscle as well as its negotiating strengths in fora in which Washington goes by what the EU seeks rather than ( as with Trump) just those outcomes which benefit the US rather than any other country or group of countries. Small wonder that the stately chancelleries of the EU dislike Donald Trump intensely, and in private (and sometimes in public) belittle and disparage the 70-year old who seems to have got the 21st century right in a manner that far younger politicians in the US have not
After a comfortable flight from Delhi to Washington via Abu Dhabi on Etihad Airlines, it became clear from talks with friends that even more heavily than the snow, what is raining down on what will still be for a few years more the capital of the world’s biggest economy is a torrent of abuse of President Trump, mainly focussing on Russia. The US President is accused of congratulating Putin on what Senartor John McCain (who has from start of his political career hewed closely to the EU line on strategic policy, as have Clintons and most of the Congressional leadership of Republican Party) calls a “rigged” mandate. This ignores the reality of Putin being far and away the most popular politician in Russia, in large part because he is seen as an individual who has not buckled down to dictation by NATO.
Refusing to join hands with the US and the EU in geopolitical errors that have had the effect of boosting the strength of terrorist groups in the Middle East, instead backing those who may be authoritarian, Putin has made Moscow as important a player in the Arab region as it was during the 1960s, before the 1967 war enshrined Israel as being far and away the most powerful military power in the Middle East. Since then,Moscow has been in retreat in the region, only regaining lost ground from 2011 onwards, when it refused to follow the Sarkozy-Hollande-Clinton-Blair – Cameron consensus and support groups that were in effect were paving the way for radical groups to take over, as indeed Daesh did during that period, only retreating under attack from Moscow and its allies in Teheran and Damascus, although the Pentagon and the State Department have claimed credit for the victory.
This is similar to the way in which Hollywood (and official histories in the NATO zone) grabs for the US, the UK and even France (whose contribution to the war against Hitler’s armies was non-existent) the credit for defeating the German armies, when in fact the responsibility for that vested in the Russian forces. Despite casualties in the tens of millions, that force and the people behind the troops managed to overpower the German war machine and finally bring it to surrender. Soon afterwards, former followers of Hitler were not simply pardoned but placed in authority in Germany in order to challenge the Soviet Union and bring it to collapse, a feat that was achieved by the cowardice of Khruschev, the over-bureaucratisation of the Brezhnev years and the final surrender of Moscow’s interests to NATO by Mikhail Gorbachev
The attack on Donald Trump is unprecedented in its decibel level and coverage. News channel after news channel spends the bulk of its airtime regurgitating criticism of the President by an army of “experts”, each eager to ensure that the policies of the past return in their old virulence to the abodes of government in Washington. A standard issue politician may have wilted under the strain of such fire, but Trump seems to be ignoring the barrahe. Indeed, with every month the President seems to be gaining confidence in the wisdom of his own intuitive and businesslike approach to US policy, standing firm against advice to surrender his positions and adopt those of his foes. On the way from Abu Dhabi to Washington, this columnist watched “The Darkest Day”, a movie about Winston Churchill and how the British Prime Minister resisted those who wanted him to surrender to Hitler. His foes may be furious at comparison, but these days, President Trump is showing a Churchillian pugnacity and defiance of multiplying advice and threats from Washington Beltway to back away from his policies and adopt those of his 2016 opponent, Hillary Rodham Clinton
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.

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