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The Trump Doctrine Takes Shape In Eastern Ukraine

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Yesterday, the Trump Administration’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, threw down a gauntlet against recent Russian aggression in Eastern Ukraine. She also insisted that the official Trump position on the issue of Crimea mirrored that of the preceding Obama Administration. Despite the panicked ruminations of the Mainstream Western press, President Donald Trump made clear that he is no Russian stooge with this official position on Russian irredentism in Ukraine:

“The United States continues to condemn–and call for an immediate end–to the Russian occupation of Crimea. Crimea is a part of Ukraine. Our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control over the peninsula to Ukraine.” – U.S. ambassador the United Nations, Nikki Haley speaking on 2 February 2017 (see video below for the whole statement).

So, does this move signal that the U.S. and Russia are headed on an irrevocable path toward war? If the two sides become intractable, it could very well eventuate into a conflict.

However, what is more likely is that we are witnessing the successful implementation of a Trump Doctrine for U.S. foreign policy. It is slated to be unlike anything that we’ve seen in our lifetimes from an American president. Make no mistake, it will be a beautiful thing to behold. But, it is liable to make things a tad messy–something that should send our globalist elites all atwitter. It will be predicated on three things: reassuring our allies, deterring our enemies, and protecting America.

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In particular, I believe that UN Ambassador Haley’s remarks are the start of a negotiation that only Donald Trump could successfully engage in. President Trump has consistently stated his belief in “America First.” He has regularly displayed his commitment to this policy in the first week of his presidency. Couple this  with Trump’s constant critiques of his predecessor’s weakness in foreign affairs, and you have yourself a pretty good snapshot of what’s going on.

In his classic book, “The Art of the Deal,” Trump said the following:

“My style of deal-making is quite simple and straightforward. I aim very high, and then I just keep pushing and pushing to get what I’m after.”

Taken together, then, we can begin to get a snapshot of the Trump Doctrine of America First through strength in foreign affairs and an unwillingness to compromise American national interests. Trump is looking to reduce America’s involvement in Europe while at the same time preventing the Russians from running roughshod over the region (as that would make America look bad and constitute a major diplomatic defeat for the Trump Administration).

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Russian troops on the move near Eastern Ukraine. Image courtesy of Business Insider.

Plus, as a proponent of defending Western culture from outside forces, Mr. Trump’s national security team (among them Stephen K. Bannon), likely has an interest in ensuring that European states are protected against the imperial conquests of Neo-Eurasianist Russia.

There has been some concern that President Trump is not being forthright with the American people and the world about his intentions in foreign affairs. Yet, as per his constant critiques of previous American presidents, Mr. Trump is insistent on not revealing key strategies in public, so as to telegraph to America’s enemies what he is about to do. As I have noted, Donald Trump (whether he realizes it or not), is a fierce practitioner of the OODA Loop. The OODA Loop requires its practitioners to keep opponents off-balance until the OODA Loop practitioners can achieve their goals.

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The complete OODA Loop, as drawn by Colonel Boyd’s most-trusted aide in the 1970’s. It’s far more complex than simple speed (and it is more than a simple loop).

While the White House will not confirm that it supports Ambassador Haley’s statements at the UN, you can rest assured that these statements were not made without having been run by key players in the White House (likely President Trump himself). Trump is seeking to make the Mother-of-all-Deals (outside of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal) with Russia in Europe. He must square an almost-impossible circle: getting Vladimir Putin to abandon his dreams of returning the former Soviet space back to Russian control.

Indeed, shortly before the Trump Administration’s UN ambassador made her strong statements on February 2, the Trump Administration had lifted critical sanctions imposed upon the Russian intelligence agency known in the West as the “FSB.” This, I believe, is a signal to the Russians; it is a classic example of the carrot-and-stick approach to diplomacy. Trump does not want to destroy Russia, but he understands that it is not in America’s interests to allow for Russia to rehabilitate its old empire in Europe.

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It is clear that Mr. Trump fundamentally understands–to use an old George W. Bush aphorism–that Mr. Putin is running a full house off of a pair. Eventually, someone is going to have to call his bluff. Donald Trump is only trying to call Mr. Putin’s bluff without actually going to war. This is where Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’ military readiness plans come into play.

As I have documented at The Weichert Report, Russia is weakened (compared to its Soviet incarnation), but it is not going anywhere. What’s more, the Russians will try and challenge the Trump Administration early on in his administration. If you ask me, it would seem that the Russian agitations in Eastern Ukraine in the last week were signs that Vladimir Putin was starting to ratchet up the pressure on the West.

While the Western media busied itself with fantastical tales of Donald Trump as a Manchurian Candidate, Mr. Trump was proving his bona fides by laying the groundwork for one of the most comprehensive strategies for checking Russian aggression that I’ve seen.

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Unlike previous administrations, who were either taken off-guard by Russian irredentism or had no solution (other than make empty threats, thereby inducing Putin toward greater levels of aggression), the Trump Administration seems intent on meeting the Russians head-on. However, I believe, that the goal is not to war with Russia. Rather, the goal is to create enough stability in Europe that America’s allies are reassured and the Russians are deterred from further aggression.

Or, as Angelo Codevilla writing over American Greatness recently said:

“Putin has played his weak hand masterfully. While he has pushed only against mostly open doors, entirely too many doors from the Baltic to the Mediterranean have been open. The doors leading to the Atlantic are ajar and undefended politically as well as militarily. Putin has moved to the edge of resistance. But serious resistance has been lacking. This means that circumstances and opponents’ incompetence, as much or maybe more than Putin’s willfulness, may make of Russia a Eurasian hegemon inimical to America’s interest.”

Taking this into account, the Trump Administration seems resolved to back up its allies in Europe. However, at the same time, the Trump Administration is unlikely to allow for the status quo to resume. NATO and other groups in Europe dedicated to collective security will have to play their role. The reason is simple: the U.S. under a President Trump is unlikely interested in the indefinite commitment to defending Europe from Russia.

What is likely at stake is that Mr. Trump is seeking an agreement with Mr. Putin on where to draw Russia’s borders in Europe. At the same time, Mr. Trump is seeking to pull back America’s open-ended commitment to Europe (at least until the Europeans agree to recognize his concerns over NATO and the EU).

There is little doubt, though, that the Trump Administration has made its position on Russia known. It will continue the previous American administration’s goal of curbing Russian revanchism. Also, the Trump Administration has stated that it does not recognize Russia’s position in Crimea as legitimate.

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While preventing Russian aggression in Eastern Ukraine is likely Trump’s goal, reversing Putin’s claims on Crimea seems unlikely.

However, unlike previous administrations, the Trump position is not inflexible. If Putin agrees to whatever deal Trump has in mind, then the position will change. This is a calculated opening salvo in what is to be a long-running negotiation between the United States and the Russian Federation.

The goal here is conflict mitigation through a show of resolve coupled with a tempered reduction in force levels. This, I believe, will signal to the Europeans that they need to start doing more toward defending themselves. If Trump can remind the Europeans how essential strength is in the face of Russia–and can let them know that he will not abide by an open-ended commitment to Europe–then the Europeans might stand up, and pick up the slack. America can then retract itself from (while still providing critical support to) Europe.

In the end, the ball will be in Putin’s court as to whether he decides to play the game or not. If Putin remains inflexible, it will back Trump into a corner. Mr. Trump will not likely abide by Russian bullying. Thus, a shooting war would be far greater. However, if Putin can see that Trump is signaling his desire for a more constructive relationship, based on mutual respect, then Trump’s overall goal of “America First” can be put into practice.

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America First does not mean American retreat from the world. It simply means that America gets some real backup from its purported allies. If the Europeans want American help in resisting Russia, then they will have it. But, if they expect America to resist Russia for them, then it is not in America’s interest.

Make no mistake, however, a revitalized Russia moving into Eastern Europe, threatening the rest of Europe, is not a viable alternative. If Trump can negotiate a settlement whereby Putin surrenders his claims to Eastern Ukraine (and all other territories possessed of ethnic Russians), then he will have averted a major war and preserved America’s interests. Whether or not Putin surrenders Crimea is another story. The key, however, must be to permanently (or, at least, as permanently as possible) defuse the Russian time bomb of aggression along Eastern Europe’s borders without alienating Putin and Russia. This is a task that Mr. Trump’s unique deal-making is singularly suited for.

Look out, everyone, a Trump Doctrine is forming. And it is going to keep everyone off-balance…all so that America can prosper.

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