Can Russia stand by as Trump goes after China?

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January 9, 2017 – Fort Russ – 

Rostislav Ishchenko, RIA Analytics – translated by J. Arnoldski – 

After the Electoral College’s vote, a definite end has finally been put to the question of Donald Trump’s election as US president. The Pentagon has received a note from the incumbent president set to be inaugurated on January 20th, 2017 with an outline of his defense priorities. Now the leaders of the military have [less than] a month to adapt to new strategic priorities.

Virtually all observers have noted that for the first time in five years, Russia has not been included on the list of US defense priorities after having served honorary first place among the major threats to the United States during the last two years of Obama’s presidency. The American hawks have already managed to show how upset they are over this and promise that Trump will not be able to just walk away from the policy of confrontation with Moscow. The resistance in the Pentagon, Senate, and House of Representatives of Congress is supposed to be more than serious.

I think that, in this case, they are exaggerating the possibility of opposition to Trump’s course of compromise with Russia. If the American elites were not inclined to the opinion that the policies of the liberal globalists, whose political face was Hillary Clinton, had exhausted itself, then Trump would not have become president.

We’ve seen how the group of radical globalists united around Soros and who are attempting to prevent Trump from coming to power, have turned out to be absolutely marginalized. Even the part of the elite that bet on Clinton’s victory did not support the radicals. This means that the US political elite has agreed to the necessity of changing foreign policy priorities.

Therefore, Trump’s initiative will, of course, be faced with bureaucratic resistance, but not at all such a strong one as pessimists assume.

Danger threatens from the other side. For the first time in recent years, China has been listed as one of the main threats among the US’ defense priorities. Combined with Trump’s already voiced economic demands to Beijing, as well as the tough diplomatic gesture that the US is not obliged by any conditions to observe the principle of “one China”, this means that Trump has taken the course of confrontation with China in all spheres. 

We can expect increased military confrontation between Washington and Beijing in the Pacific Ocean as a whole and in the South China Sea in particular. The combination of contradictions in this region is no less complex than in the Middle East, and the situation could deteriorate to a hazardous state in almost an instant.

Moreover, Russia is interested in maintaining good relations with practically all potential parties to such a conflict. Trump’s demonstrative willingness to seek compromise with Moscow takes the US off of the list of opponents here as well.

At the same time, however, China remains an ally of Russia. Even though military-political commitments have not been laid out in a separate agreement, on the level of the heads of states’ statements and concrete actions (especially in the last two years), these allied relations have actually been strengthened.

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What’s more, we are brought together with China by more than signed formal papers. As is known, when a contract becomes inconvenient, there is always the possibility of refusing to fulfill it. But this is not the case. All Russian political and economic projects in Eurasia are built on the assumption that, in the coming decades, China will remain one of the leading economies on the planet. If the Chinese economy collapses (and Trump’s plan presumes such a result), then Chinese-European trade will stop and with it will also end the transit flows through Russian territory. 

Trump’s plan is built on restoring American economic might by means of returning production to the US from China, as well as by liquidating the unequal trade turnover between the two countries. Roughly speaking, Trump wants the goods now produced by the Chinese in American enterprises on Chinese territory that are then sold to the Americans and Europeans, to be produced and sold to Americans from factories returned to US territory. At the same time, this would add tax revenue to the American budget. 

It is not difficult to understand that if this happens, then the Americans won’t need to drive through Russia. Their commodity flows to Asia will go through the Pacific Ocean and to Europe through the Atlantic. And it won’t be Russian trains and cars taking them there, but American merchant ships. There is no doubt that if Trump will be able to return the US’ status as the world’s workshop, then not only trade, but also political relations in the world will center around the US. 

It is for this reason why Trump’s program was accepted by the American elites and why the globalists, who truly believed that Russia is weaker than China and that they could achieve success on this front with more ease, were mistaken. It became clear that Washington could perish together with Moscow in a nuclear war, but still the former would not be in a position to defeat Russia.

Trump simply proposed to try his luck on the Chinese front. His program proceeds on the basis that China can be beaten easier. But just as the hypothetical fall of Russia predetermined the fall of China (which is why Beijing supported Moscow in its confrontation with Washington), so does the hypothetical fall of China determine, if not the fall of Russia, then its isolation and relegation to the level of a regional power. 

Trump is ready, as a compromise, to recognize Russian interests in the zones completely destroyed by the globalists (Ukraine, Syria, perhaps Eastern Europe) as well as in Central Asia, which in the case of China’s subjugation would become the deep global periphery. These “gains” demand huge investments, but would be incapable of churning a profit in the event that the US manages to consolidate the rest of the world around itself. 

Therefore, Moscow can in no way stand by and watch as Trump tries to destroy its strategic partner in Asia.

Russia’s activity on the China front is unlikely to please America. Given the traditions of Washington diplomacy, we can expect the employment of the “linkage” method. Agreements achieved on the European and Middle Eastern fronts will be the result of Russia offering the US a free hand in the Chinese direction. But as has already been said, Moscow cannot take such a step. This means that the long-term, comprehensive settlement of Russian-American contradictions will lag. Of course, the new administration’s rhetoric will be more moderate and, sure, the military-political pressure on Moscow will be reduced (Trump needs resources for reforms in the US and for confronting China), but the problems will not be resolved, only postponed until later when the US solves the Chinese question.

In any case, as long as China is on the list of the American administration’s military priorities, even if Washington demonstrates friendliness towards Russia, there can be no talk of the US refraining from aggressive policies of global hegemony. Instead, we are dealing with a transfer of the main blow from the Russian to the Chinese flank. 

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This means that we can feel temporary relief only deceptively. This does not reduce the common threat. 

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