US President Donald Trump shocked G7 leaders with his explanation that Crimea belongs to Russia because residents of the peninsula speak Russian. But what was behind this thinking? In short, the Trump administration is a reflection of the US’s shrinking power relative to rising regional hegemons around the world.
During a G7 dinner on June 8th, Trump also called Ukraine one of the most corrupt countries in the world and questioned why the leaders of the Group of Seven support the country, according to numerous diplomatic sources, and reported by numerous news agencies around the world.
It was unclear whether Trump was sending mixed signals, or signaling a change in US government policy, given that the White House did not respond to the request for comment. However, it would not be incoherent to deduce that Trump’s saying that EU countries should not support Ukraine means that Ukraine should drift back to it’s pre-1990’s position as a part of the ‘then’ Eurasian Union, when it was known as the USSR.
At the same time, Trump seems to be unique, compared to other European leaders, in understanding that the point of diplomacy and organizations like the G7, is to be able to have structures and vehicles which are conducive to grievance airing, problem solving, and face-t0-face communications which are critical to potential threats, and are universally regarded to be a major part of deconfliction models.
And so last week, before leaving for Canada, Trump told reporters that it would be good to readmit Russia to the G7. He repeated that position later in an interview with Fox News after the summit.
Leaders from the leading advanced economies of the G7 – the United States, Germany, Japan, the UK, France, Italy and Canada – gathered in Quebec for a two-day annual summit on June 8 and 9. The group used to be called the G8 before Russia’s accession was suspended in 2014 after the outbreak of the Ukrainian crisis.
The Crimea separated from the Ukraine and returned to Russia in the spring of 2014, when more than 97% of the peninsula’s residents voted in favor of reunification in a referendum.
Speaking to Fox, Trump explained his position, noting that Russia’s presence in a group consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, would allow these countries, and especially the world’s two biggest nuclear powers, to not just discuss but actually to address the pressing issues of the day.
“Now I think I would probably have a good relationship with him or I will be able to talk to him better than if you call somebody on the telephone to talk,” Trump said, referring to Vladimir Putin, in an interview on board Air Force One.
“I will tell you, as an example, if he were at that meeting I could ask him to do things that are good for the world, that are good for the country, that are good for him.”
There are a number of possible reasons for these statements, but among them are the fact that Trump is already looking forward to the November 2018 midterm elections that will see nation-wide races for congress. Trump is trying to create a new type of Republican Party which fuses elements of the social-conservatism that Republicans have championed since the rise of the Christian Right in the US, with elements of economic populism that appeals to the American working class. He has also made inroads into the African American communities across the US, especially in media and entertainment, where he has long-held good relations with industry giants.
Geopolitics is an area that separates him most from neo-con politicians, whether they operate under the ‘Democrat’ or ‘Republican’ brands. Trump in the past has considered himself a Democrat, and for nearly a decade between 2001 and 2009 was a card carrying member of the Democrat Party. However, his running as a Republican seems to be due to the fact that the Clinton crime syndicate cornered control of the Democrat Party, and also because his simplified ‘America First’ brand of populism would better position him for success in blue state strongholds.
The US can no longer manage its empire in its present form, and due to emerging technologies alongside emerging regional hegemonic powers in parts of the globe which the US used to have control over, the US under Trump appears to be looking to reorient American power projection. In doing so, Trump appears to want to right-size US imperialism, based upon its actual economic situation relative to the emergent multi-polar reality.
This requires an ideological sea-change, and an entire change in the mentality of US elites who have conflated economic growth, competitiveness, and success with a militarily driven global empire. The American concept of a global economic empire is borrowed from the British, and even in terms of conventional thinking of empires, there has been no lack of projecting the present conceptions of empire backwards into the past. In the old paradigm of thinking, US military strategists would consider, for example, a land-invasion of Asia, in order to stop a perceived Chinese threat. China, however, would never consider a military attack upon Los Angeles or San Francisco, despite their proximity to China, as China sees these as emergent Chinese cities.
Today in these two US cities, businesses in Chinatown readily and happily accept Chinese Yuan as legal tender.
Multipolarity is a reality that the Trump administration reflects as much as it, in an awkward and at times incoherent way, promotes. It may appear at first a strange and bizarre twist of fate, that an apparently ego-driven billionaire conservative would be the US leader at the head of state, to realize and recognize the present situation where the US’s power around the world is in steady decline, and adjust official policy to that fact.
Pushing for a recognition that Crimea is Russia also builds bargaining positions with the Russians, it does not discourage these. Ideally, Trump would like to get Russia on board with exerting friendly pressure on both the EU and China to leave Latin America as the US’s ‘backyard’.
Transatlanticism as an economic policy – while it involved the trade of goods and services – was more akin to a military policy. It was a ‘cost of doing business’, but the business was based in the theory of containing Russia. Transatlanticism was costly, and combined three economic concepts – financialization and speculation of the entire physical economy, deficit spending, and a type of fractional reserve banking which required next to no reserves.
If Russia could not be further divided into about ten more mutually hostile republics within a certain time-frame (i.e., the Balkanization of the Russian Federation), then Transatlanticism would ultimately fail. That time-frame appears to have been at around the 2007 US market crash. For the last dozen years, up until Trump, the US has doubled-down on its fictional economic model, rather than attempting to unwind it.
For these reasons and others, it appears that a silent but powerful group of US insiders including representatives and owners of the industrial economy and military elite (generals, intelligence officers, etc.) backed Trump in order to approach a more rational ‘right-sizing’ of US power, adjusted to today’s multipolar reality.