What is Trump Thinking: The Putin Summit

There is a feeling in the North Atlantic community that US President, Donald Trump, “The Donald” has out done himself in the last few weeks.

First, he blisters his closest allies at the recent NATO summit, and then cozies up to Russian dictator, Vladimir Putin, and throws his intelligence services under the election interference bus. Given his seemingly brash behavior at the June G-7 Summit in Canada maybe it should not have come off as much of a surprise. Any casual observer of world affairs is almost certainly scratching their head trying to conjure up the US President’s motives and strategic goals. Some question his intelligence and his sanity. In a month and a half, Trump has announced a questionable ‘nuclear deal’ with North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, left his Pacific allies wondering if it is time to ‘nuke up’ and arm with nuclear weapons, he is on the verge of several trade wars, including one with Canada, and many would argue just about tore apart the NATO alliance and damaged the US-UK special relationship. It boogles the mind how one US President could create so much international commotion in such a brief time. In my opinion, Trump’s summit with Vladimir Putin was despicable. He has the seeming appearance of the swaggering, ugly American, unilateralist that people tend to hate and grossly under estimate all at the same time.

Donald Trump is not a likeable character. He is a ruthless deal-making corporate giant that thrives on power and success on every front, especially when under estimated and loathed. A very astute friend and mentor asked me today “what do you think the Russians have on him,” sadly my first thought was that Donald Trump can’t be embarrassed or bullied. Here is the rub. Trump for all his warts might be playing a game to pull Russia and China apart where the long-game is to contain or isolate an ever growing and powerful China. As unlikely as it seems, the US alliance system in the Pacific, Middle East, and Europe even if ‘beaten and bruised’ is greatly strengthened by Russian acquiescence or support. A deal with Putin is a game changer and I am not suggesting that it will be pretty for people on the front-line of Russian aggression in Europe. This does not bode well for Ukraine. It is the risk-taking big gamble that Donald Trump loves and that suits him most, and it is further strengthened by the ‘balance of power bandwagoning’ that Trump has created in its wake. The Donald’s ‘bull in a china shop’ diplomacy is either going to succeed or it is going to crash and burn in a one-term Presidency. Cozying up to and appeasing dictators like Vladimir Putin is a dangerous game, but it is a gamble Trump is willing to take.


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