Trump Stands His Ground on Putin By Patrick J. Buchanan

Trump Stands His Ground on Putin

Friday – July 20, 2018

“Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

Under the Constitution, these are the offenses for which presidents can be impeached.

And to hear our elites, Donald Trump is guilty of them all.

Trump’s refusal to challenge Vladimir Putin’s claim at Helsinki — that his GRU boys did not hack Hillary Clinton’s campaign — has been called treason, a refusal to do his sworn duty to protect and defend the United States, by a former director of the CIA.

Famed journalists and former high officials of the U.S. government have called Russia’s hacking of the DNC “an act of war” comparable to Pearl Harbor.

The New York Times ran a story on how many are now charging Trump with treason. Others suggest Putin is blackmailing Trump, or has him on his payroll, or compromised Trump a long time ago.

Wailed Congressman Steve Cohen: “Where is our military folks? The Commander in Chief is in the hands of our enemy!”

Apparently, some on the left believe we need a military coup to save our democracy.

Not since Robert Welch of the John Birch Society called Dwight Eisenhower a “conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy,” have such charges been hurled at a president. But while the Birchers were a bit outside the mainstream, today it is the establishment itself bawling “Treason!”

What explains the hysteria?

The worst-case scenario would be that the establishment actually believes the nonsense it is spouting. But that is hard to credit. Like the boy who cried “Wolf!” the establishment has cried “Fascist!” too many times to be taken seriously.

A month ago, the never-Trumpers were comparing the separation of immigrant kids from detained adults, who brought them to the U.S. illegally, to FDR’s concentration camps for Japanese-Americans.

Some commentators equated the separations to what the Nazis did at Auschwitz.

If the establishment truly believed this nonsense, it would be an unacceptable security risk to let them near the levers of power ever again.

Using Occam’s razor, the real explanation for this behavior is the simplest one: America’s elites have been driven over the edge by Trump’s successes and their failure to block him.

Trump is deregulating the economy, cutting taxes, appointing record numbers of federal judges, reshaping the Supreme Court, and using tariffs to cut trade deficits and the bully pulpit to castigate freeloading allies.

Worst of all, Trump clearly intends to carry out his campaign pledge to improve relations with Russia and get along with Vladimir Putin.

“Over our dead bodies!” the Beltway elite seems to be shouting.

Hence the rhetorical WMDs hurled at Trump: Liar, dictator, authoritarian, Putin’s poodle, fascist, demagogue, traitor, Nazi.

Such language approaches incitement to violence. One wonders if the haters are considering the impact of the words they are so casually using. Some of us yet recall how Dallas was charged with complicity in the death of JFK for slurs far less toxic than this.

The post-Helsinki hysteria reveals not merely the mindset of the president’s enemies, but the depth of their determination to destroy him.

They intend to break Trump and bring him down, to see him impeached, removed, indicted and prosecuted, and the agenda on which he ran and was nominated and elected dumped onto the ash heap of history.

Thursday, Trump indicated that he knows exactly what is afoot, and threw down the gauntlet of defiance:

“The Fake News Media wants so badly to see a major confrontation with Russia, even a confrontation that could lead to war. They are pushing so recklessly hard and hate the fact that I’ll probably have a good relationship with Putin.”

Spot on. Trump is saying: I am going to call off this Cold War II before it breaks out into the hot war that nine U.S. presidents avoided, despite Soviet provocations far graver than Putin’s pilfering of DNC emails showing how Debbie Wasserman Schultz stuck it to Bernie Sanders.

Then the White House suggested Vlad may be coming to dinner this fall.

Trump is edging toward the defining battle of his presidency: a reshaping of U.S. foreign policy to avoid clashes and conflicts with Russia, and the shedding of Cold War commitments no longer rooted in the national interests of this country.

Yet, should he attempt to carry out his agenda — to get out of Syria, pull troops out of Germany, take a second look at NATO’s Article 5 commitment to go to war for 29 nations, some of which, like Montenegro, most Americans have never heard of — he is headed for the most brutal battle of his presidency.

This Helsinki hysteria is but a taste.

By cheering Brexit, dissing the EU, suggesting NATO is obsolete, departing Syria, trying to get on with Putin, Trump is threatening the entire U.S. foreign policy establishment with what it fears most — irrelevance.

For if there is no war on, no war imminent, and no war wanted, what does a War Party do?

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US establishment has gone mad. The swap is on fire. CrossTalk: Apocalyptic Reaction The very idea of a Trump-Putin summit was controversial from the start. They met in Helsinki and essentially agreed the U.S. and Russia should at least engage in dialogue. Much of the media and the foreign policy swamp reacted with an apocalyptic meltdown. Has the establishment lost its mind? CrossTalking with Michael O’Hanlon, Mary Dejevsky, and Daniel Faraci.

Brilliant! Trump wants the world to get along. Sees other countries as competitors not enemies. Trump attacks US ‘foolishness’ heading into Putin showdown

Lehtikuva/AFP / Heikki Saukkomaa
US President Donald Trump arrived in Helsinki ahead of a summit with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin after taking a break from diplomacy on his own Scottish golf club

President Donald Trump headed into his first summit with Vladimir Putin on Monday determined to forge a personal bond with the Kremlin chief and adamant that only “stupidity” by prior administrations had brought US-Russian ties to their present low.

Hours before the Helsinki summit, Trump was asked if he would press Putin over Russia’s alleged manipulation of the 2016 election that brought the mercurial property tycoon to power. He said only: “We’ll do just fine.”

Democrats had called for the summit’s cancellation after new revelations surrounding the election meddling. But Trump has insisted it is “a good thing to meet”, as he attempts to replicate with Putin the sort of personal rapport he proclaims with the autocratic leaders of China and North Korea.

If his instinct proves right and the pair find common ground, then the summit may take the heat out of some of the world’s most dangerous conflicts including Syria.

But the Washington-Moscow rivalry has rarely been more bitter, and there are many points of friction that could yet spoil Trump’s hoped-for friendship.

Trump began the day’s talks by meeting Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto, who has loaned his harbour-front palace for the occasion. But first he took a moment to fire a Twitter broadside at his domestic opponents, blaming the diplomatic chill on the investigation into Russian election meddling.

“Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!” Trump tweeted.

After a stormy NATO summit in Brussels last week, Trump was accused by critics of cosying up to Putin while undermining the alliance.

But, over breakfast with Niinisto, he insisted NATO “has never been stronger” and “never been more together” thanks to his insistence on all allies paying their fair share.

With Washington and Moscow at loggerheads over Ukraine, Iran and trade tariffs as well as Syria, even Trump has cautioned that he is not approaching the Putin summit “with high expectations”.

The 72-year-old brash billionaire has been president for 18 months, while the former KGB officer, 65, has run Russia for the past 18 years.

In an interview with CBS News that aired before he touched down in Helsinki, Trump admitted that Russia remains a foe, but he put Moscow on a par with China and the European Union as economic and diplomatic rivals.

AFP / FRANCK FIFE Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, shown here alongside an ecstatic French President Emmanuel Macron, was due in Helsinki after hosting the World Cup final

The Kremlin has also played down hopes that the odd couple will emerge from their first formal one-on-one summit with a breakthrough.

Putin, who played host at the World Cup final in Moscow on Sunday and was due to arrive in Finland later Monday, has remained terse in the run-up to the summit.

On Friday his adviser Yuri Ushakov also played down expectations, saying: “The state of bilateral relations is very bad…. We have to start to set them right.”

– Giving up ground? –

Indeed, after the bad-tempered NATO summit and a contentious trip by Trump to Britain, anxious European leaders may be relieved if not much comes out of the Helsinki meeting.

Those leaders are already fuming over Trump’s imposition of trade tariffs on various countries, including Russia.

European Union President Donald Tusk called on the United States, China and Russia to work together to cool the global trade tensions, warning that they could spiral into violent “conflict and chaos”.

For their part, protesters have been on the streets of Helsinki to denounce the policies of both Trump and Putin. Greenpeace draped a giant banner down a church tower urging: “Warm our hearts not our planet.”

Trump is also under pressure from Britain to press Putin over the nerve agent poisoning of four people in the city of Salisbury.

One of the victims, Dawn Sturgess, has died and her 19-year-old son Ewan Hope told the Sunday Mirror newspaper: “We need to get justice for my mum.”

– Extradition demand? –

Many fear that Trump — in his eagerness to prove that he was right to seek the summit with Putin despite US political opposition — may give up too much ground.

Ahead of the talks, Trump has refused to personally commit to the US refusal to recognise Russia’s annexation of Crimea, leaving open the possibility of a climb-down linked to a promise by Putin to somehow rein in Iranian influence in Syria.

If Washington were to de facto accept Russia’s 2014 land-grab, this would break with decades of US policy and send tremors through NATO’s exposed eastern flank.

And there will be outrage at home if Trump does not confront Putin over the election scandal.

But the US leader would not say whether he would demand the extradition of 12 Russian intelligence officers who were indicted last week by US special prosecutor Robert Mueller, for allegedly hacking Trump rival Hillary Clinton’s computer server.

Is a Coming NATO Crisis Inevitable? By Patrick J. Buchanan”A frustrated Trump has already hinted he may accept Russia’s annexation of Crimea as he accepted Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem.”

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Of President Donald Trump’s explosion at Angela Merkel’s Germany during the NATO summit, it needs to be said: It is long past time we raised our voices.

America pays more for NATO, an alliance created 69 years ago to defend Europe, than do the Europeans. And as Europe free-rides off our defense effort, the EU runs trade surpluses at our expense that exceed $100 billion a year.

To Trump, and not only to him, we are being used, gouged, by rich nations we defend, while they skimp on their own defense.

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At Brussels, Trump had a new beef with the Germans, though similar problems date back to the Reagan era. Now we see the Germans, Trump raged, whom we are protecting from Russia, collaborating with Russia and deepening their dependence on Russian natural gas by jointly building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline under the Baltic Sea.

When completed, this pipeline will leave Germany and Europe even more deeply reliant on Russia for their energy needs.

To Trump, this makes no sense. While we pay the lion’s share of the cost of Germany’s defense, Germany, he said in Brussels, is becoming “a captive of Russia.”

Impolitic? Perhaps. But is Trump wrong? While much of what he says enrages Western elites, does not much of it need saying?

Germany spends 1.2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense, while the U.S. spends 3.5 percent. Why?

Why — nearly three decades after the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, the crackup of the Soviet Union and the overthrow of the Communist dictatorship in Moscow — are we still defending European nations that collectively have 10 times the GDP of Vladimir Putin’s Russia?

Before departing Brussels, Trump upped the ante on the allies, urging that all NATO nations raise the share of their GDPs that they devote to defense to 4 percent.

Brussels may dismiss this as typical Trumpian bluster, but my sense is that Trump is not bluffing. He is visibly losing patience.

Though American leaders since John Foster Dulles in the 1950s have called for a greater defense effort from our allies, if the Europeans do not get serious this time, it could be the beginning of the end for NATO.

And not only NATO. South Korea, with an economy 40 times that of North Korea, spends 2.6 percent of its GDP on defense, while, by one estimate, North Korea spends 22 percent, the highest share on earth.

Japan, with the world’s third-largest economy, spends an even smaller share of its GDP on defense than Germany, 0.9 percent.

Thus, though Seoul and Tokyo are far more menaced by a nuclear-armed North Korea and a rising China, like the Europeans, both continue to rely upon us as they continue to run large trade surpluses with us.

We get hit both ways. We send troops and pay billions for their defense, while they restrict our access to their markets and focus on capturing U.S. markets from American producers.

We are giving the world a lesson in how great powers decline.

America’s situation is unsustainable economically and politically, and it’s transparently intolerable to Trump, who does not appear to be a turn-the-other-cheek sort of fellow.

A frustrated Trump has already hinted he may accept Russia’s annexation of Crimea as he accepted Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem.

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And he appears earnest about reducing our massive trade deficits in goods that have been bleeding jobs, plants, equipment, capital and technology abroad.

The latest tariffs Trump has proposed, on $200 billion worth of Chinese-made goods, would raise the price of 40 percent of China’s exports to the U.S. and begin to shrink the $375 billion trade surplus Beijing ran in 2017.

Trump said upon departing Brussels he had won new commitments to raise European contributions to NATO. But Emmanuel Macron of France seemed to contradict him. The commitments made before the summit, for all NATO nations to reach 2 percent of GDP for defense by 2024, said Macron, stand, and no new commitments were made.

As for Trump’s call for a 4 percent defense effort by all, it was ignored. Hence the question: If Trump does not get his way and the allies hold to their previous schedule of defense commitments, what does he do?

One idea Trump floated last week was the threat of a drawdown of the 35,000 U.S. troops in Germany. But would this really rattle the Germans?

A new poll shows that a plurality of Germans favor a drawdown of U.S. troops, and only 15 percent believe that Germany should raise its defense spending to 2 percent of GDP.

While Trump’s pressure on NATO to contribute more is popular here, apparently Merkel’s resistance comports with German opinion.

Since exiting the Iranian nuclear deal, President Trump has demanded that our European allies join the U.S. in reimposing sanctions. Now he is demanding that the Europeans contribute more to defense.

What does he do if they defy us? More than likely, we will find out.