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General News    H3'ed 7/24/18

Tomgram: Michael Klare, Trump's Grand Strategy

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This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

If you don't happen to be part of Donald Trump's base and you're a member of the "fake media," it's a commonplace to assume that our president is a creature of impulse, a giant id with hardly rhyme, no less reason for what he does. News headlines and those of opinion columns tell the story: "Trump is incapable of seeing past his own ego"; "The Potemkin policies of Donald Trump, the simplest summary of White House economic policy to date is four words: there is no policy"; "World Leaders have figured it out: you can play America by playing Trump's ego"; "Quick takes: 'Trump is pure raging authoritarian id'"; "America must deal with Donald Trump, the first rogue president"; "Donald Trump is proving too stupid to be president." Let me stop there, but believe me, I wouldn't have to. And whether you're of the left, the center, or (as in several cases above) the right, you would undoubtedly have a point if you had written such pieces, given the mad spectacle of these months. Still, it might be worth thinking of such headlines less as a commentary on that spectacle and far more as part of it. These days, reporters and pundits, addictively focused on The Donald, increasingly seem like but another part of the Trumpian id released upon the world.

And since Donald Trump has, after his own fashion, smashed the ship of state directly into that same media and changed the landscape of our world of "information," he's also made an endless range of journalists and pundits into something new: actors on his planet. If you don't believe me, watch Wolf Blitzer "interviewing" -- which means mostly ranting to -- Senator Rand Paul, who is defending the president, and tell me that we're not in a new id-ified world of reportage.

In such a world of id-sters, it's also possible that something important is being missed. Perhaps the way to think about it (and our president) is in this fashion: if there's madness to his method (and there is), that doesn't mean that there isn't method to his madness. Read TomDispatch regular Michael Klare today and tell me that isn't possible. Klare suggests that, when it comes to global policy in relation to Russia, China, and the European Union, there has always been a distinct Trumpian method to those mad displays of his. Tom

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Entering a 1984 World, Trump-Style
Or Implementing the Sino-Russian Blueprint for a Tripolar World Order
By Michael T. Klare

The pundits and politicians generally take it for granted that President Trump lacks a coherent foreign policy. They believe that he acts solely out of spite, caprice, and political opportunism -- lashing out at U.S. allies like Germany's Angela Merkel and England's Theresa May only to embrace authoritarian rulers like Russia's Vladimir Putin and North Korea's Kim Jong-un. His instinctive rancor and impulsiveness seemed on full display during his recent trip to Europe, where he lambasted Merkel, undercut May, and then, in an extraordinary meeting with Putin, dismissed any concerns over Russian meddling in the 2016 American presidential election (before half-walking his own comments back).

"Nobody knows when Trump is doing international diplomacy and when he is doing election campaigning in Montana," commented Danish defense minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen following the summit. "It is difficult to decode what policy the American president is promoting. There is a complete unpredictability in this."

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While that reaction may be typical, it's a mistake to assume that Trump lacks a coherent foreign-policy blueprint. In fact, an examination of his campaign speeches and his actions since entering the Oval Office -- including his appearance with Putin -- reflect his adherence to a core strategic concept: the urge to establish a tripolar world order, one that was, curiously enough, first envisioned by Russian and Chinese leaders in 1997 and one that they have relentlessly pursued ever since.

Such a tripolar order -- in which Russia, China, and the U.S. would each assume responsibility for maintaining stability within their own respective spheres of influence while cooperating to resolve disputes wherever those spheres overlap -- breaks radically with the end-of-the-Cold-War paradigm. During those heady years, the United States was the dominant world power and lorded it over most of the rest of the planet with the aid of its loyal NATO allies.

For Russian and Chinese leaders, such a "unipolar" system was considered anathema. After all, it granted the United States a hegemonic role in world affairs while denying them what they considered their rightful place as America's equals. Not surprisingly, destroying such a system and replacing it with a tripolar one has been their strategic objective since the late 1990s -- and now an American president has zealously embraced that disruptive project as his own.

The Sino-Russian Master Plan

The joint Russian-Chinese project to undermine the unipolar world system was first set in motion when then-Chinese President Jiang Zemin conferred with then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin during a state visit to Moscow in April 1997. Restoring close relations with Russia while building a common front against U.S. global dominance was reportedly the purpose of Jiang's trip.

"Some are pushing toward a world with one center," said Yeltsin at the time. "We want the world to be multipolar, to have several focal points. These will form the basis for a new world order."

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This outlook was inscribed in a "Joint Declaration on a Multipolar World and the Establishment of a New International Order," signed by the two leaders on April 23, 1997. Although phrased in grandiose language (as its title suggests), the declaration remains worth reading as it contains most of the core principles on which Donald Trump's foreign policy now rests.

At its heart lay a condemnation of global hegemony -- the drive by any single nation to dominate world affairs -- along with a call for the establishment of a "multipolar" international order. It went on to espouse other key precepts that would now be considered Trumpian, including unqualified respect for state sovereignty, non-interference in the domestic affairs of other states (code for no discussion of their human rights abuses), and the pursuit of mutual economic advantage.

Yeltsin would resign as president in December 1999, while Jiang would complete his term in March 2003. Their successors, Vladimir Putin and Hu Jintao, would, however, continue to build on that 1997 foundational document, issuing their own blueprint for a tripolar world in 2005.

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)
 

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