HELSINKI WASN’T GREAT
BUT IT WAS A START
Of course, one could ask if we have a national interest, by their definition.
For that matter, are we even a nation?
One particularly lewd cartoon making the rounds on Facebook shows the Russian bear mounting and having its way with a prostrate Donald Trump.
It’s the latest entry in a seemingly endless flood of invective by which crudity passes for political sophistication…
See? We told you the big fool was Putin’s whore.
Now, I have to admit that the Helsinki summit wasn’t The Donald’s finest hour. And it appears that most people agree (by 58-to-40 percent in one post-summit poll).
That’s a shame. Trump had delivered a firm and timely scolding to our NATO allies for their over-reliance on American largess, and his message seems to have had an impact. But he was out-classed by Putin, that sly old KGB conniver.
The Donald looked uncertain — unprepared, winging it, a little nervous — trying to dismiss Russian election mischief. All well and good that he said Putin’s denial was “strong.” You don’t call the head of state a liar to his face.
But since whatever happened back in 2016 occurred on his predecessor’s watch (as this graphic currently circulating online notes), Trump could have stressed that our intelligence folks are keeping a sharper eye on things now.
That would have credited the CIA, NSA and all of our other spooks toiling away in purposeful obscurity. It would have been a point to which Putin could have nodded good-naturedly.
Trump relies heavily on his own instincts, and I tend to believe the criticism that he doesn’t listen very closely to his advisors. But then, his instincts have proven pretty good, for the most part. And anyway, a leader has to keep in mind that not all advice is worth listening to. Even when it comes from those whose views are usually reliable.
On top of that, Trump’s made a lot of hay out of the fact that he does things in unconventional, undiplomatic ways.
I’d like to think he sat down with Putin in private and said something along the lines of…
“Okay Vlad, you show me what you consider Russia’s sphere of vital interest, and I’ll show you ours. That’ll let us keep out of each other’s way so we can both concentrate on stopping China from buying up Amazon.com and snatching all those hot properties across the street from the Kremlin.”
This sort of horse trading may smack of old-fashioned, great-power imperialism. But it’s the kind of deal Donald Trump should be good at making.
Of course, who can say that something like this didn’t happen? Media reaction to what’s being described as the latest Trump calamity has been so hysterical that we can’t really know what passed between The Donald and He-of-the-Sociopathic-Stare.
The reaction of George Will, a writer of style and elegance whose perspective has been profoundly skewed by Trump’s election, captured the mainstream view of Helsinki. Naturally, he captured it elegantly…
“Like the purloined letter in Edgar Allan Poe’s short story with that title, collusion with Russia is hiding in plain sight. We shall learn from Robert Mueller’s investigation whether in 2016 there was collusion with Russia by members of the Trump campaign. The world, however, saw in Helsinki something more grave — ongoing collusion between Trump, now in power, and Russia. The collusion is in what Trump says (refusing to back America’s intelligence agencies) and in what evidently went unsaid (such as: You ought to stop disrupting Ukraine, downing civilian airliners, attempting to assassinate people abroad using poisons, and so on, and on).”
This comes from someone who’s widely regarded as a conservative (though of the Never-Trump variety).
A startlingly opposite view was presented by Angelo Codevilla, a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute…
“The high professional quality of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin’s performance at their Monday press conference in Helsinki contrasts sharply with the obloquy [defamation] by which the bipartisan U.S. ruling class showcases its willful incompetence ….”
Codevilla, who once taught diplomacy at Boston University, thought both presidents spoke clearly and effectively, expressing the basic premises on which discussion between the two superpowers must be based…
“Putin: The Cold War is ancient history. Nobody in Russia (putting himself in this category) wants that kind of enmity again. It is best for Russia, for America, and for everybody else if the two find areas of agreement or forbearance.
“Trump: Relations between the globe’s major nuclear powers have never been this bad — especially since some Americans are exacerbating existing international differences for domestic partisan gain. For the sake of peace and adjustment of differences where those exist and adjustment is possible, Trump is willing to pay a political cost to improve those relations ….”
Did George Will and Angelo Codevilla watch the same press conference?
Ever since his campaign, The Donald has insisted…
Getting along with the Russians is a good thing.
This would appear to echo his predecessor’s view. Recall the famous 2012 live-mike incident where Obama promised then-Russian President Dmitri Medvedev he would have “more flexibility” to negotiate after the election.
Conservatives called that collusion. Those on the left, however, thought it was all just ducky, because this was the Great O speaking.
Ever confident, Trump has declared Helsinki “a great success,” is anticipating another Putin get-together, and dismisses criticism by the media — which he calls (with some justification) “the real enemy of the people.”
As reported by MEDIAite, The Donald tweeted…
“I look forward to our second meeting so that we can start implementing some of the many things discussed, including stopping terrorism, security for Israel, nuclear proliferation, cyber attacks, trade, Ukraine, Middle East peace, North Korea and more. There are many answers, some easy and some hard, to these problems…but they can ALL be solved!”
Alright, Mr. dealmaker, go ahead and solve them. The country will accept a little collusion — for peace.
Here’s a current meme suggesting that Trump’s performance in Helsinki was treasonous. I don’t know who created it, but clearly this person has an active fantasy life…
Sometimes the way Trump expresses himself doesn’t help his supporters to make his case — as this clever (if slightly hostile) online graphic illustrates…
Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post examines the effect of Trump’s meeting with Putin, and finds that it vastly improves the prospects for peace, especially in the Middle East. She also offers insight into why The Donald’s domestic enemies have latched onto the idea that his words and behavior in Helsinki constitute treason…
“The Democrats and their allies in the media use the accusation that Trump is an agent of Russia as an elections strategy. Midterm elections are consistently marked with low voter turnout. So both parties devote most of their energies to rallying their base and motivating their most committed members to vote.
“To objective observers, the allegation that Trump betrayed the United States by equivocating in response to a rude question about Russian election interference is ridiculous on its face. But Democratic election strategists have obviously concluded that it is catnip for the Democratic faithful. For them it serves as a dog whistle ….
“The problem with playing domestic politics on the international scene is that doing so has real consequences for international security and for US national interests.”
George Will used the occasion of Helsinki to take some very broad swipes at Donald Trump, even bringing up his old tax forms. But Never-Trumpism tends to bring out the nasty streak in even the most stylish and elegant of writers — to wit…
“America’s child president had a playdate with a KGB alumnus, who surely enjoyed providing daycare. It was a useful, because illuminating, event: Now we shall see how many Republicans retain a capacity for embarrassment.”
Contrast Will’s vituperation with Angelo Codevilla’s nuanced assessment of the Trump-Putin summit…
“Though I voted for Trump, I’ve never been a fan of his and I am not one now. But, having taught diplomacy for many years, I would choose the Trump-Putin press conference as an exemplar of how these things should be done. Both spoke with the frankness and specificity of serious business. This performance rates an A+.”