This article was written for the Unz Review: http://www.unz.com/tsaker/risks-and-opportunities-for-2017/
Just a few days into 2017 and we can already say with a great degree of confidence that 2017 will be a historical year. Furthermore, I submit that 2017 will be the “Year of Trump” because one of roughly three things will happen: either Trump will fully deliver on his threats and promises, or Trump deliver on some, but far from all, his threats and promises or, finally, Trump will be neutralized by the Neocon-run Congress, media, intelligence community. He might even be impeached or murdered. Of course, there is an infinity of sub-possibilities here, but for the purpose of this discussion I will call the first option “Trump heavy”, the second one “Trump light” and the third one “Trump down”. Before discussing the possible implications of these three main options, we need to at least set the stage with a reminder of what kind of situation President Trump will be walking into. I discussed some of them in my previous analysis entitled “2016: the year of Russia’s triumph” and will only mention some of the key outcomes of the past year in this discussion. They are:
- The USA has lost the war against Syria. I chose my words carefully here: what initially had many aspects of a civil war almost immediately turned into a war of aggression by a very large coalition of countries under the leadership of the United State. From the creation of the “Friends of Syria”, to covert support of the various terrorist organizations, to the attempts at isolating the Syrian government, the United States rapidly took control of the “war against Assad” and they now “own” that defeat. Now it is Russia which is in full control of the future of Syria. First, the Russians tried to work with the USA, but it soon became impossible, and the Russians concluded in utter disgust that the US foreign policy was run not from the White House or Foggy Bottom, but from the Pentagon. The Pentagon, however, completely and abjectly failed to achieve anything in Syria and the Russians seem to have come to the amazing conclusion that they can simply ignore the USA from now on. Instead they turned to the Turks and the Iranians to stop the war. This is an absolutely amazing development: for the first time since WWII the USA have become irrelevant to the outcome of a conflict which they greatly contributed to create and perpetuate: having concluded that the Americans are “non-agreement capable” (недоговороспособны) the Russians won’t even try to oppose US efforts, they will simply ignore them. I believe that the case of Syria will be the first and most dramatic but that in the future the same will happen elsewhere, especially in Asia. That is a situation which no American had to face and it is very hard to predict how Trump will adapt to this completely new situation. I am cautiously optimistic that, as a good businessman, Trump will do the right thing and accept reality for what it is a focus his efforts and resources on a few critical issues/regions rather than further pursuing the Neocon’s pipe dream of worldwide “full-spectrum dominance”. But more about that later.
- Europe is in a state of total chaos. As I have written it many times, instead of the Ukraine becoming like Europe, it is Europe which became like the Ukraine: simply unsustainable and doomed to failure. The European crisis is a massive and multi-layered one. It is, of course, an economic crisis, but that crisis is made worse by a political one, which itself is compounded by a profound social crisis and, as a result, the entire EU system and the elites which used to run it are now facing a fundamental crisis of legitimacy. As for the European politicians, they are far more busy denying the existence of the crisis rather than dealing with it. The United States which for decades carefully fostered and nurtured an entire generation of spineless, narrow-minded, neutered and infinitely subservient European “leaders” is now facing the unpleasant outcome that these European politicians are as clueless as blind puppies and that they simply have no policy and no vision whatsoever as to what to do next: they are all locked into a short term survival mode characterized by a quasi total tunnel vision which makes them oblivious to the environment they are operating in. A continent which produced the likes of Thatcher, de Gaulle or Schmidt now produces vapid non-entities like Hollande or Cameron. Trump will thus inherit a de-facto colony completely unable to manage itself. And, just to make things worse, while that colony’s comprador “elites” has no vision and no policy, at the same time it is deeply hostile to Donald Trump and in full support of his Neocon enemies. Again, this is a situation which no American President has ever faced.
- Russia is now the most powerful country on the planet. I know, I know, the Russian economy is relatively small, Russia has plenty of problems and just a year ago Obama dismissed Russia as a “regional power” while McCain referred to her as a “gas station masquerading as a country”. What can I say? – these two imbeciles were simply wrong and there is a good reason, plenty in fact, why Forbes has declared Putin the most powerful man on earth for four consecutive years. And it’s not just because the Russian armed forces are probably the most powerful and capable ones on earth (albeit not the largest ones) or because Russia has successfully defeated the USA in Syria and, really, the rest of the Middle-East. No, Russia is the most powerful country on earth because of two things: Russia openly rejects and denounces the worldwide political, economic and ideological system the USA has imposed upon our planet since WWII and because Vladimir Putin enjoys the rock-solid support of about 80%+ of the Russian population. The biggest strength of Russia in 2017 is a moral and a political one, it is the strength of a civilization which refuses to play by the rules which the West has successfully imposed on the rest of mankind. And now that Russia has successfully “pushed back” others will inevitably follow (again, especially in Asia). This is also a completely new situation for the next American President who will have to operate in a world where defying Uncle Sam is not only not a death sentence any more, but might even be seen as rather trendy.
- China is now locked into a strategic alliance with Russia which is something unique in world history. Unlike past alliances which could be broken or withdrawn from, what Putin and Xi did is to turn their countries into symbionts: Russia basically depends on China for many goods and services while China depends on Russia for energy, defense, aerospace and high-tech (for those interested in this topic I would recommend the excellent White Paper Larchmonter445 wrote for the Saker blog on this topic: The Russia-China Double Helix). As a result, Russia and China today are like a type of “Siamese twins” which have separate heads (political independence and their own governments) but which share a number of organs vital for both heads. This means that even if Russia/China wanted to “dump China/Russia” in exchange for a rapprochement with the USA she could not do that. To my knowledge nothing similar has ever happened before. Never have two (ex-) Empires decided to remain separate but fully integrated into each other. No grand charter, no big alliance, no solemn treaty was ever signed to make this happens, only huge number of (comparatively) small(er) contracts and agreements. And yet they have quietly achieved something absolutely unique in history. What this means for the USA is that they cannot count on their favorite divide et impera strategy to try to rule the planet because that strategy simply cannot work any longer: even if the Russian and Chinese leaders got themselves into a heated dispute they could not undo what has now been done. The integrationist momentum between China and Russia could probably only be stopped by a war, and that is simply not happening. Right now Trump is making a lot of provocative gestures towards China, possibly in the hope that if the USA normalizes relations with Russia China would find itself isolated. But isolating China is just as impossible as isolating Russia, and provoking China is simply a non-starter. For the first time since WWII the next American President will have to come to terms that in the Russia-China-USA triangle it is the USA which is the weakest and most vulnerable party.
- Iran is too powerful to be bullied or submitted. It is true that Iran is far weaker than Russia or China and that Iran is not a major international player. However, I would argue that Iran is a formidable regional superpower which can probably single-handedly take on any combination of regional countries and prevail against them, even if at a great cost. Just like Russia, Iran is protected by a perfect combination of geography and advanced armed forces. Oh sure, Iranian capabilities are not quite on par with US or Russian ones, but they powerful enough to make Iran an extremely tough and dangerous target to attack. Many years ago, in distant 2007, I wrote an article entitled “Iran’s asymmetrical response options” which is now clearly dated but primarily in the sense that since 2007 Iran has become even more dangerous to attack, be it by the USA, Israel or a combo of both. Would Russia and/or China go to war with the USA in case of a US/Israeli attack on Iran? No. But there would be very severe political consequences to pay for the USA: a guaranteed veto in the UNSC (even if US forces are targeted in the KSA or in the Strait of Hormuz), political, economic and possibly military support for Iran, intelligence support for Iranian operations not only in Iran, but also in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, an upgrade of the currently semi-official relations with Hezbollah and support for the Lebanese Resistance. But the main “weapon” used against the USA would be informational – any attack will be vehemently opposed by the Russian media and the western blogosphere sympathetic to Russia: this is exactly the scenario which the US and NATO fear so much: lead by RT and Sputnik, a US-bashing campaign in the social media. This is a new reality for 2017: we are not used to the notion that Russia also has any type of “soft power”, in this case political soft power, but the fact is that these Russian capabilities are both real and formidable and this is why the Neocons blame both the Brexit and the victory of Trump in the USA on the “Kremlin propaganda machine”. While there is no such “machine”, there is an active blogosphere and non-US media space out there on the Internet which seems to be powerful enough to at least encourage a type of “rebellion of the serfs” of the Neocon leaders of the Empire. The bottom line is this: the USA has lost its informational monopoly on the planet and the next US President will have to compete, really compete, to convince and rally to his views and agenda.
How will Trump deal with these fundamentally new challenges?
If it is “Trump down” then we will have something very similar to what we had with Obama: a lot of broken promises and lost hopes. In practical term, the USA will then return to what I would call the “consensus policies of the AngloZionist Empire”, which is what we have had since at least Bill Clinton and which every four years becomes “same old, same old, only worse”. If Trump is impeached or murdered we could witness an internal explosion of unrest inside the USA which would absorb most of the time and energy of those who tried to removed him. If Trump proves to be all talk and no action, we will go right back to the situation with Obama: a weak Presidency resulting in various agencies “doing their own thing” without bothering to check what everybody else is doing. This would be a disaster both inside and outside the USA. The most likely outcome would be a rather brutal, sudden and irreversible crash of the AngloZionist Empire. Should a “President Pence” ever happen the risks of thermonuclear war would immensely soar right back up to what they were before the election. That is by far the worst option for everybody.
“Trump light” is probably the most likely option to actually happen. Make no mistake, even though I call it “Trump light”, big things could still happen in this case. First and foremost, the US and Russia could decide to deal with each other on the basis of self-interest, common sense, realism and mutual respect. Just that could be quite revolutionary and a radical departure from the anti-Russian policies of the USA since Bill Clinton (and, really, since the end of WWII). However, the collaboration between Russia and the USA would not be global, but rather limited to some specific issues. For example, the USA and Russia could agree on joint operations against Daesh in Syria, but the US would not put a stop to the current US/NATO policy of escalation and confrontation against Russia in Europe. Likewise, the Neocon run Congress would prevent any real US-Russian collaboration on the issue of the Ukraine. This option would be far less than what some hardcore Trump supporters are hoping for, but still something infinitely better than Hillary in the White House.
While probably less likely, it is “Trump heavy” which could really usher in a fundamentally new era in international relations. In this case, Russia and the USA would hammer out a number of far reaching deals in which they would jointly take action to solve key issues. The theoretical possibilities are nothing short of amazing.
First and foremost, the USA and Russia could completely overhaul the European security by reviving and modernizing the cornerstone of European security: the Conventional Forces Europe (CFE) treaty. The US and Russia could negotiate a new CFE-III treaty and then use it as a basis to settle all the outstanding security issues in Europe thereby making a war in Europe de-facto impossible. Such a deal would be immensely beneficial to the entire continent and it would mark the beginning of a completely new era for Europe. The only real losers would be the western MIC and a few rabid and otherwise useless states (Latvia, Poland, etc.) whose only valuable export commodity is russophobic paranoia. However, as in every case when war, potential or actual, is replaced by peace, the vast majority of the people of Europe would benefit from such a deal. There would be some tough and delicate negotiations needed to finalize all the details, but I am comfortable that if Russia is given some real, verifiable security guarantees the Kremlin would order a stand-down of Russian forces west of the Urals.
Second, the USA and Russia could jointly take action to stop the civil war in the Ukraine, turn the Ukraine into a federal state with a large autonomy granted to all the regions of the Ukraine (not just the Donbass) and declare that a non-aligned and neutral Ukraine will be the cornerstone of the new European security system. If Russia and the USA agree on that, there is nothing the Ukie Nazis or the European could do to prevent it. Frankly, just as irresponsible and stupid teenagers don’t get to participate in adult decisions, the EU and the junta in Kiev should be told that they are now done creating a disaster and that adults have had to step in to stop the nightmare from getting even worse. I bet you that such an approach would get the support of many, if not most, Ukrainians who are now truly fed up with what is going on. Most Europeans (except the political elites, of course) and most Russians would welcome the end of the Ukrainian clusterf*ck (sorry, but that is an accurate descriptor).
The USA has lost a lot of relevance in the Middle-East. Still, they have enough power to actually make a useful contribution to the destruction of Daesh, especially in Iraq. While Russia, Iran and Turkey probably can impose some type of settlement of the war against Syria, having the American support, even if just a limited one, could be immensely useful. CENTCOM is still very powerful and to have a joint Russian-US campaign to crush Daesh could be most beneficial to the entire region. Having the Russians and the Americans finally intelligently and sincerely collaborate with each other would be a very new and fascinating thing to watch and I am pretty sure that the servicemen on both side would very much welcome this opportunity. The Middle-East does not have to be a zero-sum game, but the next US President will have to understand that the US are now a junior partner of a much bigger coalition. That is the price you pay for having an idiot in the White House for eight years.
Needless to say, if the Americans and the Russians successfully work with each other in Europe, the Ukraine and the Middle-East this would mark a dramatic departure from the “tepid war” which took place between Russia and the USA during the disastrous Obama Presidency.
Alas, there is the rather distressing issue of Trump’s catering to the US Israel Lobby and his stupid and delusional anti-Iranian rhetoric. If Trump keeps up with this nonsense once in the White House he will simply lock himself out from any real deal in the Middle-East. Furthermore, knowing the rabid russophobia of the Neocons, if Trump bows to their demands on Iran, he will probably also have to severely curtail the scope of US-Russian collaboration in Europe, the Ukraine and elsewhere. The same goes for Trump constant China-bashing and provoking: if Trump really and sincerely believes that the USA is in a position to bully China then he is headed for some very painful disillusionments. The time when the USA could bully or intimidate China has long past and all Trump would do is fail against China in the same way Obama failed against Russia.
This, in my opinion, is THE key question of the Trump Presidency: will the USA under Trump accept that the US world hegemony is over once and for all and that from now on the USA will be just one major player amongst other major players? Yes, America, the country, not the Empire, *can* be made “great again” but only if by giving up on the Empire and accepting to become a “regular”, albeit still major, country.
If the US establishment continues to operate on the assumption that “we’re number one”, “the US military is the most powerful in world history” or that the “USA is the indispensable nation” which has to “lead the world” then the Trump Presidency will end up in disaster. Messianic and imperialist ideas have always lead their carriers to catastrophic failure and the USA is no exception. For one thing, the messianic and imperialist mindset is always profoundly delusional as it always favors ideology over reality. And, as the expression goes, if your head is in the sad, your ass is in the air. One of the biggest advantages which Russia and China have over the United States is that they fully realize that they are in many ways weaker than the USA. And yet, paradoxically, that awareness is what makes them stronger at the end of the day.
It should therefore become a top priority of President Trump to ditch the infinitely arrogant attitude so typical of the Neocons and their Trotskyite forefathers (both physical and ideological) and replace it with an acute awareness for the need to only engage in policies commensurate with the actual capabilities of the USA. Fact-based realist politics have to replace the current imperial hubris.
Likewise, it should also become a top priority of President Trump to purge the US elites form the toxic cabal which has taken it over: just like the main threat to President Putin is the Russian 5th column, I strongly believe that the biggest threat to President Trump will be the Neocon-controlled US 5th column in the USA, especially in Congress, the media, Hollywood and the intelligence community. The Neocons will never gracefully give up or otherwise accept that the American people have shown them to the door. Instead, they will do what they have always done: engage in a vicious hate campaign against Trump himself and against those who dared vote for him. Right now, Trump is clearly trying to appease them by throwing them a bone here and there (Pence, Priebus, Friedman, Iran bashing, etc.) which, I suppose, is fair enough. But if he continues to zig-zag like that once in the White House then he doesn’t stand a chance against them.
Michael Moore has just called for “100 days of resistance” following the Trump inauguration. While Moore himself is more of a (very talented) clown, that kind of initiative can end up becoming trendy, especially amongst the thoroughly zombified US Millennials and the butt hurt pseudo “liberals” who simply cannot and will not accept that Hillary has lost. We should never underestimate the capabilities of the Soros agents to start a color revolution inside the USA.
The US ‘deep state’ is also a powerful and immensely dangerous enemy whose options to oppose a “Trump Heavy” outcome include not only murdering Trump himself, but also to create another 9/11 false flag inside the USA, possibly one involving nuclear materials, and use it as a pretext to impose some kind of state of emergency.
Finally, and as always, there are the banks (in a general sense, including insurances, investment funds, etc, – all the financiers basically) who will fight a re-sovereignization of the United States with everything they got. Normally, I use the expression “re-sovereignization” to describe what Vladimir Putin has tried to do in Russia since 2000: the process of wrestling the real power from a small trans-national elite, return it to the people of Russia and making Russia a truly independent and sovereign country. The same concept, however, also applies to the USA whose people have clearly become the hostages and the serfs of a small elite, actually less than 1%, which is in full control of the real centers of power. A lot of that control, most of it really, is concentrated in various financial institutions which really control all the branches of government in the USA. Some call them “Corporate USA”, or “USA, Inc,” but really we are dealing with financiers and not with corporations who actually make a living by offering goods and services. The real levels of corruption in the USA and probably higher than anywhere on the planet simply because of the immense sums of money involved. The corrupt parasites (literally) who run this money-making machine will do everything in their power to prevent a return to power of the American people and they will never allow “one man – one vote” to replace the current “one dollar – one vote”.
It is ironic, of course, that Trump himself, and his entire entourage, come from these financial elites. But it would be a mistake to simply assume that if a person comes from one specific milieu he will always like and support it. Che Guevara was a medical doctor from a fairly well-off family of Argentinian bourgeois. Oh, I am not comparing Trump to the Che! I am just saying that the theory of class consciousness sometimes has interesting exceptions. At the very least, Trump knows these people very well and he might be the ideal man to break their current monopoly on power.
Making predictions for a year like 2017 when most outcomes depend on what a single person might or might not do is rather futile. At best, this is an exercise is simple statistical luck. Those who will make correct predictions will, of course, look good and those who predictions will not materialize will look bad. But, in reality, they are all currently equally clueless. This is why I chose to speak of risks and opportunities and to look at at least three rough “Trump variants”. Still, there are processes in which Trump and the USA are crucial or, at least, central, but there are others where they matter a whole lot less. So, in conclusion, I will hazard of few guesses and submit them to you with all the imaginable caveats about probably being wrong. This being said, here we go.
First, I think that there is a good chance that Russia, Iran and Turkey will succeed in stopping the war against Syria. The country will remain unitary, but with pretty clear zones of influence and with a government which will include Assad, but also representatives of the opposition. Syria is far too big and too diverse to ever enjoy the type of peace Chechnia enjoys today, so at best we can hope for the kind of semi-peace which Dagestan has endured for the past years. It won’t be perfect, not by a long shot, but the absolute horror will stop.
Second, I think that Poroshenko will lose power this year. The Nazi-occupied Ukraine has survived on a mix of momentum (there was still a lot of wealth left from the Soviet era) and western assistance. Both are now coming to a full halt. Furthermore, there are increasing signs that the Ukrainian armed forces are now so busy simply surviving in the field that they have become basically incapable of meaningful combat operations. Should some particularly deluded nationalist volunteer battalion or political leader order an attack on Novorussia the Ukrainians are likely to suffer a major defeat followed by a liberation of the currently Nazi-occupied territories of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. And this time around, if that happens, the Novorussian will have the means to liberate Mariupol and hold on to it without being cut-off from the Donbass by a Ukrainian flanking counter-attack. Finally, if Poroshenko is replaced by even more lunatic elements Russia might decide to recognize the independence of the Lugansk and Donetsk Republics which, in turn, would inevitably result in a referendum in these republics to join Russia. EU politicians will have a fit, Poland and Estonia will declare a Russian invasion imminent, but Russia will simply ignore them all. As for Trump, he is most unlikely to do much about this either, especially considering that the Ukie Nazis were 100% behind Hillary and dismissed him as a total joke. The last and only chance the “Independent Banderastan” has to avoid this outcome is to finally fully and totally implement the Minsk-2 Agreement, to basically self-dissolve. Will the crazies in Kiev have the wisdom to understand that? I very much doubt it. But who knows, maybe God will take pity on the people of the Ukraine and give them the strength to get rid of the Banderite rot which has brought so much misery upon them.
That leaves me with one area of great concern to me: Latin America.
This has not often been noticed, by Latin American is the one realm of US foreign policy where Obama has been rather successful, at least if you support the subjugation of Latin American by the USA: Castro is gone, Chavez is gone, possibly murdered, Christina Kirchner is gone, President Dilma Rousseff has been overthrown in a parliamentary coup and it appears that the same fate will now befall Nicholas Maduro. Very significantly, Cuba has agreed to a deal which will give the USA a great deal more leverage over the future of the island-state. True, Evo Morales, Rafael Correa and Daniel Ortega are still in power, but the undeniable fact that the Latin American political heavyweights have fallen. Will Trump change the US policy towards Latin America? I very much doubt that, if only because “if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it”. And from an US imperialist point of view, the current policy ain’t broke at all, it is rather a success. I simply see no reason why Trump would decide to allow Latin American to be free and sovereign thereby reversing the almost 200 year old Monroe Doctrine. Freedom for Latin America will come at the end of a long struggle no matter who is in the White House.
So no, life in 2017 will be a far cry from life in a perfect world, but there is a better than average chance that 2017 might see some very significant and much needed improvement over the frankly disastrous past years. There is still hope that Trump might deliver and if he does, he might become on of the best US Presidents in many, many years. Whether Trump delivers or not, the world will further move away from unipolarity to multipolarity and that is an immensely desirable evolution. All in all, and for the first time in decades, I feel rather optimistic. This is such a weird and unnatural feeling for me that I almost feel guilty about it. But sometimes guilty enjoyment is also great fun!