“We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military- industrial complex”. These were the parting words of the 34th President of the United States, Dwight David Eisenhower. Eisenhower spoke these words as a warning to the future prospect of an unbridled expansion of power outside the normal constitutional avenues. Eisenhower was a famous WWII ex-general who also understood the danger explicit in humanity’s new nuclear age. But even more importantly, he was also the Cold-War leader who understood the lesson of Yalta — that while Europe’s division was a temporary necessity, it would never last as a permanent condition.
The danger became — what was to come after Yalta? With the reunification of Germany and the expansion of NATO eastward, we now know the answer — the potential for World War III. NATO expansion across central and eastern Europe clear up to the Polish-Belarus border, as well as into the Baltic states, satisfied an initial triumphalism. It also captured the desire to reap the material benefits of capitalist democracy. This was only natural after the stifling effect of state-controlled communism. However, the attempted acquisition of unwarranted power by the West — through the covert/overt manipulations of EU politics into the Ukrainian political system by the CIA and German intelligence — was a bridge too far. The US establishment had taken for granted that the last time a nation-state (or an alliance) had attempted hegemony in Europe, the consequence was World War.
But what was Germany’s excuse? German attempts at European hegemony had ended in disaster twice in the 20th century. They must have understood that the Ukraine, like Belarus and the Baltic states, are at the very front doors to Moscow and St. Petersburg. Have the Germans become so myopic, coddled and self-satisfied with their passive role of always trumpeting the policy projections of the US “deep state” (military industrial complex) that they have completely forgotten the lessons of their recent history?
The Germans appear to have caught the exceptional-liberal fever inherent in the US “victory” in the Cold War. But did the US actually win the Cold War? And, if so, what has been the three-decades-old price for the US since this so-called victory? Or was the American Cold War outcome merely an illusion of grandeur, transposed against the raw backdrop of a hollowed-out US industrial economy long past its prime? In fact, haven’t US workers been in serious economic decline over the course of the last twenty-five years (perhaps longer), if the economic crisis of the 1970s is included?
Enter Donald Trump. Trump ran against the establishment, both in the Republican and Democrat political parties. He won the election because vast swaths of working class voters either voted for him or didn’t vote against him. The American election of 2016 was a vote of utter despair by the working people of the country — both frightened middle class and below. But Trump was a complete outsider. His agenda is to bring back decent paying manufacturing jobs, raise service wages through the deportation of illegal immigrants, and balance a trade deficit thirty years in the red. He is also open to limiting US military alliances abroad through the strict financial lens of transactional accounting. In other words, he has positioned himself as the enemy of the military-industrial complex.
In Trump’s first month in office, the US intelligence services, the liberal media, the immense power of corporate globalization and the permanent US war party in Congress (both Republicans and Democrats alike) have savaged Trump as being a “puppet” of Russian President Putin. The criticism has been relentless, leaving the new administration little room to maneuver any kind of geopolitical deal with the Russians. Such a deal might involve Syria, the Ukraine, the future of NATO or how to cooperate with Moscow over Iranian designs in the Middle East. All of which might be a very good thing. The Congressional war party has even threatened the administration with a veto-proof bill meant to continue sanctions against Russia far into the future.
Meanwhile, the mainstream US economic press (representing the multi-national corporations and further globalization) has branded Trump an uninformed opponent of free trade and are poised to crucify him for any slow- down in the US economy. While the Federal Reserve is set to raise interest rates, something not done to the markets in over eight years. This potential suffocation of an administration only one-month into a four-year term cannot be good news for the Trump team. Nor is it good for the US economy, political stability in Europe or a regional easing of tensions with Russia in the Middle East.
In fact, in such a charged anti-Russian atmosphere, the US establishment is doing neither Israel nor the Sunni Arab states any favors. Certainly an American roll-back of Iran by the Trump administration would be in the interest of a long-term balance within the Middle East. But is this even possible without Russian cooperation? As I have written many times, Syria has become a global proxy war to create doubt over the stability of NATO. Why else would Russia be there? Obama refused to protect his own red lines in Syria, and in the process, Putin’s undeterred intervention was a master stroke. Now, serious doubt about the nature of US commitments (worldwide) have been sown.
President Trump will either have to adopt Obama’s hands off Iran (Syrian) policy, or up the ante. He had hoped to up the ante within a spirit of detente toward Moscow. Now, however, if the president moves in the direction of detente, he will be further branded as the Kremlin’s man. Trump will have to show great courage in pursuing a deal with Putin (if that is even possible without congressional approval). The establishment within Trump’s own party, and the vast majority of opposition Clinton Democrats, will urge the new president to confront Russia — either by direct action against the Iranians, or by arming the Ukrainian government or both. Either move could easily escalate the danger of a US-Russian miscalculation leading to confrontation.
But Trump certainly won’t adopt Obama’s foreign policy either. He has called the policy a disaster. Meanwhile Trump’s immigration positions have burned all bridges to any serious cooperation with the Bernie Sanders’ “peace wing” of the Democratic Party. In fact, this wing hardly has a foreign policy with regard to NATO, the future of Syria and the Ukraine, let alone a roll-back of the Russian-Iranian budding alliance in Syria. Furthermore Sanders believes that all illegal immigrants have constitutional rights and that most Trump supporters are anti-Muslim racists. In such a heated and constrained political atmosphere, President Trump has virtually no place to turn. It’s either fighting his own political party in Congress over detente with the Russians (a serious uphill battle) or enhanced instability in Europe and/or the Middle East, leading to a potential Russian-American escalation.
Trump’s precarious domestic situation cannot be good news for Europe. Germany and France are about to have national elections, and they must make important decisions. Does NATO expansion mean that Paris and Berlin are willing to live with a permanent atmosphere of geopolitical instability on the continent? But without NATO, how are the countries of the old Warsaw Pact to be protected from a Russian sphere of influence? Isn’t a Russian sphere of influence in Eastern Europe as unstable as the NATO expansion eastward has been? What’s to be done? Perhaps if a deal is to be made with Moscow, it can only be initiated by the Europeans themselves. This would mean a revolutionary change in German politics — totally independent from the consensus view within the US establishment.
However, to avoid confrontation with Putin (he has just placed nuclear-tipped cruise missiles in central Europe) what is desperately needed is out-of-the-box regional thinking. This is true in Europe, the Middle East and all over the world. It’s been one-hundred years since America’s entrance into WWI. Twenty-five years later (1941), the US was back in Europe again — this time to stay. But over the course of time the US economic position has changed dramatically. America’s mission of a uni-polar world order has slowly crumbled on a cross of fiat money, leading to massive middle and working class discontent. Donald Trump rode this wave of discontent and change into the White House. However, on the level of the establishment (the military-industrial complex) geopolitics remains mired in the Eisenhower era of the 1950s. Nothing much has changed at all.
On the other hand, nuclear warfare has dramatically altered the existential nature and scope of war. We are now– all of us, all humanity — at an historical crossroad: Global peace and international cooperation must become the foreign policy of the world’s political establishments. If not, the consequences will be (not could be) catastrophic. The political leadership in the West must find a way to work with the political leadership in the East. Up until now, the epoch of war and hegemony has known no bounds. Our moment of universal truth has finally arrived. Now peace must conquer war.