Finally, they met. Rex Tillerson spent several hours speaking with Foreign Minister Lavrov and, after that, with President Putin. Tillerson and Lavrov then held a rather bizarre joint press conference in which Tillerson mantrically repeated all the nonsense we are now used to hear about Russia while Lavrov logically demolished each US argument one by one. I suppose I could discuss the entire press conference word by word, but it wasn’t that interesting and, besides, I expect Tillerson to suffer from the “Kerry syndrome”: being on his best behavior while in Moscow only to turn rabid again as soon as he is back in DC. Still, those interested can read the full transcript of the press confence here.
Let me just summarize why, all in all, this trip is not bad news (can’t quite call it “good news” either)
For one thing – when two superpowers are talking to each other they are usually trying to avoid an escalation. Second, Tillerson met with Putin. If Tillerson had come to Moscow just to deliver the usual torrent of threats and accusations he would not have been seen by Putin (or, for that matter, by Lavrov). This means that something of some substance was discussed. Not agreed upon, but at least discussed. Third, while both parties admitted that they had plenty of differences, they did signal that they wanted an improvement in relations. I think that the following sentence by Tillerson is absolutely crucial:
I expressed the view that the current state of U.S.-Russia relations is at a low point and there is a low level of trust between our two countries. The world’s two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship.
I fully understand that coming from somebody most likely already infected with the “Kerry Syndrome” this might not be much. But, friends, this is better than nothing!
Please get me right: I am so horrified by the rabid insanity of the Trump administration that at this point I will be grateful to God “just” if there is not direct war between the USA and Russia. That is the only thing I still hold some hope for. Because other than that, the picture is very, very gloomy.
In prototypical Neocon-style, the Americans have completely painted themselves into a corner. They have made SO MANY frankly stupid statements about Syria and Assad that they simply cannot backtrack any more. Just like there is exactly ZERO chance that the Americans will ever accept an independent and honest investigation into what really happened during the latest chemical incident (I don’t call it an “attack” because I am not even sure that there was an attack). This is like 9/11 – there is NO WAY the US Nomenklatura will EVER allow an independent investigation into that event either. They are fully committed. They cannot go back now.
I often get the feeling that the Americans, knowing full well how wrong they are, often deliberately paint themselves into a corner just to be in a way “protected from reality” by being stuck; in a way, that makes them almost immune to fact-based and logical arguments. Whatever may be the case, Russia and the USA will not work together in Syria. And that means that the entire idea of the USA defeating Daesh is dead in the water forever. Russia and Iran might help the Syrians push Daesh out of most of Syria, but even that will not ‘defeat’ Daesh in a meaningful way. Furthermore, I have come to the conclusion that Israel has played a key role in the coup against Trump and that Israel will now do everything in its power to keep Daesh fighting for as long as possible (more about that in my next analysis next week). Daesh could most definitely be crushed by a joint US-Russian effort. Now, thanks to Trump Daesh, has a brand new lease on life. Well done, Donald!
So here is what is happening: the Trump policy, if you want to call it that, towards the war in Syria was delivered stillborn. The Americans themselves killed it with their fantastically stupid aggression against Syria and the “sarin gas” fairly tale they used as a pretext. Trump has been completely neutered, his “Mad Dog” will bark a lot but get nothing done, as for McMaster – he can go right back on writing more of the kind of strategy documents which got the US Army defeated pretty much everywhere.
That is option one.
Option two is infinitely worse: the crazies keep on doubling-down and we have WWIII. I prefer option one. This is why I think that the Tillerson to Moscow is a success: it moves the planet just a little closer to option one and a little further way from option two.
At this point in time, this is all we can still hope for: that the spineless imbeciles who run the USA today do not trigger WWIII. If they somehow manage NOT to trigger WWIII in the next four years, we will still owe them an immense debt of gratitude for that (even if we despise for everything else they will no doubt do next).
One more thing: make no mistake – the situation today is far more dangerous than the Cuban missile crisis.
During the Cold War both sides were ruled by rational men. Not necessarily kind men, but fundamentally rational men. It was self-evident for everybody involved that you could never, ever, take the risk of a real nuclear war breaking out. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that the Soviets never had any intention of invading western Europe. But IF they had done so, there is also no doubt in my mind that the USA would never have escalated to the level of strategic nuclear weapons. I have known plenty of senior US officers, ranging Navy intelligence officers, to senior analysts of the Office of Net Assessment, to officers who worked on the YF-22/23 program to one member of the Joint Chiefs. They all agreed that going to nuclear war was simply something which no US President would ever do. One of them put it simply “we are not going to trade Boston for Munich”. They were all patriots, but they knew crazy when they saw it and war between the USA and the USSR is a crazy, civilization ending, idea.
Nowadays we clearly have already two US administrations which are willing to engage into what I call a “game of nuclear chicken” with Russia because they are too stupid to realize that Russia will not back down when cornered (and she is cornered in both the Ukraine and Syria) and that Russia can simply wipe the entire USA off the face of the earth (and the USA can do likewise to Russia). When I hear of the notion of imposing a no-fly zone over Syria against the will of Russia I get a knot in my stomach because I fully understand where this could lead.
This is much worse than the Cuban missile crisis and it will, alas, last much longer.
I hope and pray that Tillerson will not completely forget his words about two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship when he comes back to DC and that he will find the courage in himself to repeat these words when faced with the hysterical crowds demanding blood in Congress, in the US Ziomedia and in the Executive Branch swamp.
As for Trump, let him get his foreign policy advice from Ivanka just like Clinton got his from Hillary. The damage is already done. Now they both belong to the same trash heap of history.