When President Obama expelled Russian diplomats over the hysterical and unproven accusation of "hacking the election" on December 29, Russian President Vladimir Putin refused to be drawn into a petty squabble, saying he would delay any response until Donald Trump assumed office. Instead Putin’s response was to issue an invitation to American diplomats and their families in Moscow to join the official holiday celebrations in the Kremlin.
Then came the shock from President Elect Trump, in the form of a tweet (what else) heard round the world that read:
"Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!"
And to be sure that everyone saw it, Trump "pinned" the tweet which means it is the first thing seen by viewers of his account. This was a first use of "pinning" for Trump. And to be doubly sure, he posted it on Instagram as well. This was no spontaneous midnight outburst but a very deliberate action taken on Friday noon, December 30.
Trump Takes on the Entire Apparatus of the War Party
The implications of this move are breathtaking. Trump treated Putin as his ally. And he treated Obama and the bipartisan foreign policy elite as his adversaries. This makes perfect sense if Trump’s desire is to reign in the War Party and to strive for a New Détente.
If the main enemy is those who are stoking a New Cold War, and worse, then Trump has placed himself squarely against them. Consider who those folks are, in addition to Obama, Hillary and company and whole army of neocons and neoliberalcons: all the mainstream media, press, TV, NPR and PBS, NED, the various Soros-funded "N"GOs, all the think tanks, the leadership of both major parties, the CIA and the other "intelligence" agencies like the NSA. They have all been working at demonizing Putin 24/7, stoking a New Cold War and likely worse. Trump took on all of them on with his tweet!
Putin as Ally Against the War Party
And as Trump looks for allies looking for New Détente and a relaxation of US-Russian tensions, Putin is foremost among them by any sane assessment. Thus, in the struggle for peace, Trump has drawn new lines, and they cross national borders. Not since Reagan embraced Gorbachev or Nixon went to China have we seen a development like this. A new battle for survival has been joined, and Trump has shown considerable courage in where he has drawn the lines.
The response to the tweet was immediate and predictable. Later the same afternoon as Trump’s tweet, one Maya Kosoff writing for that deep thought journal of foreign policy, Vanity Fair, right away got out an article entitled "Twitter Melts Down over ‘Treason’ After Trump Praises Putin." The first batch of such tweets is from "journalists and other foreign policy experts," the next from Evan McMullin; formerly (?) of the CIA and stooge candidate to draw off GOP votes from Trump in the election who tweeted: "To be clear, @realDonaldTrump is siding with America’s greatest adversary even as it attacks our democracy. Never grow desensitized to this." Finally came the predictable rash of tweets calling Trump’s words "treasonous" or "seditious." In response, the Trump spokespeople refused to issue a "clarification," saying instead that Trump’s words spoke for themselves. No backing off there.
Voting is a simple yes or no. In contrast an elected president has multiple policies, each of which can be supported or opposed.
Trump’s move was entirely predictable.
The mainstream media scorned Trump’s promises during the campaign to seek peace with Russia. Usually Trump’s position on Putin and Russia was dismissed with the claim that Trump says contradictory things and no one can believe anything he says. But that is not the case with his statements on Russia. If a politician says something that will win votes, then you do not know whether it is conviction or opportunism. But if a politician says something that should lose her or him votes and sticks with it, then you can be sure it is heartfelt. Trump pledged a kind of détente with Russia in the GOP primaries and stuck with it even though the GOP leadership has been notoriously hawkish on Russia. In the general election he stuck with it even though it was a principal line of attack on him by the Hillaryites and even his own VP candidate disagreed with it. He stood by it even though it offered him no electoral advantages and lots of negatives. By that simple test he was sincere and so this latest opening to Putin was entirely predictable.
Finally those who want peace should be speaking out in favor of Trump’s "treasonous" tweet, no matter their political persuasion and how they stand on other issues. The vote for President is either thumbs up or thumbs down – nothing in between. And progressives could list many reasons for not voting Trump. But a presidential administration itself is multi-issued – not all or none. One can disagree with a president on some issues and agree on others and even back him strongly on the latter. So one may disagree with Trump on his immigration policy but agree on his scrapping the TPP. There is no reason why those who claim to be for peace should not back Trump on his approach to Putin and Russia. To refuse such backing is a politics, "unencumbered by the thought process," as Tom and Ray used to put it.
Finally many progressives and also many on the Right who profess opposition to war and Empire will tell you in whispers that they do support Trump’s attempt at Détente 2.0. But they doubt he will succeed. Meanwhile they are keeping their heads down and remaining quiet. But clearly Trump’s success at Détente 2.0 depends on how much support he gets. Those who do not have the courage to speak up in unmistakable terms when they agree with Trump as on the "treasonous tweet" cannot escape part of the responsibility if he fails.
John V. Walsh can be reached at John.Endwar@gmail.com.