Putin Summit May Prove to Be Trump's Finest Hour
What? Did you just read that headline correctly?
Yes, you did. Writing it I assumed people's heads would explode. It's about as far as you can can get from today's conventional wisdom (i.e. what David Gergen thinks). Virtually every member of the smart set from Pelosi to McCain to some ninety-five percent of the media, including several cowards on Fox News, to, alas, Lindsey Graham (who should know better) are going out of their minds excoriating Trump for being soft on Putin, even for being "owned" by the neo-Soviet strongman. John Brennan -- once a communist himself, so he should know -- accused Trump of treason.
Okay, time for that familiar cliche -- the thought experiment. Suppose Trump had done the opposite, exactly what these people demanded -- verbally and viciously assaulted Putin for all his totalitarian tropes from annexing the Crimea to humiliating John Podesta for being so dumb as to fall for a phishing attack (all right -- I'll be fair. For invading the computers of Democratic Party operatives, allegedly to elect Trump) and so forth?
What would that have accomplished? The obvious answer is zilch. Again the opposite would most likely have occurred. Things, already bad, would have been set back further. It's human nature. You don't have to be a personal acquaintance of Vladimir Putin to know that. You only have to be breathing.
But... but... then Trump shouldn't have held the summit in the first place.
Oh, really? Although Russia -- the largest nation on the planet -- is in many ways a failing state with an economy barely the size of Texas, it still has a huge percentage of the world's nuclear weapons, about equal with ours, and the capacity to deliver them (and to pass them along to unreliable non-state actors). It behooves us to have a relationship with them for our survival and everybody else's, to keep our friends close and our enemies closer, as the Godfather would put it. The obvious goal in this is to limit nuclear proliferation and even to reduce, or at least stabilize, the nuclear arsenals as agreements come up for renewal.
If you look at Trump's actions in that context, what he says and what he does aren't so strange. His strategy should be clear by now to all those except those (unfortunately many) who deliberately don't want to understand it. I wrote about it earlier in "Trump's New Foreign Policy: The Cooptation Doctrine."
He is, as Greg Gutfeld noted on The Five, his own good cop and bad cop all rolled into one. The good cop part is what we saw with Kim Jong-un and now with Putin -- complimenting tyrants to an almost uncomfortable degree. It's oddly a Christian love-the-sinner-but-hate-the-sin kind of thing.