Foreign Policy

A New 'Reset' With Russia?

Trump's hyperbolic flattery aside, his primary task is to clean up after his predecessor.

Nate Jackson · Jul. 16, 2018

The Left is all aflutter as President Donald Trump meets with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, today. There are endless stories worrying that Trump will be either duped by a superior statesman or continue colluding with our sworn enemy. Hillary Clinton is running around telling stiff post-World Cup jokes wondering “what team” Trump plays for. So let’s consider some important strategic background.

Trump said before the summit, “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!” The latter was a reference to Robert Mueller’s investigation into the phony idea that Trump colluded with Russia, based on a farcical “dossier” paid for by Clinton and the DNC — campaign opposition research repackaged as “intelligence.”

Notably, Mueller’s mandate is specifically to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Trump,” so it is understandable that Trump’s “witch hunt” references are to the collusion claims.

But Trump’s more significant point dealt with “foolishness and stupidity,” which was a shot at the previous regime of Barack Obama.

Clinton was of course Obama’s secretary of state, famous for the debacle in Benghazi and the failed “reset” button signifying a different stance toward Russia. She cashed in with a uranium deal and speaking engagements. And don’t forget that it was Obama himself who told Putin stooge Dmitri Medvedev in 2012 that he’d “have more flexibility” to offer favors for Moscow after winning reelection. He then mocked Mitt Romney for warning that Russia was (and remains) our primary geopolitical foe.

In short, Trump’s task is to clean up after his predecessor.

Last year, Mark Alexander noted two key elements in Trump’s strategy: “First, Russia’s anemic economy is totally dependent on oil and gas prices, so what has Trump done? Opened the gate on oil exploration to keep the price down. And in general, to ensure dominance over totalitarian and dictator states, Trump is taking action to rekindle America’s economic might. Second, Trump is following Ronald Reagan’s playbook to rebuild our military to contain threats like Russian expansion into Ukraine, which got a yawn from Obama.”

Trump hopes now for an “extraordinary relationship” with Putin, who is far from innocent. Similar to Trump’s hyperbole about North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, he’s playing a bit of flattery for strategic gain. But that does not mean he’s going to sell out America the way Obama did for eight years. “Nothing bad is going to come out of [meeting with Putin],” Trump said, “and maybe some good will come out.” After the president’s shakeup of NATO last week, it’s certainly clear he aims to mop up Obama’s messes.

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