JAZZMAN CHRONICLES: RADICAL SOLUTIONS FOR RADICAL TIMES.
THE ROAD TO HELSINKI:
HANDSHAKE DEALS & KNEE JERK DIPLOMACY
By Jack Random
Donald Trump touched down in Singapore, had dinner and announced he had a deal with Kim Jong-un, Supreme Leader of North Korea. Kim had agreed to unconditional denuclearization. Trump had only offered a handshake and agreed to call off military exercises. Problem solved. North Korea no longer posed a threat to the United States or its allies.
This diplomacy thing is easy. Golf is hard. Standing over a five-foot putt with the match on the line: that’s pressure. Somebody show me the way to Jerusalem. We’ll solve this whole Palestinian problem in a weekend. What do you say?
No, Mr. President, we’re not going to Jerusalem. There’s no one on the Palestinian side that would sit down with you – even for a photo op. And Netanyahu has a court date. It wouldn’t look good.
Last August Trump suggested in an Oval Office meeting that we invade Venezuela. He persisted with the idea for weeks, raising it again with Latin American leaders who expressed universal opposition. No word on whether Trump was surprised at their position but he seemed to forget about Venezuela and all of Latin America until the refugee crisis arrived at our southern border.
We recently learned by executive tweet that our president thought the joint statement he and Kim signed in Singapore was a binding agreement. How long before we find out that Trump believes he received the blessings of Latin American leaders to bomb the hell out of Honduras, El Salvador or Guatemala to stem the flow of refugees? Not that he needs anyone’s blessings to bomb someone or invade a country.
This diplomacy thing is easy. Fire all the diplomats and let the chief negotiator take over. Fuck Canada and who needs NATO? Germany is Putin’s puppet and Angela Merkel will pay the price of open borders. She can start by boosting military spending to 4% of gross domestic product. Do it! Do it now or do without American military might!
Trump doesn’t seem to understand that Chancelor Merkel is not a dictator. She cannot raise her nation’s military budget or its contribution to NATO with a wave of her hand any more than he can.
Trump tried to persuade French President Emmanuel Macron to dump Europe and follow Britain’s lead in exiting the European Union. After all, it’s worked out so well for Teresa May as she watches her Brexit implementation team implode the week before welcoming the American version of blundering Boris Johnson to Britannia. The beleaguered prime minister must be filled with trepidation as she is compelled to display public hospitality to the least popular American leader since Thomas Paine.
Come on, Manny! Dump the bastards! We’ll take care of you. Vlady has a soft spot for Paris. He always has.
Not one to miss an opportunity for dramatic climax, the Donald saved his last stop for his closest and most trusted friend: Vladimir Putin. They will meet on foreign ground in the city of Helsinki, Finland. There will be no other dignitaries and no transcribers. Only the two leaders and their interpreters will know what words or transactions flow between them behind closed doors. Of course the possibility of eavesdropping always exists – especially with the former head of the KGB and current boss of the FSB-GRU.
It’s just you and me, right Vlady? Man to man.
That’s right, Donald. We can talk with complete confidence! Believe me!
The secrecy has of course given birth to a wide range of theories about what might transpire between the two leaders. Those who believe the whole Putin-Trump collaboration is a hoax generally believe nothing is amiss. Why shouldn’t two of the world’s most powerful men and those at the heart of an ongoing investigation meet in confidence? Why shouldn’t they encourage the most imaginative conspiracy theorists? The American people are so sick of hearing the endless speculation they are turning a deaf ear. Trump’s followers have always believed the mainstream is out to get him – by any and all means, legal or illegal.
Those who believe there is something greater than puff behind the Putin-Trump connection have long expected the two lead conspirators to find an opportunity for private dealing. Those who believe Trump is indebted to Putin and his oligarchs both financially and politically expect this closed-door meeting to initiate a payback.
Trump dignified Kim Jong-un with a handshake, a photo op and compliments in front of the cameras before canceling long-scheduled military exercises. These were gifts that the North Korean leader treasured and for which he gave nothing in return.
Would it be surprising if Trump had a few gifts for Mr. Putin? How about an agreement not to enforce the Magnitsky Act? That’s pretty much where all this conspiracy speculation began in earnest, right? That’s why the Russian connection gathered for a meet and greet in Trump Tower while the presidential campaign was still raging. For the first time in history international sanctions hit the Russian leader and his circle of corrupt friends where it hurt the most: personal bank accounts. It opened a window for a hard look at crooked Russian money laundering operations at the Bank of Cypress and Deutsche Bank – the banks that cater to Russian mobsters. Oh, and by the way, soon to be Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross was a proud vice chairman at the Bank of Cypress. Imagine that.
No sanctions had ever been so effective and Vladimir Putin was pissed enough to invade a sovereign nation. Who can doubt that he was pissed enough to sic his GRU hackers at Hillary Clinton? Why wouldn’t he invest a few million in fake news disseminated by Facebook – America’s free source of targeted propaganda?
Who knows why Putin did what he did? Maybe his hatred for Obama and Clinton was sufficient. Maybe he needed no additional motivation to mess with American democracy. Maybe he’s pissed off that America still has the reputation of a democracy when in fact it’s fast slipping into an autocracy controlled by the most powerful corporations in the world.
Who knows what Putin has on Trump? Maybe he just wanted an amateur to slap around on the international stage? Mission accomplished.
Smile for the cameras, baby! Me and you against the world!
What we do know is that Putin is winning this game. Despite a floundering economy, the Russian Federation has restored its reputation as a world power. He has succeeded in blowing a hole in the European Union with his promotion of Brexit. His man in Washington has created discord in NATO via public humiliation.
Pony up, Angela! And you too, Macron! No one gets a free pass!
Putin had to be laughing when Trump derided Europe’s most powerful nation as “captive” to Russian energy.
There may be an element of truth to Trump’s insulting observation. Germany needs imported energy to fuel its economic machine but Russia needs a European market to buy its natural gas. Germany imports nearly equivalent amounts from Norway and the Netherlands. Do they hold Germany captive?
It has been speculated that Trump wants Germany to buy American natural gas at an inflated price. That would seem particularly unlikely to happen at this point. For one thing, it would be detrimental to Russia.
Trump appears to be reorganizing the world order with Putin and himself at the top, Britain and Israel on the second tier and Europe somewhere below and on par with Indonesia and North Korea. China appears to be the new chief adversary with minor adversaries in Iran, Mexico, Venezuela and other assorted nations – Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador – that pose problems or take more than they give.
Judging from the befuddled looks on the faces of Trump’s advisors when he derided Germany, no one really knows what the president is going to do. I seriously doubt that Trump knows what he is going to do except in that fraction of a second before he does it. If there is no one to talk him out of it, then we enter a twisted new world where fake facts and distorted realities begin to make sense.
They say he’s KGB! He’s fine! Putin is fine! We’re all fine!
Here’s my prediction for the Trump-Putin summit: Something will follow that benefits Putin. The question is: What does Putin want? A weakened NATO? Already accomplished. Drive a wedge in the British-American relationship? Accomplished. Weaken the British government? Accomplished. Maybe he wants payback for the counter-intelligence agent that exposed one too many of his operations. Maybe Trump could drain the talent pool out of the State Department. Already done.
Who needs diplomats? I’m the only diplomat we need! What’s a diplomat anyway? It’s a negotiator, right? Who’s the greatest negotiator ever born? Right here, baby! Smiling at you.
Maybe Putin wants acceptance of a Russian Crimea. Maybe he wants a hands-off policy in Ukraine. Maybe he wants the CIA to pull out of Eastern Europe.
Nobody but the man in Moscow knows for sure.
“Trump is trying to destabilize the European Union” by Josh Rogin. Washington Post, 28 June 2018.
“US indicts 12 Russian spies in 2016 DNC hack that used malware, bitcoin and phishing” by Kyt Dotson. Silicon Angle, 13 July 2018.
JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES AND AN ARRAY OF NOVELS, SHORT STORIES AND MEMOIRS. HE SERVED MANY YEARS AS A COMMENTATOR FOR GLOBAL FREE PRESS.