The Year of Donald Trump: Results of 2017 and a Prognosis for 2018
The main event of 2017 (along with victory in Syria) has most definitely been the first year in government of the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump. The victory of the eccentric millionaire who has promised to build a Mexican Wall and refuse to follow a policy of interference in the affairs of other countries had proven itself to be so unlikely for the supporters of the Democrat Hillary Clinton, that people really cried at their screens, as was later reflected in the seventh season of the series “American Horror Story”.
The apologists of the liberal world order and American hegemony did have something to cry about. The competition between Trump and Clinton was not just an electoral process, but a battle between two opposing ideological blocs.
The main result was the change in the balance of power in the grand geopolitical game, the failure of the Modern project, and an effect on the long-term structure itself, which we have written about in detail earlier.
Thanks to Trump, America has successfully destroyed the main projects, their development, and the implementation of these projects, which had been worked on for decades by the previous globalist administrations. The future of the continued financing of ISIS (which is forbidden in Russia; the organisation was born from a White House initiative), the ‘Greater Middle East’ project, and the battle for influence in the majority of regions has become uncertain. In fact, under Trump we are seeing America removing itself from its role of main outpost of the global world and the open sabotage of earlier structures. America has not abandoned its hegemonic pretensions (and we will definitely see the revanche of the liberals; no country but the US can execute the role on such a large scale), but while Trump is in power everything will go not according to their plans. Some people are continuing work under the auspices of the older project by virtue of inertia, but new people from Trump’s entourage are disrupting their plans more and more.
On the one hand, many of the promises made during the election are not coinciding with reality: criticism levied against former president Barack Obama of interference in the affairs of other countries has transformed into an open confrontation with North Korea (which, of course, will not go further than sanctions and a ‘shows of force’ by both sides), the enlargement of the American military contingent in Afghanistan, declarations saying that Washington will not recall its troops from Syria, and, finally, the missile strike on that country in April 2017.
On the other hand, Trump has finally become more ‘understandable’ in the last year: he has shown himself to be halfway between a ‘Trumpist’ (following Steve Bannon, who brought him to power) and a neoconservative (the familial ties with Kushner and his entourage are apparent in many areas). The future logic of his actions is becoming clear.
Trump came into power with populist slogans which were not just a rhetorical trick, but a real ideology. This was an open refusal of the classical (and already outdated) 'left-right’ division and a transfer of the emphasis on the dyad ‘people-globalists’, ‘the people above all else-humanity above all else’, ‘supporters of traditional values-liberals’. Despite his formal allegiance to the Republicans, in practice Trump (who was a strange and unpredictable politician to the rest of the world) turned out to be beyond the bounds of party loyalty.
It is surprising that Trump managed to last a year despite open resistance from the ‘swamp’, legal institutions, Congress, the CIA, and the overwhelming majority of the Western media. Having received the appellations of ‘sexist’, ‘white supremacist’, ‘fascist’, and ‘Zionist’ all at once, the president is nonetheless not planning to go away. The US political system continues to function despite a wave of protests, confrontations between right-wing Trump supporters from the Alt-Right movement with leftist radicals (so-called ‘antifascists’), and the refusal of entire cities to go along with the new migration policy.
Of course, Trump remains in a difficult position. He can be removed at any moment: a long and complicated impeachment procedure is unnecessary, 'tightening the screws’ even more and forcing the president to resign supposedly of his own free will would be enough. But if he sits out even one term, the three years will be a chance for the ghost empires (among which is Russia) to become true empires and expand their influence in the Middle East and the post-Soviet space.
2017: Ideology and Bannonism
Trump won and came to power in 2017 thanks to the idea of the ‘anti-swamp’. Trumpism is a populist phenomenon, in which the main wager is made on a hard rejection of the globalist establishment.
Realism does not fully manifest itself in a direct refusal of globalism. The idea is that in order to follow the national interests of the US first (and if the life of the average citizen will become better without expansionist pretensions), the realist does away with the old programme. The former administrations (both the Republic and Democrat ones) explained their expansionist actions by the need to expand globalisation: either in the soft version of the CFR (globalisation with several centres), or under the auspices of the hard-imperial programme.
All of Trumpism would have been impossible without its ideologue Steve Bannon, who has been fired from his position of advisor in August of 2017. Stimuli for his firing were the disturbances in Charlottesville, the conflict with McMaster, and also the pressure of Trump’s main economic advisor and ex-CEO of Goldman Sachs Gary Cohn, who threatened that he would resign because of the president’s ties to ‘racists’.
Before the elections, this man lifted Breitbart News up to become a popular platform for alternative ‘rightist’ ideas through his own efforts. The Bannon team did not just work with the electorate on social media by using the potential of meme-brigades (who were mainly of an Alt-Rightist orientation). It gifted Trump a convincing rhetoric and awakened the necessary codes in the people.
According to Bannon’s views, after the fall of the USSR and before the 21st century the world did not move forward, but degraded instead and we are currently at the beginning of a new, bloody conflict. A very important choice must be made: either Christian civilisation unites in the struggle for its convictions and own survival, or it falls. The Alt-Right defends traditional marriage and is against abortion, all the while balancing between ‘right’ and ‘left’.
Bannon often speaks of the degeneracy of ‘real capitalism’ which either transformed into libertarianism in the spirit of Ayn Rand and turned the human being into a commodity, or into kleptocracy (examples are Russia, China, and Latin America). In the latter case, if the national establishment serves international corporations and foreign ideologues, it only makes sense to interact with the ‘customers’. People all over the world are tired of the transnational elite, and the US can become a central linking point in the worldwide right-centrist movement.
It is important, that Bannon counts on European and Russian ‘new rightists’ as allies in the fight against the world government. We will note, Trump has not switched over to a hard Russophobic rhetoric during a year in government, despite the continuing ‘Cold War’ and accusations of all-powerful Russian hackers interfering in the US elections.
Nonetheless, the spat with national security advisor Herbert McMaster turned out to be fatal for Bannon’s political career in the current situation: he was removed from the US National Security Council. Formally, and as Bannon explains his departure himself, his main mission has been successfully executed: the National Security Council’s work has been restructured. The reorganisation itself was a necessary concession to the ‘swamp’ by Trump: it consists of foreign and defence policy, and also of control over the security services. In return, Trump expected that he would have more manoeuvres in domestic policy. This is a dangerous game in which he gave the disloyal centre of power that operates around the American Deep State a handicap, but without freedom in internal policy it is difficult to change things on the international level.
What is more, the ‘Bannonite part’ of Trump did have practical effect in his first year in power: the end of 2017 was marked by a serious of victories on the issues of the battle against abortion and the defence of Christian values, and also a tax reform proposed by the Trump team. Not to mention migration measures and the improvement of the workplace situation.
2018: Ideology and Bannonism
Thus, firing Bannon speaks of an opportunist short-term strategy from Donald Trump that is geared only towards the four-year presidential term. Reince Pribus, the second man thanks to whom Trump could become president (he was responsible for securing the loyalty of the Republican party apparatus while Bannon secured the loyalty of the people) has also been fired.
But Bannon himself, despite him leaving the White House, actively continues to work as executive chairman of Breitbart News and remains one of the most influential figures in US domestic policy. We can even say, that his departure will turn out to be more productive for him: his task will be reforming the Alt-Right movement for the solution of new problems facing the conservative part of American society.
As Bannon himself has said, “I am not a political operative, I am a revolutionary.”
In an ideological sense, in general Trump will become less of a ’Trumpist’ with every passing year. Thus, the phenomenon of ‘Trumpism’ will gradually be separated from Trump and continue its existence after the president. His business card will definitely remain the battle with the ‘swamp’, but in practice his capabilities will be tapered by the establishment.
Lately, Trump has moved more towards the neoconservative model, which is clearly demonstrated by his actions that are positive for Israel. We can expect that in 2018 Trump will become a ‘neocon’ more and more in the ideological sphere while not fully reneging his Trumpist essence. If he were a pure ‘Trumpist’, he would most likely not be president right now. However, he has managed to find new allies. It is futile to expect too much from him, but the more damage he does to the ‘swamp’ (including by shaking up the ideological carcass of the liberals), the more chances there are for a transition to the multipolar model of the world.
The main foreign policy result of 2017 for the US can be called Donald Trump’s consequent rejection of pretensions to be the locomotive of globalisation. Instead, the White House is successively sacrificing the foreign policy interests of the globalist wing of the elites in order to solve domestic problems. We must connect Washington’s decision to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel to this line of behaviour. This has not only estranged the whole of the Muslim world from the US, but it has also driven a wedge between the two main American allies in the Middle East: Israel and Saudi Arabia. This act of Washington has also led to a growth in Turkish influence. Having called an extraordinary summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared his claim to supremacy in the Sunni world, which has also significantly weakened the position of Riyad.
The US has serious competitors for the title of ‘globalist of the year’: the main one is China. As far as Trump orients himself by classical geopolitics based on the confrontation between Land and Sea (this is what the ‘Great Game’ between Russia and Britain in the 19th century and the whole of geopolitics in the 20th century was built on, from Halford Mackinder through the Cold War to the development of unipolar globalisation, which was led by the American administration to the last), the China factor is strongly changing its geopolitical status.
Today we are not just seeing a process of centralisation of power and the growth of influence of Xi Jinping, but a doctrinal strengthening of the Eurasian strategy of a special role for the armed forces in the defence of national sovereignty, but also a global role for China (more on this in the section on China).
Simply saying that China will become the new globalist would be premature. On the other hand, the development of a ‘new socialism’ in its conceptual part does not contradict the building of a unipolar and mutually beneficial cooperation with other countries. Both variants are possible.
2017: The US economy
Trump has succeeded in getting a tax reform passed. Earlier, the tax on a large business was progressive and the maximum amount was 40%. Now it is 21%. The tax on small business was also lowered to 25%. A series of tax subsidies for states and municipalities were cancelled. Changes also affected the ‘repatriation tax’ (15,5%) on companies’ offshore funds; these companies have the possibility to legally return the money to the US by paying a one-time duty to the budget. If earlier while returning the money from abroad companies payed a tax according to the standard rate, now the rate is anywhere between 8 to 15,5%.
What is more, a lowering of tax rates for the common American is expected (although this lowering will not be as substantial as it is for the business community).
The Republicans planned to pass medical, tax, and infrastructural reforms in 2017. However, the voting on medical reforms fell through trice in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Nonetheless, the requirement to have medical insurance was cancelled. This was one of the main innovations of Obamacare, and according to several experts, this measure is already saving the budget hundreds of millions of dollars.
2018: The US economy
One of the negative consequences of the tax reform will be the growth of the federal government’s debt in the next 10 years (according to some prognoses, it will grow to 2 trillion dollars as a minimum). During this period, the amount of tax receipts for the budget will go down (by roughly 1,5 trillion dollars). A direct result is the growth of the budget deficit, which means a growth of government debt.
The cancellation of Obamacare will remain questionable, and discussions about its fate show no sign of stopping.
According to predictions from the Tax Foundation, in the coming 10 years the lowering of taxes for businessmen will cause a growth of 2,86% of the American GDP (in comparison to a prediction without the reform). Economists are also predicting a rise in wages (of roughly 1,5%) and the creation of more than 300 thousand jobs. If the administration is successful in achieving economic growth, this will result in another 600 billion dollars for the treasury.
The Tax Policy centre predicts that in 2018 tax assessments will go down by 80% for households (it will go down by approximately 930 dollars for the average household: this is about 1,6% of the average wage).
During the electoral race many were scared that a Trump presidency would deform the market and lower spending power. Nonetheless, we can now see positive tendencies in the US economy: a lowering of unemployment and solid GDP growth.
In many ways, this factor bodes well for Trump remaining president for 4 years: at the very least for him holding his position in 2018.
In general, Trump is openly capitalist and all his decisions on international trade (that are related to the Transatlantic and Transpacific Partnerships) will be seen as negative for the ‘global market’ and as positive for national capital.
2017: Trump’s relations with the Republicans
2017 was also marked by Trump breaking with his own party. During the election campaign, the Republicans had two main tasks: repealing the unpopular health insurance programme Obamacare and limiting immigration. On the 8th of November 2016, in parallel with the presidential elections, elections were held for the Senate and House of Representatives; after receiving the majority of the votes in Congress, the Republicans did not follow it on the Obamacare issue. Some Republicans also came out against other initiatives, including the Green Card lottery for immigrants.
On the other hand, the year has brought objectively positive results. The Trump team has succeeded in passing a tax reform, which the Democrats failed to do for the last couple of years.
2018: Trump’s relations with the Republicans
Trump and the Republicans will stand together in conflicts with the Democrats, especially as far as the investigation into Hillary Clinton and co’s transgressions is concerned: Congress profile committees have for the first time found evidence, that the FBI had proof of the transmission of confidential information via a private mail server.
In November 2018, midterm elections for the US Congress (the House of Representatives and the Senate) will be held. They will both influence the domestic policy agenda of the next years and international relations as well. 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 100 seats in the Senate will be up for grabs, as well as the gubernatorial posts in most of the states. We note, that from 2014 onwards the Republican party has had a majority in both houses; however, this dominance will be seriously challenged in 2018.
Trump has declared, that the Republicans will have success. Towards the end of 2017, the Republicans had 239 votes against 193 in the House of Representatives. In order to get control over the house, the Democrats will need to capture another 25 seats.
But Trump should not count on the support of his party allies too much: it is entirely possible that a we will see a new betrayal if interests drift too far apart.
2017: ‘The Swamp’
In 2017, the ‘swamp’ has suffered a singular defeat. But the battle continues and the liberal establishment will try to have its revenge.
At the current moment, the US foreign policy agency is uncoordinated: to be more precise, Rex Tillerson has not managed to find common ground with the State Department people. During the last few years the agency’s team has coherently worked to support neoliberalism, the erosion of borders, and globalisation. It was they who unleashed a wave of wars and support the ‘colour revolutions’ in the countries where they need them to happen. Now, they are consciously sabotaging the sovereignist policy of Trump and Tillerson.
2018: ‘The Swamp’
It is important, that midterm elections for Congress will be held in 2018, and if Trump succeeds in creating a coalition and in having a majority of his people in Congress, there will be chances to realise his election programme.
Taking into account the fact, that colossal effort had to be put in by the liberals to block Roy Moore from the Senate, Trump’s opponents aren’t in the best of shape. If new faces enter the scene in the 2018 elections which have no links to neoliberalism, the anti-Trump core will be eroded even more strongly and the ‘swamp’s’ coordination will be disturbed for at least a year.
It is important to remember, that investigations are still ongoing against Trump and his entourage in both houses of Congress and in the Senate about alleged cooperation with Russia. Special procurator Robert Mueller is conducting a separate investigation. The first arrests (Paul Manafort) and scandals complete with confessions (George Papadopoulos) have already taken place. If Trump crosses the proverbial ‘red line’ at any moment, the establishment will have a formal reason for its accusations.
2017 was generous as far as protests against a US president are concerned.
In November, people at many protests chanted “Donald Trump, go away! Racist, sexist, homophobe!’, demanded the results of the election to be ignored, went to ‘peaceful demonstrations’, and blocked the entryways to stores. One elderly man, dressed in the uniform of a US Marine, even immolated himself on a square in Akron.
2017 began with a feminist insurrection. During the inauguration and the following weekend, women held a ‘Women’s March’ (a ‘pink hat’ march), all the while calling the president a ‘woman hater’ and demanding the right to abortion to be kept. The action began with a Facebook post and ended in protests in more than 600 cities through the entire world. The organisers claimed that more than 4,5 million people took part in the marches.
Different minorities and citizens of colour also protested (including the groups DisruptJ20 and Black Lives Matter).
Strong support from show business plugged into the marches and many famous actors, singers, and the creative ‘intelligentsia’ came out with anti-Trump rhetoric in 2017. However, despite the society of the spectacle, pink hats, and tears of rage, Trump, who doesn’t understand show business too badly himself, prevailed.
Later, actions against the president’s anti-immigration initiatives took place: large demonstrations were held in megapolises in the states of California, New York, Texas, and the District of Columbia.
August 2017 was marked by demonstrations in Charlottesville, which boiled over into a real war between the American right-wing and antifascists. The reason for the demonstration was an attempt by the ‘rightists’ to prevent a government initiative to destroy monuments of the Confederacy (for example, the Virginia government planned to remove a monument of Confederate general Robert Edward Lee from the Charlottesville city park). A peaceful demonstration transformed into disorder: supporters of the demolition of the Confederate monuments instantly ‘joined the game’. This resulted that a state of emergency and curfew declared in the state, and the liberal media started blaming ultra-right-wing neo-Nazis for the chaos (who were a minority in the demonstrations and formed a ‘security corps’ during the event’s duration). The aggression of the antifascists went unnoticed. The media immediately started accusing both Trump and Russia of organising a ‘civil war’ in the US by showing the next fake reports and interpreting events through the lens of liberal dictatorship. Donald Trump condemned the violence in Charlottesville.
Nonetheless, the liberal system (or ‘swamp’) tightly fixed the label of ‘Charlottesville supporter’ on Trump and continued to look for a Russian lead in the organisation of the disturbances. After the events in Charlottesville, in August a mass protest at the ‘Trump Tower’ skyscraper in New York was held; it’s main slogan was “no to fascism in the US, no to Trump!”
Towards the end of 2017, the theme of mass protests had long been forgotten. Many opponents just stopped protesting. But if we take into account several large decisions, including Trump’s acknowledgment of Jerusalem, there will definitely be protests. Trump will receive new epithets like ‘Zionist’ alongside ‘fascist’ and ‘misogynist’.
Trump will probably not build the Wall with Mexico. However, during the entirety of 2017 he has consistently followed an anti-migrant line. The US is a country with a continuous stream of immigrants: every eighth inhabitant is a first-generation immigrant.
Trump’s ‘anti-immigrant’ bill (“To defend the nation from the entry of foreign terrorists in the United States”), which banned some categories of citizen from entering the country and cancelled the Green Card lottery, evoked strong reactions. The president initiated the project after the terrorist attack in New York. Its declared goal is the fight against terrorism (citizens of Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and Iraq face restrictions on entering the US). Exceptions are diplomats and representatives of international organisations.
This concerns the Diversity Visa Program: a diversification lottery which divvies up 50 thousand permanent visas for countries which otherwise provide a small amount of immigrants. It also concerns a 90-day entry ban for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, and Yemen. The bill also planned the acceleration of the creation of a biometric system for border control.
The State Department resisted the initiative and both Democrats and Republicans spoke out against the initiative in Congress.
As far as the Green Card law is concerned, the chance that it will be revoked in 2018 is small. Multiple attempts have been made (in 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2013); however, every time it encountered resistance from either the House of Representatives or Congress.
From the ideological point of view this is also problematic, as multiculturalism presupposes stimulating diversity programmes and laws are often blocked by the government representatives and activists of colour (the mechanism allows one to lawfully settle the US with arrivals from African countries and the Caribbean).
Thus, there is no serious chance that the current system will be removed in 2018. What is more, a situation which allows the lottery to remain but with a change of its conditions is also possible: for example, the quota system will be corrected, checks on new arrivals will be strengthened, or the number of green cards will be reduced to a minimum.
But Trump has something to fight for. In January 2018, it has become known that under Trump’s first year a record low number of immigrants since 2002 has arrived: around 29 thousand people. This result speaks for itself.
2017: the military and security
In October 2017, US secretary of defence James Mattis directly declared in a report to Congress that 19% of US military facilities are useless. He proposed to trim the dead weight by transferring funds to more important areas.
Mattis also noted, that 29% of military infrastructure and 28% of Air Force property is worthless for strengthening US defensive capacity. This also concerned the closing of military bases following the ‘reorganisation and closure’ program BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure), which has been in effect from 1990 onwards.
However, in November 2017 Trump sent Congress a letter asking a raise of military expenditure of about $6 billion dollars and proposed to enlarge the budget for air defence, operations in Afghanistan, and the repairing of military craft. The declaration about increasing funding for anti-missile equipment against the threat from the DPRK was published the day before Trump’s visit to the Korean peninsula as a sign to South Korea and Japan to invest more in their defence budgets.
In December, a new defence budget of 692 billion dollars was agreed on and approved. 4,6 billion will go to the US’ European allies for the restraint of so-called ‘Russian aggression’.
In 2017, a series of important documents that regulate domestic and foreign processes was accepted. The most important was published in December: the National Security Strategy, which consists of four parts: the defence of US territory, keeping the peace through power, the country’s prosperity, and the strengthening of American influence. The document corresponds more to the politics of realism than the Obama administration’s designs; however, it is characterised by a sharp turn towards the neoconservatives and the pro-Israel lobby at the cost of a contraction of the CFR’s influence. What is more, clear threats are marked, including Russia and Iran.
A bill was also signed that encompasses the introduction of new sanctions against Russia.
2018: the military sphere and security
We shouldn’t expect a reduction of military spending in 2018: first, the budget has been confirmed, second, ‘preliminaries’ for Congress will be held, and this is about the military-industrial complex.
But it is important, that the increase in military spending will not solve the US Armed Forces’ problems. First, American arms leave much to be desired when it comes to firepower and action radius. Second, whatever is said about the all-powerful US military, its weapons have aged in many respects (this is related to the ‘marketing’ of unnecessary equipment to countries like Ukraine).
The legislature will continue to block initiatives concerning a reduction of the military budget by referring to job losses on bases and the expensive procedure of facility clearing, and, of course, to current ‘enemies’ like the DPRK, a confrontation with which America should be ready for. The members of Congress a priori suggest amendments to the budget that increase spending (even if the Ministry of Defence isn’t making any requests in that direction).
Trump’s idea is technological modernisation and the renewal of elements of the nuclear triad, which the new budget is about. But the problem is if there is a sufficient amount of funds to update the military’s equipment.
2017: Terror attacks
2017 has shown that the US internal situation is highly unstable: the country was rocked by several terror attacks.
On the 6th of January, there was a mass shooting in the Fort Lauderdale airport, where the Latino Esteban Santiago gunned down five persons and wounded no less than eight others.
On the 12th of August there were the provocations in Charlottesville, where on the background of the protests confrontations between extreme right-wing activists, ultraliberals, and antifascist extremists begun (15 people were wounded), after which a car drove into a group of antifascists.
On the 2nd of October, a mass shooting took place during a country rock festival in Las Vegas. This act became the bloodiest of its kind in US history. 59 people died, more than 500 were wounded.
On the 31st of October (Halloween), what might have been the most terrifying and cynical attack of the year took place. This was a truck driving onto a bicycle lane in New York in the south-western part of Manhattan. Uzbek terrorist Sayfulla Saipov crushed people, rammed into a school bus, and with cries of ‘Allahu Akhbar’ tried to continue his attack ‘manually’. 8 people were killed, more than 12 were wounded.
2018: Terror attacks
Terrorist attacks are always committed in order to destabilise and scare a society. It is highly likely that the establishment will continue to use manual terrorists for terrifying provocations. Taking into account that the US has lost in the Middle East, the ‘swamp’ has to demonstrate that ISIS continues to exist and proactively fight for its interests (if we take into account that the organisation continues to take responsibility for the majority of terrorist attacks) and in such a way legitimise interference in the affairs of other countries.
2017: the US and Europe
Trump has taken an anti-globalist position in relations with NATO and the EU, if we are to compare him to the previous administration.
The European establishment itself, which is still in shock because of Trump’s victory, has softly started to speak about its ‘own national interests’ independent of the US. To be more precise, the head of Germany’s ministry of foreign affairs, Zigmar Gabriel, has declared on a Berlin forum about foreign politics that the US under Trump are “poorly” filling the role of a global political power.
It is important, that European politics of an already outdated formation (with Angela Merkel at its head) are really ‘slacking’. While Washington is dealing with domestic problems and the composition of the leading cadre, the Europeans are moving towards independent solutions.
If we are to speak of Germany, the moment is suitable (with the condition that Merkel has failed to form a coalition at the end of the year). Without strong US pressure, all chances for right-wing populist parties (‘Alternative für Deutschland, ‘Lega del Nord’, ‘Front National’ etc.) to strengthen their positions are open.
The situation is made more complex by economic relations: to use the German example, the country’s gold reserves are kept abroad, and more than 170 American military facilities (a situation that all European countries are familiar with) are located in Germany.
2018: the US and Europe
Europe’s geopolitical expanse does not interest Trump and he wants an understandable economic gain: to be more precise, the president is planning to simplify the rules to transport American liquefied natural gas to Europe, in order to conquer the European market and force ‘Gazprom’ out. However, the EU is scared of taking hurried decisions and become dependent on Washington for energy as well.
To be more precise, the PESCO project (of a single structure in Europe) might prove to be an important test of Europe’s independence in 2018. The problem is if the project can be truly independent (as has been declared by 23 EU countries), or if the structure will become the next NATO appendage.
2017: the US and the Middle East
The main foreign policy development of the year for the US has definitely been defeat in the war in Syria and the failure of the ‘Greater Middle East’ project.
In April 2017, the American military executed a rocket strike on the Shayrat airbase in the province of Homs, but the year turned out to be more on the revelatory side in other matters. First, the world community was for the first time not afraid to openly acknowledge that Middle Eastern terrorists are under Washington’s control, and the Department of State has confessed that it was terrorists affiliated with ‘Al-Nusra’ (banned in Russia) who had used chemical weapons. In Augustus, Damascus reported that it had found chemical weapons produced by American and British companies in abandoned military positions. The Syrian government emphasised multiple times, that it had never used toxic substances against non-combatants and terrorists (of which it was continuously accused under Obama) and that the country’s chemical arsenal had been removed by the OPCW.
The main geopolitical result of the year was the significant strengthening of the positions of the Troika (Moscow-Ankara-Teheran) in the Middle East region: Trump practically made the deepening of Russia’s partnership with Turkey and Iran possible. He didn’t make it possible because of Russian interests, but in many ways for the benefit of the neoconservatives and the pro-Israel lobby.
By the end of the year, the US had lost its formerly effective mechanisms of pressure on Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies and also on the Kurds, who got the chance to choose their own path in the game. It had been possible to control the Salafists, Wahhabis and the Islamist network through the alliance with Saudi Arabia: it has become trickier. to do that now. And, of course, controlling ISIS like before has become far more difficult.
2018: the US and the Middle East
We must expect that in 2018 Trump will continue his pro-Israel policy in the Middle East and that American influence in the region will be extremely weak. For Russia this is a chance to in the remaining three years (or possibly less) expand its activities in the region and propose an alternative to American hegemony to Middle Eastern actors (for example, the Russian project for the Kurds).
On the other hand, the ‘swamp’ remains in power with considerable force and isn’t planning to fully abandon the ‘Greater Middle East’ project. An open declaration from the Americans that they “won’t be leaving Syria for a while” is proof of this.
The fall of radical Islamism, which was earlier under the control of Saudi Arabia, gives Russia the chance to become a guarantor of an Islamic rebirth in the positive meaning of the word. If Russia tackles the region, it can become the leading power in the region.
Although the ISIS project failed in 2017, we shouldn’t relax in 2018: as we know, the Americans are training Islamist militants in At-Tanfe. This is a strategically important place and useful as a control point on the road from Damascus to Bagdad. The chokepoint will be used for military provocations and weakening Damascus’ positions. At-Tanf is located in the centre of the Syria-Jordan-Iraq triangle and is easily reached from both the Republic of Iraq as well as the Hashemite Kingdom. Accordingly, the US sees potential allies in these countries in the coming months.
2017: the US and Russia
In 2017, Trump has failed to fully overcome the establishment’s pressure and the Republican Congress, which has initiated an investigation into the president’s ties to Russia. To be more precise, although he promised to visit Moscow right after his victory, his meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin only took place after six months in June at the G20 summit in Hamburg.
However, Trump managed not to use the anti-Russian rhetoric that was so intrinsic for the former administration. Among the main ‘enemies’ he marks out Iran and North Korea and sometimes criticises China, but the president isn’t planning to make Russia the main opponent. A new package of anti-Russian sanctions was signed, probably as a concession to the ‘swamp’.
2018: the US and Russia
The sanction pressure on Russia will only grow and Russophobic thrusts by representatives of the 'swamp’ will only continue.
A currency and trade war are not off the table, but Trump isn’t interested in a ‘hot’ war.
2017: the US and China
Trump’s election rhetoric was different from the others by virtue of harsh invectives against China. And although some (including the head of the CIA) are calling Beijing the ‘main threat of the world’ and the word “China” is used 33 times in the new 4-year US national security strategy (with the epithets “competitor”, “opponent”, and “rival”), Trump’s negotiations with CPC chairman Xi Jinping were almost the first of his meetings with a foreign leader. During his November meeting with Trump, Xi reported that he had discussed the deepening of coordination on Afghanistan and the Korean peninsula, after which they came to an agreement about the “stimulation of cooperation in Sino-American relations”. What is more, in this year China and the US have signed deals with a value of $9 billion dollars.
The American government’s view of China can be presented in three variations:
- -Trumpism (Trump’s election programme with the influence of Bannon) assumes that China is a global competitor, which is to blame for American de-industrialisation and the lowering of the common American’s living standard.
- -As far as the position of the globalists from the CFR is concerned, they aren’t interested in the national interests of the US and see the US-China alliance as the core of the global world or a ‘Chimerica’ in the spirit of British historian Niall Ferguson. In the globalist understanding, this is a common American-Chinese economy, despite the differences in politics and culture.
- -The neoconservative point of view is related to other interests: the security of US global dominance. For them, China is a competitor, a country that must be contained. The worst nightmare of the neocons is a union of the two opponents, Moscow and Beijing.
These three points of view are uncoordinated, and linked to this during the whole of 2017 we see contradictory statements about China.
From the China’s view, which is rightly called the ‘new globalist’, we can already see the traditional structure of the spreading of influence in regions: Beijing is mainly using and developing its economic and financial instruments without enforcing its conditions and trying not to involve itself in international scandals and political processes. Later, political instruments will gradually be switched on: for example, the scandal in Australia in November, when the Chinese businessman Huang Xianmo, who had made donations to the Australian Labour Party, was accused of an attempt to influence the country’s domestic politics.
This year, the key 19th congress took place in China, where among other things Xi Jinping’s ideas about the ‘new era of socialism’ with Chinese particularities were discussed. On an international forum in December, the Chinese leader called for the “transformation of planet Earth into a harmonious family”.
It is important, that China has strengthened its influence on Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2017.
2018: the US and China
In 2018, the promised Sino-American coordination on Afghanistan and the Korean peninsula will probably be implemented and new mutually beneficial trade contracts will be signed. China’s new spheres of influence will definitely be cause for concern among the neoconservatives, and Trump will be forced to at least on the level of rhetoric make loud accusatory declarations about the Middle Kingdom.
As far as the ‘new socialism’ is concerned, there are two possible vectors. In the worse scenario (for the multipolar world), the PRC’s activity could help to break the global tendency towards the collapse of world markets. In the better scenario, China will be a nominal ally at least of Eurasian states in the long run, and thus create a strong counterweight against American hegemony.
The petroyuan, the growth of the PRC’s currency zone, and Beijing’s debts will be at the centre of Sino-American competition in 2018. Conflicts in the countries and regions that are straddled by the new Chinese Silk Road are likely.
In any case, despite coveted investments, China is a geopolitical competitor of the US. It is important that the Chinese continue their work not just in the economic, but in the ideological sphere as well: they will actively spread their ideas by the United Front Division, which deals with ties to non-communist parties both in the country and abroad. And the Americans don’t want to lose the battle for the ideological field.
2017: the US and the DPRK
The year 2017 was marked by an unprecedented number of mutual accusations by the US and North Korea against each other. An unstable North Korea is of use to US hawks, as this is an opportunity to indirectly influence unruly China and also militarise South Korea and Japan (it is important that ‘THAAD’ complexes are being placed in South Korea, and that Japan is receiving technology to produce winged ‘Tomahawk’ and anti-ship ‘Harpoon’ missiles).
A hostile DPRK is useful for the Americans: to be more precise, in December this has given Washington the opportunity to let its Air Force make manoeuvres over disputed Chinese islands.
2018: the US and the DPRK
2018 will not see a full-scale war and the pressing of any ‘red buttons’: everything will be limited to harsh rhetoric from both sites and sanction pressure. In the case of direct American aggression or a random strike on a nuclear facility during bombing, Pyongyang is capable of unleashing its missile arsenal.
2017: the US and Israel
One of Trump’s main declarations in 2017 has been declaring Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel. This is a univocal obeisance to the neocons and Trump’s son-in-law Kushner with his pro-Israel lobby.
This is a globalist nightmare, as Trump will get nothing from this and the American globalist networks will also be empty handed. All American agents in the Middle East, which the American establishment counted on during the last administration, have been lost. They were supported under Obama, under the idea that the ‘neither Palestinian nor Israeli’ situation will last for a long time, but the recognition of Israel has changed everything radically.
In the same year, the US opened its first military base in Israel, having deployed anti-air and anti-missile systems as well as soldiers. This move was necessary mainly to demonstrate Washington and Tel-Aviv’s alliance on the one hand, on the other as symbol of American control (because information received through the anti-missile system is first received by American command and only later by Israeli officers).
2018: the US and Israel
We have every reason to suppose that in 2018 the US embassy will really be moved to Jerusalem. If Trump does this, he will provoke a wave of anti-Trump accusations, large protests, and potential provocations.
Taking into account, that the US have lost their former systems of pressure on the Saudis, and also considering that Riyad and Tel-Aviv have big plants to destabilise the Middle East, in 2018 the Americans might try to play the Israel card for their own interests in the region.
To be more precise, Israel will be in an a priori subordinate position towards the US: in the case of an attack on the Israeli’s by Teheran the Americans will defend them, but if Tel-Aviv itself were to attack, for example, Iraq without prior agreement, the Americans will have to decide if they take responsibility for what has happened.
2017: the US and Iran
Another factor that is significantly tightening manoeuvre room in the Middle East is the escalation of the confrontation with Teheran. Having named Iran the “main sponsor of terrorism” and having cast doubt on the nuclear deal, Trump has not only fulfilled an order by the pro-Israel lobby in Washington, but also crossed out the efforts of many years of the previous administration. In the best traditions of soft power of the CFR, the Obama team consistently pulled the Iranian elite into its sphere of influence. However, Trump has through his declarations fully destabilised this project and has closed the opportunity to seriously influence Teheran for a long time for the globalists.
Trump has derailed the nuclear deal with Iran, which was needed to support reformist tendencies in the country, lessen pressure on the West and weaken Iran’s influence on the Middle East by improving relations with the reformist Iranian elites through the Iraqi Shiites and through Bagdad and, finally, remove Iran from the game through a local ‘perestroika’.
2018: the US and Iran
In 2018 we should expect new sanctions and ‘invectives’ in relation to Iran. However, Iran itself will not suffer from this, as it has strengthened its ties with the Russian and Turkish governments, designated its trade interests, and is showing a clear interest in Eurasian integration.
Translated from the Russian by V.A.V.