Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Russia/Trump Tuesday: What plutocracy looks like

One of the best protest slogans I've heard in the last several years is one that goes, "This is what de-moc-ra-cy looks like."

Trump's assemblage of oligarchs and crackpots for his Cabinet of Deplorables opens a space for, "This is what plu-toc-ra-cy looks like."

Julian Borger reports on Trump's selection of Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson for his Secretary of State (Rex Tillerson: an appointment that confirms Putin's US election win Guardian 12/13/2016):

Rex Tillerson’s nomination as the next secretary of state confirms Vladimir Putin as one of the strategic victors of the US presidential election. ...

The 64-year-old Texas oilman spent much of his career working on Russian deals, including a 2011 agreement giving Exxon Mobil access to the huge resources under the Russian Arctic in return for giving the giant state-owned Russian oil company, OAO Rosneft, the opportunity to invest in Exxon Mobil’s operations overseas. ...

The 2011 Exxon-Rosneft agreement was frozen when sanctions were imposed on Russia in 2014, following the annexation of Crimea and covert military intervention in eastern Ukraine. Exxon Mobil estimated the sanctions cost it $1bn and Tillerson has argued strenuously for the measures to be lifted.

“We always encourage the people who are making those decisions to consider the very broad collateral damage of who are they really harming with sanctions,” he said, at a shareholders’ meeting.
Borger presents an optimistic take from one observer:

Nevertheless, Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Endowment Moscow Center, argued: “Tillerson as secretary of state would signify the greatest discontinuity in US foreign policy since the end of the cold war.

“Not just in US-Russian relations: a Trump-Tillerson foreign policy would be squarely focused on US national interests, rather than on its global pretensions or any ideology.”

Trenin added: “It would be hard-nosed and no-nonsense, not averse to the use of force, but in response to a real rather than imaginary threat. In one word: realist.”

That is a change that would be undoubtedly be welcomed by Putin, whose vision of foreign policy centres on spheres of interest controlled by global powers, run by strongmen like himself.
But an "realism" prioritizing the needs of his company and of closely associated fellow oligarchs is quite a different thing that the kind of "offshore balancing" realist strategy that Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer advocate. (See Walt's Don’t Knock Offshore Balancing Until You’ve Tried It Foreign Policy 12/08/2016.

The PBS Newshour today presented a trio of experts to speculate about what kind of Secretary of State Tillerson is likely to be, Tillerson for State: What we know and why some are concerned about his ties to Russia 12/13/2016:

We’re joined now by John Hamre. He is the president and CEO of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a thank tank in Washington, D.C., where Tillerson is a member of the board of trustees. Hamre served as deputy secretary of defense during the Clinton administration. Nicholas Burns was a career diplomat and former U.S. ambassador to NATO. He’s now a professor at Harvard University. And Steve Coll is the author “Private Empire: Exxon Mobil and American Power.” He’s also a staff writer for “The New Yorker” magazine and the dean of the School of Journalism at Columbia University.
Not surprisingly Hamre expresses great confidence in the realism and devotion to the national interest he sees in his board member Tillerson.

There will definitely be pressure within the Trump Family Business Administration for improved relations with Russia. Part will be justified by oil multinational "realism." There is also a strong Islamophobic element in the Republican Party that see Putin's Russia as a defender of Christian civilization and a welcome ally in a Long War against Islam. I'll refer again to Peter Beinart's Why Trump’s Republican Party Is Embracing Russia on the pro-Russian Islamophobia Atlantic Online 12/12/2016.

Another PBS Newshour segment presents some further factors in any attempt to adjust relations with Russia having to do with Syria, Iran and Turkey, The fall of Aleppo is a turning point. What’s next for Syria’s war? 12/13/2016

Cenk Uygar in a Young Turks segment on the Aleppo situation also talks about US-Russia relations, including a revealing statement from Congressman Dana Rohrbacher in the pro-Russia Islamophobia vein, starting just after 7:00 in "Complete Meltdown Of Humanity" Occuring In Syria 12/13/2013:

If you want a bigger dose of Rohrbacher, here's an MSNBC video featuring the Morning Joe segment, Dana Rohrabacher Joins Heated Debate On Syria Conflict: Assad Not The Enemy 12/13/2016. The first part is a discussion with others about the fall of Aleppo. Rohrbacher comes it around 5:45:

As far as I've ever seen, Dana Rohrbacher is an extremist whackjob. But I do note that the Morning Joe crew seems to be taking it for granted that the United States should be actively intervening in some way against Syria and Russia in the Syrian civil war.

Marcy Wheeler is carrying on her close reading of the news reports on the alleged Russian hack in The NYT's Legitimate email Detail Emptywheel 12/13/2016.

Here are more articles relevant to the issue of possible big changes in US-Russia relations:

No comments: