The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Putin’s Control of Trump and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty

There is a meme in the resistance that Trump is Putin’s “puppet.”

This meme’s explanatory power is weak.

Take Trump’s announcement that he will pull the US out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty: This isn’t something Russia, or Putin, wants.

Trump admires Putin, and Putin provided some support for Trump’s election, hoping that would lead to the reduction or removal of sanctions (spoiler: it didn’t), but Trump doesn’t do everything Putin wants, or not do everything Putin doesn’t want.

What Russia wants, simply put, is a sphere of influence and to feel secure within that sphere of influence. This desire isn’t a particularly comfy desire if you’re near Russia (and weak–Europe is not weak). But it is no worse the US’s desire to have a sphere, as any Caribbean, Latin American, South American, many Asian, European, African, Middle Eastern nations have learned.

In fact, it’s a lot less scary unless you’re close by.

Russia doesn’t have 800 bases around the world. It has invaded, sanctioned, and overthrown less countries than the US in the last 30 years, and so on.

That doesn’t mean Putin is a good guy, or Russia is a “good” nation, but it’s certainly less evil, in terms of external body count and, heck, even internal numbers of people locked up, than the United States.

“Lesser Evil” isn’t much of a rallying cry, as the Democrats refuse to learn, but it does mean that when the US treats Russia as the horrible evil enemy, it falls flat.

The US is in what looks like serious decline. Rather than interfering in every one else’s business, it should mind its own business. If there is a formal defensive alliance: Live up to it. Otherwise, butt out. A great deal of evil in the world would be weakened and likely defeated, if the US would simply stop propping it up. This is true of Saudi Arabia and Israeli apartheid (and yeah, it is now formally apartheid whatever pretense otherwise) as well as many other evils.

A “good” country in the world helps other nations, doesn’t injure other nations and doesn’t support evil nations, but does not, as Adams said, go looking for monsters to slay.

Grant to others the right of self-determination. Do not support evil. Do not interfere in internal affairs. Do defend actual allies. That is all.

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Open Thread


Bend Over and Kiss Your Ass Goodbye: IPCC Report Version


  1. Hugh

    I think this was sold to Trump as less of a counter to Russia and more of a move against China. That the Russians were already developing and testing missiles which violated the treaty was a convenient pretext to get out of it. China was never a signatory, and most of its missile forces fall into this category. Leaving the treaty would allow the US to counter these missiles in region from Guam.

    Trump doesn’t actually have the power to exit the treaty, but it is unclear/unlikely that the Congress would challenge him on it.

  2. Chiron

    The “Trump is a Putin puppet” meme was pushed by Liberal Zionists and Neocons. The funny thing is that the Neocon hostility towards Trump ended after the Jerusalem Embassy move and the end of the Iran deal.

  3. Gunther Behn

    Nationalist camps are simpler to control when the levels of fear — ’caused’ by manufactured internal and external threats — are high. The idea of a new arms race appeals to men like Putin and Trump.

  4. Billikin

    For Trump to take the US out of the nuclear treaty may not be in Russia’s interests, but I doubt if Putin cares. The saber rattling between Trump and Kim did not keep them from making up and falling in love. Each used it to gain domestic support (or at least, to try to do so). Each understood that they were taking part in theater, each with a different audience. Their apparent antagonism was actually cooperation. Trump and Putin will probably rub dicks for a while.

    The problem is that Trump is only a dictator wannabe. And is very unlikely to become one. Which means that he will continue to be provocative. He may well spark international or domestic violence and strife.

  5. Does anyone remember Obama saying to Putin that he could work deals with him after the election?

    For Trump to work deals with Putin raises cries of traitor, but for Obama to say he would do so is simply not commented upon. Not to mention the sheer cynicism of Obama saying that he would pose in a certain way for the election and then drop the pose after the election.

    To repeat, that remark by Obama to Putin was reported without comment and then disappeared from the media.

  6. Billikin

    It’s the kind of deals that Trump seems to want to make with Putin that raise questions of treachery. (Not that I agree. I think it’s simply greed.)

  7. bruce wilder

    A lot of people seem to be so entranced by whatever narrative they like, they do not feel the slightest obligation to check even a few facts.

    I find it particularly annoying to see figures from the Foreign Policy establishment (and there is one for sure) who prattle on and on about the rules-based international order, as if the Iraq War or any number of other atrocities never happened. I saw a recent ambassador to Estonia on teevee going on and on about how the U.S. needs to stand by its allies, with only a coded reference to the political problems associated with the fact that a significant chunk of Estonia is a suburb of Leningrad — that the U.S. ought not be making itself hostage to the interests of Estonian politicians representing the understandable hostility of ethnic Estonians to Russia was never acknowledged.

    I think ethical realism in foreign policy is harder to achieve than Ian is acknowledging in this brief post. Maybe, he could go deeper into the reasons American foreign policy tends to get hijacked by amoral interests (Paul Manafort is not an anomaly.) And, what can be done about it — international institutions and their limits as commitment devices and process dams.

    But, quite aside from the particularities of foreign policy topics, I wonder what, if anything can be done, about a political discourse where, for so many pundits and so-called experts as seen on teevee, narrative is everything and a conspicuous regard for the facts of the case, any case, is simply disregarded.

  8. Ché Pasa

    Agree with Hugh. This is really about China and has approximately nothing to do with Russia at all.

    If you saw Trump’s comments about it, it was obvious.

    What the foreign policy establishment — and yes, there is one — is prating about is more about “violating norms” than it is about strategic implications. They’re mostly all in with the coming conflict with China. It’s been in the offing for decades, but it can’t come until after eliminating the supposed “threat” from Iran.

    In other words, everything is going to plan.

  9. marku52

    The most impressive thing about the Trump election was what a huge destructive blast it was to the established parties, and how, once the dust had settled, US foreign policy had not changed a whit.

    Not a single one of our many wars was stopped, We did not withdraw from Syria, from Niger, from Afpak, from Iraq. Our belligerence to Iran worsened. Our military aid to Ukraine increased.

    It was as if no election had occurred, at all.

    “No matter who I vote for, the Government gets in…”

  10. Willy

    Some say US foreign policy revolves around corporations. The evidence seems to support this. Maybe the “deep state” is more than just a culture of cigar buddies. Maybe Bolton only appears the aggressive paranoid fool. What’s in it for him, personally?

  11. Ivory Bill Woodpecker

    Maybe Putin wanted to end the treaty, but wanted another country to look like the bad guys?

  12. Jane

    “The US is in what looks like serious decline. Rather than interfering in every one else’s business, it should mind its own business. If there is a formal defensive alliance: live up to it. Otherwise, butt out. A great deal of evil in the world would be weakened and likely defeated, if the US would simply stop propping it up. ”

    I completely agree. This is why I have always held that Americans on both sides of the culture war have more in common than not. If we set certain social issues that will never be resolved (like abortion) aside, I think most regular people in the US agree on a lot of things. Plenty of people think we should be taking care of ourselves and using our money to invest in our own people and infrastructure.

  13. different clue


    I see one difference, small to us but big to Syria. The Establishment wanted to overthrow Assad ( “Assad must go!!”) and install a Cannibal Liver Eating Jihadi government over Syria. Clinton the Establishment candidate wanted Assad “gone” and the Jihadis in power.

    But Trump has interfered with those plans to the extent that most of Syria has been restored to legitimate governance, and the Cannibal Liver Eating Jihadis , who have all been drained into the Idlib Sump, will be rounded up and exterminated in due time. ( It is true that the Establishment is rescuing all the CLEJ leaders it can to save them for future jihads in other places).

    So that is a small difference in the big scheme of things, but it must be heartening to the present and future targets of the Global Axis of Jihad. Sometimes the Coalition Of Lawful Authority wins one.

  14. Hugh

    One murderous government versus another murderous government. Somehow I do not see the word legitimate entering into any of this.

  15. different clue


    In International Law terms, the Syrian Arab Republic government currently in power in Syria . . . the country the Global Axis of Jihad sought to deliver into the hands of the Cannibal Liver-Eating Jihadis . . . was, is and remains the recognized-by-almost-all-other country-governments and by the UN as representing Syria at the UN . . . is the Legitimate Government. It is a term of International Law, not a certificate of moral okayness.

    France, UK , US ( the so-acronymmed “FUKUS”) quite outlawfully aided KSA and the Lesser Petro Gulfies in arming and helping and staffing-up the various Alphabet Jihadi groups in Syria.
    Russia, Hezbollah, Iran quite legally, at the legal invitation of the International Law Legally recognized government of Syria, sent all necessary assistance to the recognized legitimate government of the Syrian Arab Republic to exterminate the Cannibal Liver Eating Jihadi rebellion as it deserved. The Alawites, Christians, Shia and non-jihadi non-barbarian Secular Sunnis have been thereby saved from Jihadazi-ism.

    Colonel Lang and his co-posters and commenters explain it pretty well over at Sic Semper Tyrannis for those who are not afraid to go there and look.

  16. Forecasting Intelligence

    I have issues with your continual use of the word “evil” which is a very Christian-centric worldview.

    As john Greer has written in his blog, its not a useful way to view domestic politics, let alone global geopolitics.

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