WASHINGTON – As President Donald Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last week faced withering criticism for everything ranging from his “fondness for strongmen” to alleged “treason,” the geostrategic objectives of his attempt to advance détente were largely ignored or taken at face value alone.
Yet Trump’s own comments, as well as those of his officials and members of his inner circle, hint at the overarching purpose of forging closer ties with Russia: to contain a rising China, which Washington fears may replace it as a world-class hegemon at the center of the global economy.
“We’ll be talking a little bit about China [and] our mutual friend President Xi Jinping,” the U.S. leader remarked to reporters with a hint of sarcasm as he sat next to Putin before the historic meeting.
Multiple sources now reveal that the idea of hemming in China through a series of partnerships with third countries has also been urged by Nobel laureate, war criminal, and geopolitical leading-light in the U.S., Henry Kissinger, according to The Daily Beast.
Kissinger reportedly held several private meetings with Trump during the presidential transition, in which the foreign-policy veteran suggested that Trump pursue his anti-China agenda by improving the U.S.’s overall strategic position through a series of diplomatic overtures that would see Washington build closer relations to Russia — as well as India, Japan, the Philippines, and Middle Eastern nations, among others — in order to counter the perceived threat China poses to U.S. imperialist hegemony.
Members of the National Security Council, Pentagon and State Department recommended a similar course to the president, according to the report.
“Russia and China are cozying up to each other and it’s a lethal combination if they’re together,” one former Trump administration official said.
During the Nixon administration, Kissinger served first as national security advisor and then as secretary of state, where he was the architect of a robust strategy of settling diplomatic disputes in a manner that would benefit the overall supremacy of the United States in the world-system.
The crowning achievement of Kissinger’s strategy came in 1972, when Nixon met with Chinese leader Chairman Mao Zedong, ushering in the eventual recognition of the People’s Republic of China and establishing a de facto alliance against their common strategic rival, the Soviet Union.
The overture would also result in a geostrategic triangle that would allow Washington to play the role of a “balancing” power, creating an incentive for the two socialist nations to develop relations with the United States as a means to check the other’s geopolitical ambitions.
The Machiavellian foreign-policy expert scholar is more infamously known as the figure who pushed the U.S. into its devastating Cold War interventions in Angola, Cambodia, Chile, East Timor, Cambodia, and Vietnam, where hundreds of thousands died as a result of the actions of the U.S. Armed Forces or CIA.
China and the Trump administration
Trump’s China policy has largely been in the hands of Cold War-minded politicians who see Beijing as an existential threat to U.S. global hegemony. The group of includes Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and top trade advisor Peter Navarro, who has written a book called Death by China and is seen by China’s leadership as an unreasonable hardliner bent on pursuing a confrontational policy toward Beijing.
Washington hasn’t held back in applying its tough approach, accusing Beijing of pursuing a litany of unfair trade practices — including currency manipulation, providing large subsidies to state-owned enterprises, and violating U.S. intellectual properties on an ongoing basis — accusations that China denies. Beijing’s Made in China 2025 initiative — which will see the country’s industry upgraded to produce high-tech, value-added goods — has also worried Washington with the prospect of stiff future competition in global trade.
Following weeks of contentious trade negotiations, the U.S. unleashed its first round of tariffs against Chinese goods, sparking retaliatory moves and setting off a trade war that experts predict will inflict major damage on multiple sectors of the world market, not to mention the two countries’ own domestic economies.
A source who spoke to The Daily Beast remarked that “looking out over [the] long-term, there is a belief in the administration that Moscow will see Beijing as its greatest geopolitical foe – just like Washington does now – and that could set up a rapprochement with America … But it is very far out into the future.”
Former top advisor Steve Bannon, who was reportedly present at one of the meetings between Kissinger and Trump, has used saber-rattling language to describe the geopolitical tug-of-war against China. Earlier this month, he said that Trump recognizes the need to prevent the demise of U.S. global hegemony by confronting China. The hard-right figure commented:
He [Trump] rejects the ‘managed decline’ philosophy of America’s political class. POTUS knows he needs to end the Cold War on our terms, and unite the West against the rise of a totalitarian China.“
At a separate event hosted by CNBC, Bannon hailed his former boss for meeting with Putin, noting that Russia lacks the economic clout to pose a credible threat and the U.S. must focus instead on its clash with China. Praising the economic measures imposed on China, he added that the U.S. is “at war with China [and] we’re winning … How it ends is in victory. Victory is when they give all full access to their markets.”
Speaking to the Financial Times, Kissinger was supportive of Trump’s meeting with Putin but expressed regret about the avalanche of negative press coverage that followed, noting:
[The Helsinki summit] was a meeting that had to take place. I have advocated it for several years. It has been submerged by American domestic issues. It is certainly a missed opportunity. But I think one has to come back to something.”
He commented that a rising China poses the threat of world conquest and that the 5,000-year-old nation may soon become “the principal adviser to all humanity.”
“I think we are in a very, very grave period for the world,” he added.
Chinese experts have expressed doubts about Trump’s ability to sway Putin from the strategic Sino-Russian partnership. Not only Washington and Moscow’s list of outstanding geopolitical disputes with one another, but also the internal dissent the U.S. president faces, clearly prevents any meaningful progress in U.S.-Russia ties that could effectively dislodge Putin’s years-long partnership and claimed intimate friendship with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Li Xin, the director of the Russia Center at the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Studies, told Voice of America:
Trump has made clear that he is a big fan of Putin … But everyone knows that Trump frequently changes his mind. His attempts to be friendly cannot compete with the history and the intimacy of Xi and Putin’s relationship.”
“Putin will not answer his call [to make moves that may harm Sino-Russian ties]. The strategic partnership between China and Russia is stable,” Li Xing, the director of the Eurasian Studies Center at Beijing Normal University, told China’s Global Times:
Russia and the U.S. have structural problems. The [Helsinki] meeting merely relieves the atmosphere [but] negotiating is a good start.”
Top Photo | President Donald Trump meets with Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor under President Richard Nixon, in the Oval Office of the White House, May 10, 2017, in Washington. Evan Vucci | AP
Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.
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