POTUS should not change his strategy after the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki. He should not change his stance because at the end of the day, the summit was not about Russia, but about Iran and China and Russia’s influence with both.
As I’ve written before, Russia has the ability to destroy the United States but is not advocating to do so publicly. Iran is; North Korea was, until the Donald defused the situation. POTUS is right: There are no more nuclear missiles flying over Japan.
This week, President Trump responded to threats by Iran’s president with some threats of his own. The Obama administration allowed Iran to run amok across the Middle East, spreading mayhem and threatening the security of our allies. Mr. Obama had an agenda alright, it just wasn’t the national security of the United States.
Iran is the immediate threat facing America. China is the longer-term threat.
Mr. Obama practically allowed China to take over some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes in the South China Sea, militarizing the region. President Trump realizes that this situation cannot go on.
There is historic mistrust between Moscow and Beijing, no matter the pleasantries given in public over the last few years and the joint military exercises. Russia has always been worried about China taking land in Siberia from the Russian Federation, going back to the tsarist days. The memories of the Mongol invasions run deep in Russia. Today, China is leasing land in the Russian Far East with long-term contracts. Many Russians wonder if that land will ever be returned.
The threat to Moscow is real.
When the West enacted sanctions against Russia after the annexation of Crimea, President Putin turned eastward, signing multiple contracts with the Chinese government for the delivery of hydrocarbons to the Middle Kingdom. Many analysts report that those contracts barely break even for Moscow. Russia is not getting rich off China as they were negotiating with Beijing from a position of weakness.
Mr. Trump smells an opportunity.
The Trump-Putin summit was about driving a wedge between the budding bromance between China’s President Xi and Russia’s President Putin. It looks like it worked. The Chinese government-run news agency said after the Helsinki meeting that When it comes to the U.S.-Russian relationship, the U.S. itself is divided. It is very difficult for non-Western countries to build good ties with Washington. There are simply too many, too powerful forces in opposition. It is important for Beijing and Moscow to take note.
Clearly, Beijing does not want Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin to get along too well.
Mr. Trump is also pressuring Russia regarding Iran’s future in the Middle East. Just this week, the Jerusalem Post ran a column saying the summit proved Russia was Israel’s ally against its enemies in the region. If that is the reaction from Israel, how could the summit have been such a failure as described by the NeverTrump crowd in the media and in the establishment in Washington?
Obviously it wasn’t a failure. It was an opportunity to secure Israel’s security from the encroaching Iranian military presence in southern Syria, which threatens the Jewish state’s very existence. The Shia land bridge from Tehran to the Mediterranean, which the mullah’s dream of, is very near being completed. Israel cannot allow this to happen.
So in short, the summit was about securing peace in a very volatile region of the world, helping our allies ensure their security and marginalizing Iran’s malign activities in the Middle East. It was also about slowing China’s advance militarily and economically. The fact that the world’s two nuclear powers are not going to be at each other’s throats is just a fringe benefit.
Donald Trump understands the macro picture of America’s national security in a way Mr. Obama never could or never wanted to. Or maybe Mr. Obama completely understood Iran’s agenda and enabled the murderous Iranian regime on purpose. We will never know.
What we do know is that Donald Trump has the foresight to do the right things to ensure our children’s safety and future, and to rid us of the constant wars in the region.
• L. Todd Wood is a former special operations helicopter pilot and Wall Street debt trader who writes for The Washington Times. He also has contributed to Fox Business, The Moscow Times, National Review, the New York Post and many other publications. He can be reached through his website, LToddWood.com.