Foreign Policy

For Trump and Putin, parallels to FDR and Stalin


President-elect Trump is planning nothing less than the U.S. and Russia, the world’s two biggest military powers, joining as geopolitical allies – a “yuuuge” historic shift unthinkable until now.

That an alliance is what he is after is undeniable in light of the unexpected nomination of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, who has developed what Tillerson himself in February described as “a very close relationship” with Russian President Vladimir Putin, after making deals with Moscow’s state-owned Russian oil company Rosneft.

{mosads} The assassination of Russian Ambassador Andrey Karlov in Turkey on Monday at the hands of an Islamic terrorist shows that Islamists are just as eager to target Russia as they are the U.S. or Western Europe.  Islamists in Afghanistan waged war against, first, the Russians after the 1979 Soviet invasion, then the U.S. after our post-9/11 invasion.  We are both enemies in Jihadist eyes.


To win the global war on terror, it may make sense to forge such a new alliance.

Unnatural?  Some believe it should have happened right after the fall of the Soviet Union.  Antonin Scalia Law School professor F.H. Buckley recently lamented “the missed chance for cooperation with Russia 20 years ago.”

Author of the insightful “The Way Back: Restoring the Promise of America,” Buckley argues that Boris Yeltsin’s boozing and Bill Clinton’s womanizing prevented avoiding “the foolish extension of NATO, the growing hostility between our two countries, and even perhaps the Middle East quagmire.”

Instead of a Washington-Moscow partnership after the fall of communism in the 1990s, “we expanded NATO into the countries of the former Soviet bloc, to within 100 miles of St. Petersburg,” Buckley laments. “And then we tweaked the Russians about it.”

Perhaps more consequential than Boris’s fondness for the bottle and Bill’s for the intern was the ultimate failure of the Harvard-overseen restructuring of the Russian economy.  The lesson learned there – at a massive human cost in Russian lives and livelihoods – is that overthrowing a Marxist-Leninist economy in favor of capitalism is impossible without also crushing Marxist-Leninist bureaucratic institutions; you don’t get capitalism governed by the rule of law, but rather a pseudo-capitalist oligarchic rule that today remains up to its ushanka in organized crime.

Famed “shock therapy” international economist Jeffrey Sachs, who is often overly-identified with the post-Soviet economic reform, recounts that after only two years advising Yeltsin he “resigned from Russia in 1993 because I found corruption to be growing and out of control.”  And he claims, “I had very little influence if any” on what actually took place.  Sachs since became a friend of Occupy Wall Street, so it’s hard to see him as the man who could have Westernized Russia’s economy anyway.

The Harvard Institute for International Development were the ones in the actual driver’s seat, who with massive financial backing from the U.S. Agency for International Development worked closely with the Clinton Administration to assist the Yeltsin government in a delayed privatization that, crucially, failed to establish a strong middle class.

How ironic it would be if Trump, the tycoon who uncannily connected with America’s battered middle class voters, could ultimately bring the benefits of American-style capitalism to Russian workers through the osmosis that could take place under a real alliance.

After Trump is sworn in, look for the cause of joining with Putin to be presented in the biggest of terms.  (Naturally.  This is Trump.)  In vanquishing the evil of Hitler during the Second World War, President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill repeatedly broke bread with Josef Stalin, as evil as “Uncle Joe” also was.  We didn’t shun Communists when they could help us rid the earth of the Nazis; we instead coordinated the war effort with the Russians.  Why not do it again for another great purpose?

In the aftermath, of course, Poland (which Britain supposedly entered the war to save), and much of the rest of Eastern Europe, were condemned to more than four decades of Soviet-dominated slavery.

Today, we can work with post-Communist Russia to defeat ISIS, and maybe even shift Moscow against Iran.  The latter development would be extraordinary, since without Russia’s many years of multi-faceted assistance Tehran would have no nuclear program with which to threaten the West today.

If Trump and Tillerson pull some of this off, a battle-tested U.S.-Russian military/economic alliance would presumably constitute a counterweight to China (which, whatever else can be said about it, beats Moscow and Beijing making common cause against America; after two terms of President Obama’s foreign policy impotency, Russia and China are apparently closer than ever before).

American nuclear weapons designers Thomas Reed and Danny Stillman in 2009 co-authored a fascinating history of international nuclear proliferation, “The Nuclear Express.”  In it, they chillingly observe that post-Mao China has become “a fearsome global competitor with interests that could be well served by the devastation of Washington or New York, so long as that calamity was not directly attributable to Beijing” – i.e. Islamic nuclear terrorism covertly assisted by China.

“Certain parts of the Chinese government may have decided it would be in their best interest to accept, or even encourage, multiple nuclear events (or wars) within the Western world,” Reed and Stillman continue, “thus the apparent Chinese tolerance of North Korean, Pakistani, and Iranian nuclear ambitions.”

Considering that both Russia and China have helped Iran with its nuclear program over the years, perhaps Moscow too has viewed a nuclear terrorist attack on America or Western Europe, and the domestic panic and instability of the aftermath, as favorable.  Perhaps ex-KGB officer Putin still does.  This is a regime, after all, that went all the way to London to poison an exiled Russian journalist it found troublesome with radioactive isotope-laced tea.

Preventing nuclear terrorism against the free world is certainly a cause as worthy as destroying the Nazis.  If a Trump presidency can align the number one and number two superpowers – a big “if,” inarguably – it might mean a combined force so intimidating that China, North Korea, Iran and Mideast terrorist groups could all finally be put in their place.

Thomas McArdle (@Macardghail) was a White House speechwriter for President George W. Bush and a senior writer for Investor’s Business Daily. He is the humorist for the new app “ElectionWarz.”

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Bill Clinton Donald Trump ISIS Russia Russia–United States relations Thomas McArdle Vladimir Putin
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video