One of the least understood and appreciated aspects of Trump’s foreign and defense policy reset is how it is trying to clear the decks of many, minor conflicts, so that the world can focus on the existential threats to peace and prosperity in the early 21st Century—and thus prevent war.
To see the real war that the Trump administration is worried about you only have to look at the proposed 2020 US defense budget.
"The Trump defense budget,” reports BreakingDefense, “Takes significant steps to move from a focus on regional conflicts and counter-insurgency to a focus on great power conflicts.”
And the great power against which the US is preparing for war is China-- not so much Russia.
While the talk amongst Democrats still concentrates on Russia-gate, Putin is considerably hobbled in what he can do right now to create mischief.
Roiling underneath all the collusion talk with Russia is a fight with Democrats not just over total defense spending, but over how much of a commitment that Europe needs to devote to its own security against Russia.
Democrats have favored and coddled China, allowing China to propagate the idea that the Chinese Yuan will one day be the global world currency, that Taiwan will inevitably revert back to mainland communist control and China will, at the very least, enjoy regional hegemony in Asia.
While it would be foolish to dismiss Russian ambitions completely, consider this: Russia spends less on defense ($70 billion) than just France and Germany ($75 billion) combined. By contrast, the proposed US defense budget for 2020 is $718 billion, an increase of nearly 5 percent over 2019. The proposed $33 billion US increase is almost half of what Russia spends on defense annually.
So while Russia is still a playground bully, the larger truth is that despite asymmetrical threats—like creating internal discord in the US—and nuclear weapons, Russia doesn’t have the teeth to be more than a nuisance.
In fact, Moody’s credit rating service cites demographics, corruption, the unpopularity of the current regime and the possibility of “abrupt regime change” as just some of the troubles facing Russia. While Moody’s has characterized regime change as a remote possibility, it’s significant that they have mentioned it at all.
So, there are a lot of reasons why Russia—and Putin—need peace. And there are a lot of reasons for Russia to feel that any intel operations they have done in the US involving elections has been a lot more than they bargained for.
We should at this point give them some hope that a real Russian reset is in the offing now that the Mueller investigation is over. The choice for Russia is a reset with the US or they can be confronted by China at some future day all alone.
In the meantime, Trump has gone about forming a grand coalition, not just to confront China, but to prevent war with China—and to a lesser degree Iran.
In Syria, Iraq, Europe and North Korea Trump is looking for less direct involvement, more compromise, fewer US troops commitments, and a great-power strategy that focuses on harassing the primary foes—China and Iran-- while threatening them with “fire and fury” if they break the peace.
Make no mistake: China and Iran have worldwide ambitions. They want to replace American world leadership, which was absent under Obama, with some Chinese fire-drill that benefits no one but China and Iran.
The newest Trump defense budget begins to redress these errors.