Trump Doesn’t Understand New Cold War, Doesn’t Understand Presidency

Donald Trump treats the American presidency like his reality-TV version of a business.

American president Donald Trump arrives in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017
American president Donald Trump arrives in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017 (ANG/Annie Edwards)

Donald Trump doesn’t understand why Russian “resets” have failed in the past, tweeting, “Bush tried to get along, but didn’t have the ‘smarts.’ Obama and Clinton tried, but didn’t have the energy or chemistry.”

The real reason, as Ryan Bohl has explained here, is that America and Russia have diametrically opposed interests in Europe. “Smarts” or personal chemistry has nothing to do with it.

In fairness, Trump is hardly the first American president who believes he can overcome the restraints of history and geopolitics through the sheer force of personality. Nor is he the first one to fail.

Westerners underestimate Cold War 2.0

John R. Schindler argues that Westerners underestimate the ideological dimension of the new Cold War with Russia because they have internalized a worldview that is based on affluence, individualism and secularism.

The roots of modern Russian nationalism — Slavophilia and militant Orthodox Christianity — appear strange and incomprehensible to many in the West, yet they are deeply plausible to many Russians.

Paeans to the Third Rome and mystical Slavic unity sound downright bizarre to [us], but they retain a coherence among many average Russians that Marxism-Leninism never possessed.

Also read my story from January about the ways in which Russia is challenging Western beliefs.

Trump fires second national security advisor

Trump has fired his second national security advisor, H.R. McMaster. The three-star Army general succeeded Michael Flynn, who lasted only one month on the job.

Just as was the case with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, McMaster was fired days after blaming Russia for the poisoning of a former spy in England.

Just as was the case with lawyer John Dowd — who resigned on Thursday — Trump replaced McMaster with a Fox News personality: John Bolton, George W. Bush’s UN-bashing UN ambassador.

Like Tillerson’s replacement, Mike Pompeo, Bolton is an Iran hawk. He has called for an attack on the country for years.

The next deadline for confirming Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal Barack Obama’s administration negotiated will be in May. Other world powers and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis have so far convinced Trump to stay in the agreement. Leaving it would further isolate America and risk another war in the Middle East.

Trump doesn’t understand the presidency

A critical insight from Jonathan Bernstein on Trump’s response to leaks:

He simply refuses to accept that constant policy pushback from all sides is part of the job, not some personal affront or “deep state” campaign.

A smarter president would welcome dissent, engage with critics inside his administration, attempt to persuade policy professionals with whom he disagrees and appoint allies in key positions. Trump doesn’t have the patience to do any of this. He treats the presidency like his reality-TV version of a business, where the boss orders things and others make it happen.

Far left blocks Catalan president

The far-left Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) has refused to vote in Jordi Turull as Catalan president.

Without the CUP’s support, Turull’s Together for Catalonia and the Republican Left fell four votes short of a majority on Thursday.

Unless the three parties can agree on another candidate, parliament will need to call another election.

The last one, in December, gave the separatists a majority of seventy out of 135 seats. However, two members of Together for Catalonia, including the deposed former president, Carles Puigdemont, have been unable to vote from their self-imposed exile in Belgium. They are wanted by Spanish police for organizing an independence referendum on October 1.

So long as the Catalans are unable to elect a new president, Spain remains in direct control of the region.