Bluffing, perhaps, as one sometimes must

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July 25, 2016 by AK

I have argued that some of Trump’s views on allies, trade, and the USSR/Russia, can be traced to his opinions shared with the media 25-30 years back. He’s not as volatile as mainstream opinion has it but he can improvise moves to make the opposition freeze in resigned amazement. 

That could be a major foreign policy asset. Consider Trump’s recent NATO comments:

Sanger: Russia came over the border into Estonia or Latvia, Lithuania, places that Americans don’t think about all that often, would you come to their immediate military aid?

Trump: I don’t want to tell you what I’d do because I don’t want Putin to know what I’d do.

Which is a smart response considering that Moscow’s strategy is based on the assumption the West would mostly play by the rules known to both sides in advance. Its true meaning could have been, “We won’t start a conventional war against Russia but we have safer ways of retaliating that cannot be discussed at this point for obvious security reasons.” 

(Or, “I don’t really know but there must be a way out – there always is.”)

Regrettably, Trump then mounted one of his hobby horses, “some NATO members are free riders,” and muddled things up somewhat:

If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes [we’ll protect them]… Well, I’m not saying if not. I’m saying, right now there are many countries that have not fulfilled their obligations to us.

This bit is not particularly encouraging for the Baltics, but I doubt that Trump is concerned about Estonia not paying its fair share – last time he was concerned about Germany and Japan not doing that. If he gets hybrid war right, it would outweigh all his prior equivocations.


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