Not that I have an inside source or anything…
Imagine the conversation in the Kremlin. Certainly they have their hawks and doves. Let’s call them the “war party” and the “hopeful diplomats.”
War Party: “NATO has been moving ever closer to the motherland. First Yugoslavia, then the Baltics, then Georgia, now Ukraine.”
Hopeful Diplomats: “We think we finally have someone in Trump that we can work with. He says he wants to talk. Let’s give it a chance.”
War Party: “You don’t understand. There is no more buffer between NATO and the motherland; next stop St. Petersburg, then Moscow.”
Hopeful Diplomats: “We only have to wait ten more days, and then we can officially talk to Trump.”
War Party: “OK, but if things go south, so will you. We will have to fight.”
Hopeful Diplomats: [Gulp]
On the one hand, Putin can be described as a patient diplomat: despite the continued eastern encroachments by NATO he has not launched an overt counter-attack. On the other hand, the Russian military – while certainly capable – is no match for the US military when push comes to shove…and Putin knows this. He has to be (and so far has been) very selective about where and how he engages.
There is one place, certainly, where the two are – for all practical purposes – equal: weapons of mass destruction, aka nukes.
What will the Russians look for from Trump? Satisfactory resolutions on the Ukraine and Syria and an end to the economic and other sanctions. Given that it is the west and the US that have been the aggressors in all these conflicts, what this means is that the desired outcome is all one-sided – reasonably favorable to Russia.
After all, what compromise can be reached when you are the aggrieved party? As is obvious, there are too many in the US – neocons whether democrat or republican – that will fight hard against this.
This is the place for wise diplomats, good negotiators. Find a way to leave a neutral Ukraine, even one that offers autonomy to certain regions; Assad stays in power until proper elections are held; once agreement is reached on these two, the sanctions will be lifted. In other words, find deals where both sides can claim some form of victory (whether true or not).
What is left for Russia if the hopeful diplomats are wrong? The war party in the Kremlin will take control, as they must given that the situation is existential.
There is a third group in Russia – those willing or even desirous of moving toward the west, under the western orbit. If the hopeful diplomats fail, will this group come to the fore instead of the war party?
Hard to imagine. The bloodiest battles in Europe over the last 150 have usually come as a result of Russia facing an existential crisis. They haven’t lost yet. It is difficult to imagine an easy transition to subservience for such a people.
What happens if the Russian political and military leadership find no reason to hope that the dialogue and the actions will change under Trump? That is the question, isn’t it?
There should be no doubt that many western leaders favor war; they will do all they can to ensure Trump is cornered. This will not be an easy road for Trump.
When facing an existential crisis and you cannot otherwise fight on equal terms, why not go all Samson on your enemy.
Judges 16:27 Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform.
28 Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.”
29 Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other,
30 Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.
Let’s hope Trump can leave Russia with two eyes….