What Was Trump’s Russia Plan?

Whatever else emerges, the administration ignored history in counting on Putin to help U.S. interests

Mr. Trump and his advisers seem to have thought they could orchestrate a major strategic realignment with the Russians. Seeing Mr. Putin as a potential ally may have been profoundly naive—I certainly think so—but it was evidently a key part of their plans.

.. Mr. Trump’s longstanding fascination with Russia’s leader is no secret. He has been lavishing praise on Mr. Putin for more than a decade. In October 2007, for instance, Mr. Trump told talk-show host Larry King, whether “you like [Putin] or don’t like him—he’s doing a great job…in rebuilding the image of Russia and also rebuilding Russia, period.”

.. He insists that the Russia investigations in Congress and by special counsel Robert Mueller have undermined potential diplomatic cooperation with the Kremlin on containing North Korea’s nuclear threat, fighting Islamic State and other issues, which could, in Mr. Trump’s words, save “millions and millions of lives.”

.. Mr. Flynn said that the U.S. and Russia were united by a common enemy: radical Islam. “We can’t do what we want to do unless we work with Russia, period,” Mr. Flynn claimed.

.. K.T. McFarland, a month away from becoming Mr. Flynn’s deputy, said that Mr. Obama’s move was intended to “box Trump in diplomatically with Russia” and curtail the new president’s freedom to try to maneuver Russia away from its allies Iran and Syria.

.. Russia, she wrote, is the “key that unlocks [the] door.” Ms. McFarland’s message tracks with other evidence that Mr. Flynn, Jared Kushner and others attempted to persuade the Kremlin to help contain China.

.. Mr. Flynn’s request to the Kremlin not to overreact to the imposition of new sanctions by the Obama administration was a stunning break with the well-established protocol of not interfering with the actions of a sitting administration. It also raises troubling questions about what the Trump team might have offered in exchange. Sanctions relief? Reconsideration of U.S. support for Ukraine and other countries that have been victims of Russian aggression?
.. Given widespread reports at the time about Russian cyber and information operations seeking to influence the 2016 campaign, these efforts would have sent an unambiguous message to the Kremlin: The Trump team was relaxed about Russian meddling and eager to get down to business.
.. In Syria, rather than negotiating a Russian-American alliance to fight Islamic State, Trump’s team soon had to face up to the reality that Russian and Iranian military intervention had already transformed the war in favor of the Syrian regime, decimating U.S.-backed rebels in the process. The notion that Mr. Trump could disrupt the Russia-Iran relationship also proved fanciful. Tehran and Moscow are firmly united in opposing actions by the administration that threaten not just the Iran nuclear deal but a balance of power in the Middle East that serves the interests of both countries.
As for plans to put distance between Russia and China, Mr. Trump’s apparent strategy fared no better.
.. his troubled dealings with Russia have already proved what other administrations learned over a much longer period: In dealing with the Kremlin, across so many divergent interests, there are no easy fixes or grand bargains, even for Mr. Putin’s self-declared friends.

American Affairs: Why a New Policy Journal?

Social discord, frequently inflamed by proliferating versions of identity politics, is becoming more prevalent.

.. what if public discontent is a reasonable response to a misguided and complacent elite consensus?

.. American political theatre stages ever shriller battles over increasingly trivial matters.

.. We believe that recognizing failures and encouraging new ideas are not betrayals of American “optimism” but are instead healthier expressions of it.

.. Today, the celebration of “disruptive” technological innovation is virtually unanimous. Why then is corporate and government investment in basic research in decline? Why is productivity stagnating?

.. we are told that more and more jobs will be lost to automation, and that the “new economy” will be a highly bifurcated service economy. But if “average” is truly over, what does that mean for an American republic predicated on a strong and independent middle class

.. Yet the most conspicuous global phenomenon of the present time would appear to be the resurgence of nationalism

.. Can nationalism be leavened by justice—or even be essential to it—rather than being abandoned to its worst expressions?

.. Was meritocracy fated to produce social stratification? Or are we privileging certain forms of merit while excluding others?

.. Have the permanent campaigns of identity politics on the left and the “culture wars” on the right concealed the true content of our common citizenship?

.. The promise of America is no longer being realized as it once was. Revival and realignment are critically needed.

Time for a Realignment

This is the last presidential election in which two baby boomers will be running against each other. In the years ahead, politics will no longer be defined by the hidden animosities of the Vietnam era, by the sexual revolution/culture war issues of the 1970s.

.. The crucial social divide today is between those who feel the core trends of the global, information-age economy as tailwinds at their backs and those who feel them as headwinds in their face.

.. the most important social divide today is between a well-educated America that is marked by economic openness, traditional family structures, high social capital and high trust in institutions, and a less-educated America that is marked by economic insecurity, anarchic family structures, fraying community bonds and a pervasive sense of betrayal and distrust.

.. what Ronald Brownstein of The Atlanticdescribed in 2012 as the Coalition of Transformation versus the Coalition of Restoration.

.. The Republican Party is now a coalition of globalization-loving business executives and globalization-hating white workers. That’s untenable.

.. At its molten core, the Republican Party has become the party of the dispossessed, not the party of cosmopolitan business.

.. The Democratic Party is currently a coalition of the upscale urban professionals who make up the ruling class and less-affluent members of minorities who feel betrayed by it.

.. We don’t normally think that politics is divided along trust lines. But this year we’re seeing huge chasms depending upon how much trust you feel toward your neighbors and your national institutions. Disaffected low-trust millennials see things differently than the Hollywood, tech, media and academic professionals who actually run the party.