The intentions of Donald Trump will convince some that he intends a new world order, with these salient features:
- An attempt at codominium of the U.S. and Russia over large parts of Eurasia.
- Deliberate exclusion of China from the codominium. As with a bad marriage, there will be attempt to blame the other partner. Subtle provocations will continue, with the motive to induce Chinese retaliation, providing further pretexts. But China will stick to soft power unless pushed to the wall.
- Promotion of economic interdependence between the U.S. and Russia.
- Gutting the federal bureaucracies that stand in the way: intelligence, counterintelligence, and environment. This is why Trump isn’t meeting with the intelligence community. He’s going to gut them.
Conservative predictors may call this a “tilt towards Russia.” Henry Kissinger introduces the term codominium in White House Years, when, during the era of Leonid Brezhnev, the U.S.S.R. asked for acquiescence to a nuclear strike against China. This time, the attempted codominium cannot fully satisfy the definition, because of China’s size and power, which continue on a steep upward curve.
Within the recent past, Kissinger has expressed concern that the U.S. could not withstand the combined power of a united Eurasia. This is the geopolitical basis for NATO. But it could now be argued that a combination of Russia and China, inconceivable during the Brezhnev era, satisfies the nature of the threat. From the Russian viewpoint, only the U.S. can balance China, a statement made in Putin, Balance of Power, Richelieu, Lycurgus, the Ruble, and War.
The contemplated tie-up satisfies an extension of the economic model described as mercantilism. In public school education, most U.S. students become acquainted with mercantilism in the relation between Britain and the American colonies. The colonies, restricted by law from many forms of manufacturing, supplied raw materials to the mother country, with return trade of manufactured goods.
Until a few years ago, an extension of mercantilism characterized U.S./China trade. In this analogy, cheap China labor substitutes for raw materials. Intellectual property and secret industrial processes substitute for manufactured goods. At the peak in the early 2000’s, the popular media thrummed with the idea that the U.S. was in a “post-industrial” era, based on the “information economy”, which vitiated the need to make things.
But now we discover that a large portion of the U.S. electorate are prepared, by talent, inclination, and education, for tasks involving no more than low-level automation. This is one of the gaps between the red states and the blue, and the basis of Trump’s gamble for continued political success. With an attempt an alliance along the lines of traditional balance-of-power realpolitik, he kills two birds with one stone:
- The Eurasian codominium warned of by Kissinger is averted.
- A profitable mercantile model with Russia is established.
The new mercantile model involving Russia will conform more closely to the classical form. Britain, the 19th century balancer of Europe, is an island nation. In Does America Need a Foreign Policy, with obvious reference to the barriers of the oceans, Kissinger states that the U.S. as an island nation. With diminishing native raw materials, another characteristic of an island comes to the fore: dependence on imported raw materials.
Since Trump doubtless appreciates that raw materials must be paid for, and U.S. labor is too expensive to supply the added value, the only viable option is to look for a mechanism that supervenes world markets. He may also be aware that historical evidence shows high correlation between energy consumption and prosperity. This is supported by the paper Energy and Prosperity, downloadable from United Nations Development Programme. Perhaps it’s enough for him to establish a cause-and-effect relationship for cheap oil.
This is not the first time it’s been tried. Beginning in 1901 with Iran, lasting till the formation of OPEC, a primitive derivative of mercantilism involving the Seven Sisters formed the world oil trade. During the administration of George W. Bush, a number of foreign policy initiatives seemed inspired by the desire to weaken the OPEC monopoly, and to bypass Russia for the comparatively minor reserves of the Caucasus. There was wide popular expectation that the 2003 invasion of Iraq would result in an Iraq exception to the world oil market. But a mechanism never came to light.
Mercantile systems have been time-limited. One stressor results from industrialization of the client, which in the American colonies lead to revolution. A Russian rupture would occur, as it did with China, after a period of technology transfer.
But the glue is the threat of China. According to the dictates of classical geopolitics, it should be Russia’s greatest concern. But it has not received significant expression. The only hint of it is in Russia’s nuclear doctrine, which permits first-use of nuclear weapons in the case of invasion.
In choosing who to dance with, the great concern is compromise, by infiltration, of the cherished qualities of our system of government. Russia has a Potemkin democracy, hiding what from our point of view is deeply institutionalized corruption. China may eventually excel in quality of government, but with a system so inconceivably alien, some might prefer the Potemkin village.
For explicit worries, read Through the Keyhole, Into the Future.