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24 Oct, 2018 17:01

‘Trump doesn’t want any country even near challenging American power’

‘Trump doesn’t want any country even near challenging American power’

By withdrawing from a key nuclear arms treaty, the US could be shooting itself in the foot in Europe, but Trump doesn’t care about Europeans, he cares about Russia, China and - most of all – Israel, says author John Laughland.

Talks with the Russian president concluded a two-day visit to Moscow by US National Security Adviser John Bolton. The high-ranking official said the US is still going ahead with pulling out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty while playing down fears it'll spark an arms race. During the talks, John Bolton said the treaty was outdated and should be expanded to include China.

RT discussed the developments with John Laughland from the Paris-based think-tank, the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation.

RT: The US president has publicly taken a tough stance about this treaty but behind the scenes his National security adviser has been more conciliatory. Do you think Washington will push ahead with scrapping the agreement?

John Laughland: …I think Bolton is being conciliatory. And I think Trump is being conciliatory. Not of course in his tone, that is Trump’s shtick: Trump very often in foreign policy and maybe in domestic policy as well says things which are designed to throw all the cards up in the air to put his opponents and rivals on the defensive, to make himself talked about. He has been a president for two years – we have been talking about almost nothing else but Trump. And then to see what he can get out of the new situation that he has created.

Let’s not forget only a few months ago, at the G7 in Canada, he flew off to Korea shortly after that and had a blazing row with Canada and attacked Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister. They’ve now signed a new trade agreement with Canada. On the basis of that precedent, it could be that he came out all guns blazing on the INF treaty, simultaneously sent John Bolton and they may well be working towards some kind of new agreement. Because let’s not forget, before the Helsinki summit this summer, Trump repeatedly said that he wanted arms agreements with Russia. Either he is completely schizophrenic or he is playing a very typically Trump game.

David Lindorff, investigative journalist & founding editor of new online newspaper ThisCantBeHappening!, said: “It is not clear that the President has the authority to back out of the treaty that was passed by the two thirds of the Senate. I think that remains to be determined… It is not like the Iran deal that was never approved by the Senate – it was just a presidential deal…The second thing is – Bolton said at the press-conference that there was no consequences when the US… pulled out of the ABM treaty. In fact there were huge consequences… Russia responded by developing the supersonic cruise missiles which upset the US.”

RT: With no treaty in place, could there be a threat to the current balance of powers?

JL: Obviously, America has full spectrum dominance and Trump has repeatedly said he wants to maintain that. He wants to maintain the position in which no country or even group of countries can come even near challenging American power. I think that is a very clear line in Trump’s foreign policy. But equally we have to give him some credit. I think Trump is a vehement realist in international relations. What I mean by that is that he thinks that international relations and maybe commercial relations as well are determined by force. And the treaties come about when there is agreement. But agreement comes about when there is a balance of power or at least certain relationship of force.

Italy’s former Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said: “Anyway, there will be less security, there will be more instability. There will be a vicious circle towards more proliferation. And since the world of today is already threatened by asymmetric threats, this is exactly what we don’t need to have back in the proliferation common strategy. That would be a step back, very dangerous.”

RT: Europe's powerhouses have slammed Trump's move. Will Washington face significant backlash over this?

JL: I think that there is an argument for saying that America does not have an interest in withdrawing from this treaty. Because with the treaty it can prevent Russia, if Russia were to want to, from deploying these intermediate range missile… But in Europe, it could be that America is shooting itself in the foot. Let’s not forget that Macron and Merkel are going to [Istanbul this week] to talk to Mr Putin and Mr Erdogan about Syria. This was unthinkable only a few months ago. The Europeans do not like Trumpism in foreign policy. They prefer the world of multilateral treaties, international agreements. It drives them crazy, it makes [them] very scared... But I don’t think Trump cares about the Europeans. I think Trump does care about the big guys: Russia, China. He doesn’t really mind upsetting the Europeans. And above all, let’s not forget that the main country America is interested in, and this may be the key, by the way, is Israel. And therefore the Iran deal, the nuclear missile deal, that is the main axis of American foreign policy. And I think the Russian thing, the intermediate nuclear forces treaty is probably linked to his denunciation of the Iran nuclear treaty which itself of course has a knock on effect in other areas of arms control.

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