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Digest: Siim Kallas on a potential Russian-American security deal

Siim Kallas.
Siim Kallas. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Though he admits he couldn't possibly know what is going on in Donald Trump's mind, former EU commissioner and now Viimsi municipal Mayor Siim Kallas (Reform) says he can see a kind of grander logic in the actions of the American president.

In an opinion piece for daily Päevaleht (link in Estonian), Kallas writes that most comments on Trump's actions focus on details instead of looking at the bigger picture: "Following this logic, the Estonian-Russian border treaty would have had to start with the placement of markers, not the political decision to place them," Kallas writes.

Hardly any of the great political decisions in world history were about details, Kallas goes on: Munich in 1938, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, the decision of the West leading up to Tehran 1943 to leave Eastern Europe to the Soviets, in all of these cases events unfolded after very general decisions that hardly paid attention to detail.

"I'm not saying that I like Donald Trump, but I'm beginning to see the grander logic behind his decisions," Kallas writes, though admitting that he could be wrong.

Forget East and West: this is Judeo-Christianity facing off Islam

A central point in Trump's actions and decisions, according to Kallas, seems to be the confrontation of the Judeo-Christian and the Islamic world. America left the Iran nuclear deal, moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, used military force in Syria.

The summit with North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Un, also makes sense, as a new conflict in Asia would simply be inconvenient, Kallas writes.

That America can't fight all of the Islamic world all at once seems clear, Kallas goes on: "The aim, then, is the most belligerent, most ideological, and least cooperative Islamic state, and one that's also big enough." According to Kallas, that is Iran.

Allies like Saudi Arabia act as a source of support and are welcome, while Trump can't understand Europe's tolerance of Islam. Much like Russia, the current U.S. administration is actively trying to break up the European Union and get separate agreements with individual countries.

U.S. cooperation with Russia as a logical option

Before such a backdrop, that the president would look to Russia as a potential partner seems only logical, Kallas goes on. As Trump can't find allies for his stand-off with the Muslim world in Europe, he is looking for them elsewhere. China might not yet engage, but it isn't interfering either.

Russia's official ideology is Christian. Russian-Orthodox, maybe, but America's own Christian religious landscape is diverse enough not to make this too big a problem. Russia has problems with Islamic extremists within its own borders, for example in Chechnya, but also in other federal republics, and enough of it to make countering Islamism a priority for the Russian government.

America and Russia are relatively similar in that they prioritise military power over economic measures, Kallas writes. For Europe, economic considerations matter more than anything else, and avoiding military conflict is a priority.

Kallas also points out that the U.S. have had complaints about the transatlantic trade gap long before Trump's time in the White House. His predecessor, President Barack Obama, also called Europe's trade surplus a factor that could potentially harm U.S.-European relations.

Russian-American security deal could be on the cards

In the light of all of these developments, Trump could be aiming for a grand security deal with Russia. Such a deal could include that the U.S. recognises the Russian annexation of Crimea. Russia would in turn drop its support of the separatists in the Donbas and Eastern Ukraine, while it would demand of Ukraine to grant the area some sort of autonomy.

In the Middle-East, Russia and the U.S. would work together, essentially led by the U.S. while the latter in turn would recognise Russian allies, such as Bashar al-Assad's Syria.

Beyond that, the two powers could then agree on a coordinated approach to dealing with Iran, while the U.S. would get NATO to withdraw its forces from the Russian border.

Kallas admits that there has been no announcement hinting at such a deal, but cautions that the contacts between the White House and Putin's inner circle, for example through Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, could hint at preparations being made towards just this kind of agreement.

New order in terms of international security

What is going on has the potential to break up the current order of international security, Kallas thinks, seeing as there are plenty of examples of how economic factors can affect the military and security situation as well.

The currently ongoing trade war is only intensifying, with both the EU and China having taken decisive steps against the U.S., who are far from being the winner of this dispute. Everyone suffers.

The stable security order established after World War II has been replaced with a time of insecurity, where nobody knows what will happen next and this mainly depends on the unpredictable actions of the United States.

Kallas sees two points where European politicians have work to do. One is the question if Europe shouldn't be trying to use the current economic opposition and its effects to try and find a compromise. This may be necessary for the reason alone that Europe's continuing trade superiority is nothing that the American voter is likely to accept in the long term, and thus one of Donald Trump's most important advantages in American internal politics.

The other is the fact that America's defence spending is still many times higher than that of its NATO allies, which is another point that irritates the American voter. Increased European dedication to the issue would work against this irritation, though it might also bring more internal problems for the EU, seeing as France and Poland might think twice before backing German efforts to increase the size and weaponry of its military.

For Estonia, important questions remain, Kallas writes. What will happen if America and NATO withdraw their tanks from Estonia's borders? What is Estonia's political, economic, and military capacity to react to unexpected developments? Can we anticipate what is going to happen, and do we have the political flexibility and reaction speed to handle it?

Editor: Dario Cavegn

Source: Eesti Päevaleht

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