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Between a Rock and a Hard Place

April 3, 2017

Recent arrests of pro-democracy activists in Belarus have shined a spotlight on Putin’s desire to keep the Belarusian Stalinist regime in Russia’s orbit. Putin is sensitive to democracy initiatives and willing to use military force to suppress developments such as were taken by former Soviet Georgia. And the invasion of Crimea points toward Putin’s desire to retake Ukraine and make it part of greater Russia.

Containing this expansion strategy should be the primary goal of U.S. foreign policy, yet signals from President Trump suggest something else is on his mind. Trump continues to question U.S. obligations to NATO thus giving the jitters to NATO member governments.

Western and Eastern Europe now find themselves in between the rock of a ruthless autocrat in Russia and a hard place occupied by an American President given to making policy by Tweets, and failing to make Presidential appointments requiring Senate confirmation.

At the Department of State, a lone, former Exxon executive, travels the world without institutional support or even an entourage of American journalists.  And this week, the American deal-maker in chief meets the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping. The President of the PRC is a true believer in Maoist Marxism, hardened by forced exile in 1969. Caught up in Mao’s Down to the Countryside purge of communist party leaders and their children, Xi Jinping is reported to have survived only by spiritually committing himself to Father Mao.

The notion that a hotel magnate who prides himself as a “deal-maker” is meeting China’s hardened Marxist President, Xi Jinping, without weeks of briefings by State Department China experts and his National Security Advisors now places the United States between a rock and a hard place.

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