Monday, November 21, 2016

Will Trump Start World War III?

In my recently released book, An Adventure in 1914, I noted that "The World can change fundamentally in a single day".  The world changed on 9/11 and it changed again on December 7. 1941.  It changed in the summer of 1914 that preceded the start of World War I.  It seems also to have changed on November 9, 2016 with the election of Donald Trump.

Many of Trump's critics have been hailing the election results in terms that approximate the end of days.

1) Noam Chomsky states that the Republican Party is "the most dangerous organization in world history”  He goes on to suggest that we are now "accelerating the race to disaster”.  (

Nightmare Scenario
2) A distinguished English observer, General Sir Richard Shirreff, suggested that Trump increases the danger of World War III.  Shirreff spells out his fears the introduction to his novel War With Russia which features a Russian invasion of the Ukraine and all three Baltic Republics in 2017 (  "Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump in an interview with the New York Times cast doubt on America's willingness to come to the aid of a NATO ally under attack.  At a stroke this comment had undermined the notion of NATO's founding principle of collective defense.  NATO is totally dependent on strong US leadership and peace in Europe will only be maintained if there is an absolute certainty that the US will always be there to defend its allies.  Trump's comments will embolden the President (Putin) and make the nightmare scenario in this book more likely."

3) In an August 2016 editorial four star American General, Barry McCaffrey wrote, "Trump lacks the caution and careful judgment that is required by a future president of the United States when forming national-security and foreign-policy decisions."  (

4) In the 9/26/16 presidential debate Trump candidly admitted, "I haven’t given lots of thought to NATO."

5) Finally, according to some folks, even Nostradamus, the French prophet, may have predicted that Donald J. Trump would start World War III way back in the 17th century.  Nostradamus wrote: "The false trumpet concealing madness will cause Byzantium to change its laws"...

Should we be worried?  Should we be building fallout shelters and teaching the young to "duck and cover"?
Archduke Franz Ferdinand
Well, there ARE disturbing parallels between 1914 and our own time.  The world did stumble into war in the summer of 1914 after a terrorist incident in Sarajevo claimed the life of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand.  This was, in a way, history's greatest train wreck.  Interlocking alliances among the Central Powers and the Triple Entente were a key factor in the march to war.  Russian Czar Nicholas II was the first major nation to mobilize precipitating a response from other nations.

In 2016 terrorism is obviously a major global concern.  NATO, the most successful alliance in world history, is an "interlocking alliance" as General Shirreff points out above.  Article 5 states that an attack on one member is an attack on all.  An invasion by the Russians one or more of the Baltic states who are all NATO members could swiftly trigger a much wider war.

In spite of what Chicago Cubs fans may say, history does NOT always repeat itself.  But it often does rhyme!

There are also, of course, significant differences between now and 1914.

Nicholas II
Putin is NOT Nicholas II.  Putin wishes to cling to power in the Russian kleptocracy over which he presides.   Putin has significantly built up Russian military spending and power.  Russia has today the most powerful military in Europe.  Putin has demonstrated a willingness to use his military invading Georgia in 2008 and the Crimea in 2014.  Putin has ordered construction of 2,500 T-14 supertanks -- the offensive weapon par excellence.  Putin protests about being "surrounded by NATO".  Putin's ultimate goal seems to be the destruction of the NATO alliance. (

There are, however, some reasons to be hopeful.

First, the election of Hillary Clinton would, quite likely, have put America on an even more direct collision course with Russia.  Clinton's contempt for Putin's Russia was evident throughout her campaign.  Her advocacy of a no fly zone in Syria would have been an immediate provocation to Russia. Neither Clinton nor Trump had any military experience in their resume which is why they relied so much on trotting out lists of "generals and admirals" who had endorsed them.

Neither Nicholas II nor Stalin

Second, Putin, while loathsome, is NOT Stalin either.  He does not preside over an ideological nation that is determined to bury world capitalism.  History teaches us that FDR was able to work with Stalin to bring about the destruction of Nazi Germany.  Is it not possible that the Trump administration will be able to work with Putin to attack ISIS in Syria and the Middle East?

Third, the Republican Party establishment, exemplified by Vice President-Elect Mike Pence, fully grasps the importance of the NATO alliance.  They will move quickly to reassure our NATO allies that the USA stands with them.

Fourth, there really is now an opening for a true "Re-Set" with Russia which is, quite frankly long overdue.  Obama utterly botched relations with Russia.  In 2010 he was a no show for the 65th anniversary of the end of World  In 2013 he became the first leader (American or Russian) to actually cancel a scheduled summit with the Russians.  Four out of five German soldiers in World War II were killed on the Russian front.  The "Greatest Generation" that returned to America after the conclusion of World War II to attend college with the GI bill and rebuild America would, at the very least, have been decimated without the immense Soviet effort and sacrifice on the Eastern front.  Over 23 million Russians were killed in World War II.  It is high time that an American president help to explain this basic historic fact to the American people.  Trump has an opportunity to do just that.

Fifth, eight years ago Americans elected a Bush-Bashing non-interventionist candidate with limited political experience and superior television and new media skills.  We seem to have survived that decision.

How would I advise President-elect Trump?

Russia's long term goal seems to be the destruction of the NATO alliance.  The West is in dire need of a long term strategy.  The long term goal for the America and the West should be THE INCORPORATION OF RUSSIA INTO THE NATO ALLIANCE. We know that terrorism in many forms will remain a global threat that threatens both American AND Russian interests.  We know that rogue states armed with nuclear weapons (e.g. North Korea and soon Iran) are a threat to both nations.  And we know that both nations' concerns and fears about China are only likely to grow.  For all these reasons, we should strongly consider wooing / seducing Russia into the NATO alliance over the long term.

US Navy carrier

For many reasons Trump needs to immediately display some distance from Putin's Russia.  He should send a US Aircraft Carrier on permanent station into the Baltic.  He should deploy, at a minimum, a brigade strength US Army unit to the Baltic Republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.  The purpose of these moves would be not to provoke to rather to communicate American intentions and values to our NATO allies and the world.  The message must be crystal clear: America stands with our allies and in favor of self determination for states large and small.   America still stands for freedom and tolerance in a dark and complicated world.

The best way to entice Russia into NATO is to demonstrate that the Alliance works and can preserve and protect the territorial integrity of Russia along with all of its member states.

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1 comment:

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