The first week of 2018, which is traditionally "quiet" time in Russia, was marked by at least three high-profile events on a global scale. They are not comparable in content, but they might become precursors of long-term trends that will last not for coming weeks, but for years.
Here they are in their chronological order but not in their order of significance:
Pyongyang started a direct dialogue with Seoul. For right now it’s about the 2018 Olympics, but what is important here is not only Pyongyang’s decision to participate in this event but also the fact that they used this decision as an excuse to interrupt, without losing face, the policy of ignoring their most important neighbor. Until now, North Korean authorities have stated in unison that South Korea is no more than a puppet of the U.S. and that they have nothing to talk about with the country. However, as we all know, there is something to talk about. And this concerns not only the safety of athletes but also the assurance of the untouchability of the nuclear button, despite its size. The first step is the hardest. Hopefully, Washington has enough common sense not to start comparing sizes.
The United States spectacularly failed with the U.N. Security Council by unthinkingly trying to use it as a battering ram for its anti-Iranian policy. Iran, apparently, defended its statehood within the country (time will tell), but it most definitely defended its sovereignty in the U.N. It is a salutiferous lesson for the whole international community, which almost forgot about an opportunity to act based on common sense and not based on American opinion.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that in the new year, the U.S. and Russia will face very important negotiations on agreements on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and on the elimination of intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, while stating that Washington recognizes Russia's concerns. It’s about time. After all, the possible withdrawal of the United States from the INF Treaty will inevitably lead to a sharp increase of the U.S. military presence with a qualitatively more powerful weapon at Russian land borders, and the disappearance of the basic agreement in the strategic nuclear balance in 2021 likewise will destabilize this sphere.
All three news items in one way or another are about the United States. The world is watching how the Americans are desperately clinging to the concept of their own exceptional leadership, but in reality they are not in a condition to offer the world anything besides threats and sanctions. However, the problem here is not Donald Trump but first of all, that the world became way more complex, and second of all, stricter toward leadership ambitions. To scream “We are the first” is definitely no longer enough. Sooner or later the U.S., not in words but in deeds, will have to actualize the remarkable thought expressed by Trump in his first speech at the session of the U.N. General Assembly in September:
“As president of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first. ... Our success depends on a coalition of strong and independent nations that embrace their sovereignty to promote... peace for themselves and for the world. ... [T]his is [a] foundation for cooperation and success. Strong, sovereign nations let diverse countries with different values, different cultures, and different dreams not just coexist, but work side by side on the basis of mutual respect."
It’s about time for Washington to stop wasting words. The time has come to get down to business.