It was Vladimir Putin himself who gave Rex Tillerson the Order of Friendship in 2012. Tillerson was, and still is, the CEO of ExxonMobil. Now he is going to be secretary of state in Donald Trump’s Cabinet. In Moscow, the nomination was described as nothing less than a Christmas gift. Tillerson is yet another member of the Trump camp with the lifting of sanctions against Russia on his agenda.
This would also be a gift to ExxonMobil, who in such a scenario could breathe new life into projects currently on ice.
It is unlikely that Europe will be able to maintain its current sanctions. Already, there are strong forces wanting to lift the sanctions, and without U.S. pressure these forces will gain momentum. That would be a formidable victory for Putin. That Trump has also praised Brexit, criticized Angela Merkel and declared NATO obsolete does not make Europe’s future look any brighter.
Things may become particularly bleak for the states Putin believes should be part of a Russian sphere of influence. Trump isn’t sentimental, so a deal cannot be ruled out. Before the election, the idea of Donald Trump as president was, for many public thinkers, not unlike a doomsday threat. This was true in the U.S. In Europe. In Sweden. Even in Japan, where politeness is next to godliness, Prime Minister Abe was warning of the potential negative consequences of such an outcome.
After the victory, the disappointment turned to hope. “We” should give Trump a chance. “We” should wait and see if the president’s statements and actions were just means to secure the presidency. Therefore, a sigh of relief came when Gen. James Mattis was nominated as secretary of defense. Wise and well-read. Experienced in battle but not lusting for war. Knows NATO inside out. No friend of Putin. Considered a counterweight to the amateur president.
However, Trump continues to be Trump. Easily offended and impulsive, considering himself an expert with an authoritarian style and carrying a world view that can be summarized with the words nationalistic isolationism.
The future of Trump as president is currently an endless number of question marks and possible outcomes. Policies could change dramatically or only very slightly. The Iran agreement could be terminated or just revamped. It could also get quite messy with policies all over the place, or under the umbrella of business-like agreements that look like clever improvising. Trump already ended up in trouble for not abiding by the One China policy, and then compounded the situation with his manic Twittering.
Trump’s choice of advisers and Cabinet members was meant to be an indication of the future. Now, the picture is becoming clearer, but hope remains. We must wait and see, wait until Trump has taken office.
It is a bit like listening to the happy chorus, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” in the Monty Python film, “Life of Brian.”
Still, we must wait and see. The real geopolitical landslide would be if Trump, as indications suggest, chooses for the U.S. to give up the role of guarantor for western democracy and promoter of international free trade. This is a role the U.S. has played since 1945.
On film, Trump would have been good for an American political thriller. In reality, we are expecting a horror with an uncertain ending.