Trump’s example of how tough he is on Russia came off boastful and humorous in this light. “We expelled 60 Russian diplomats [after the attempted poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal in the UK] when France and Germany only evicted four!” Trump said, hinting at Russian spies masquerading as diplomats.
As a pragmatic businessman who sees his extraordinary skill at negotiation as one of his greatest strengths, Trump said that he might develop a very good relationship with Putin, while he also might not. “You’ll see soon enough!” Trump said.
Lt. Gen. McMaster said in his speech, summing up his 34-year public service career, that the West has failed in holding Russia accountable for its aggressive actions.
In the name of the next 100 years
“Russian aggression bolsters our decisiveness and confidence. We can all help Mr. Putin understand the serious mistake he has made,” McMaster added, listing a number of steps proving Russia’s aggressive stance.
He gave the example of hybrid warfare tricks being employed in the vicinity of Russia, skillful social media integration, spread of propaganda and weaponization of information, espionage, and cyberattacks.
“Russia employs complicated strategies to reach its goals without going as far as to provoke a direct military response,” McMaster said. He believes a lot of Western countries have tried to turn a blind eye to Russia’s conduct for too long which has made the Kremlin increasingly bold and encouraged it to stage new operations to undermine allies’ determination and mutual trust. It has to end, McMaster said.
After McMaster’s speech, I asked Minister of Defense Jüri Luik what we could call the era we are currently living in. The Cold War, a largely ideological confrontation between the USA and (Soviet) Russia is over, while there is talk of a new one.
Luik said that a new confrontation is clearly visible, with the threat of terrorism as a new element in the global security situation. The minister said that while the situation has not been given a name yet, one might be found in historical treatments of the era.
As former ambassador to Moscow, Luik said that the new confrontation between USA and the West in general and Russia is once more ideological. Putin represents and spreads a clear ideology centered around a strong leader and state, but also the Orthodox faith and private property. The Russian president has said as much.
“It is clear that Francis Fukuyama’s idea from the 1990s, according to which the rivalry between systems of government is over, and liberal democracy – represented by the USA – has defeated totalitarianism which effectively signals the end of history, was wrong,” Luik said.
Fukuyama has admitted that a correction is in order as his 1992 idea of the end of history has not materialized. Talking about American political philosophy, Samuel Huntington’s at times ridiculed claim that we in Estonia are located on the border of clashing civilizations has been largely vindicated.
The Washington summit largely took place in service of protecting that border. Or like President Trump put it: so that Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania could start the next 100 years.