Everyone is saying the relationship between the United States and Russia is really, really bad right now. President Trump says it is bad. Russia agrees. All the pundits agree too.
So it must be true, right?
In the 2nd dimension – where things are just the way they look – it does seem that the U.S. and Russia are in a bad place with each other. The United States attacked Russia’s little buddy, Assad, for allegedly using chemical weapons. But Russia says Assad didn’t use chemical weapons. Now Russia is mad at the United States.
Maybe the situation is exactly what I just described.
But just for fun, let’s hop up to the 3rd dimension (of persuasion) and see what the view looks like.
Hopping up now. Looking around…
Okay, it looks different from here. In the 3rd dimension, the smartest thing for both Trump and Putin to say right now is that relations between Russia and the U.S. are terrible… while not thinking it is true in any practical sense.
For Trump, pretending to have bad relations with Russia solves for his “Puppet of Putin” problem while giving him room to improve. He’s setting the bar as low as the bar will go. And he gets a free pass on Russian relations right now because public opinion in the United States is supportive of the Syrian strike. Later, when relations with Russia improve, it will look like progress. Trump wins now, and he wins later too.
Luckily for President Trump, Putin also has an incentive to pretend that relations with the United States are strained. He needs to put up a strong front because of all the usual reasons countries act tough. Given the circumstances, I’d say Russia is acting restrained.
The United States and Russia are what I call “natural allies.” We have some common problems to solve (notably ISIS), and no natural problems with each other, such as claims to the same territory, or a long history of shooting wars against each other. And both countries are super-pragmatic.
The smartest play right now for both Trump and Putin (two Master Persuaders) is to claim relations between their countries are in the basement and can’t get much worse. That quiets the haters without creating any real risk of a trade war or a shooting war. Everyone gets what they need in this situation. And when relations improve – which they will – everyone gets to take credit for it.
I wish all of our national problems were as harmless as this one.
Update: At about the same time I posted this blog, the President tweeted:
Things will work out fine between the U.S.A. and Russia. At the right time everyone will come to their senses & there will be lasting peace!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 13, 2017
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