From Reuters:

President Donald Trump will ask German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her views on how the United States can help resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine when they meet next week, senior Trump administration officials said on Friday.

Putin wanted Trump in power; that much is clear, according to U.S. spies.  Is it because he hoped for a grand bargain over Ukraine?  If so, Putin’s belly must be turning to ice over this report.

There are a few interesting angles to consider here:

  1. Is the alt-right nationalism that drove Trump’s campaign the same as Putin’s revanchist nationalism, and if so, does that make them ideological fellow travelers?
    1. If yes, Trump is playing Merkel for a fool, making it appear he continues to value NATO and the EU while in fact using back doors to undermine both with Putin.
    2. If no, Trump has played Putin for a fool: Trump has used both alt-right nationalism and Moscow to gain the presidency, the hardest deal Trump has ever sealed, and certainly the greatest reward for an ego that demands both success and adoration.
  2. Is Trump aiming to cede Europe to Germany by relying on its most powerful leader?
    1. If yes, this is huge geopolitically, because Trump is peacefully transferring power from the post-war, American-led world order, to a new post-Great Recession multipolar world, in which Germany, and not the U.S., is the linchpin of European geopolitics.
    2. If no, this means that Trump is hoping a European can tell him how to use the superpower’s capabilities to solve a European problem.

What we should watch for:

  • Will the U.S. rearm Ukraine?  If so, it dooms Putin’s hopes of a grand bargain; America under Trump will see Ukraine and Syria as separate issues, so cooperation with Russia in Syria does not equate to cooperation in Ukraine.  If not, Putin may yet get his realignment.
  • Will the solutions to Ukraine be German or American?  A long-term threat to the United States’ security is the emergent of an independent, German-led European power, possibly created by a Russo-German alliance.  This is a very long journey, much longer than Trump can be president, but if Ukraine becomes a German-led process, it will be an important step on this road to a German-led Europe independent of the United States.