Greetings, folks, from beautiful Santa Barbara, Calif. Doggone, this place is just picturesque…then you remember you’re in California. I’m here today at the President Ronald Reagan Ranch Center to address the Wendy P. McCaw Reagan Ranch Roundtable luncheon, and get my fourth visit to Rancho del Cielo. I love being here in Santa Barbara, great run trail along the Pacific Ocean, and supporting the efforts of Young America’s Foundation (YAF) to grow the next generation of conservative leaders is just awesome. And this time I get a special treat, hanging out with some “Devil Dogs” from Camp Pendleton, the esteemed Marines of 3d Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment “Dark Horse”…nothing like being around American Warriors!
You know, I have a recommendation for President-elect Trump: he should come to Rancho del Cielo and sign his tax reform legislation into law there, just as Reagan did. The symbolism and connection to history would be powerful, and I believe we will see the same economic growth we experienced with Reagan, coming after Jimmy Carter.
But there’s also another recommendation I have for President-elect Trump. Heed the words of Reagan, “trust but verify” — and that applies to the exact same adversary…then, Mr. Gorbachev and the Soviet Union, today, a resurgent Russia under Vladimir Putin.
As reported by Reuters, President Vladimir Putin struck an unusually conciliatory tone in his annual state of the nation address on Thursday, saying Moscow wanted to get on with the incoming U.S. administration and was looking to make friends not enemies.
Putin has used previous set-piece speeches to lash out at the West and the United States in particular, but he reined in his criticism this time round and focused most of his speech on domestic social and economic issues.
“We don’t want confrontation with anyone. We don’t need it. We are not seeking and have never sought enemies. We need friends,” Putin told Russia’s political elite gathered in one of the Kremlin’s grandest halls.
“We are ready to cooperate with the new U.S. administration. We have a shared responsibility to ensure international security.”
Any U.S.-Russia co-operation would have to be mutually beneficial and even-handed, he said.
Putin has spoken previously of his hope that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump may help restore tattered U.S.-Russia relations, and analysts said he was unlikely to want to dial up anti-Western rhetoric before Trump’s inauguration in January.
The Russian leader said he was hoping to find common ground with Washington on fighting global terrorism in particular.
That was a reference to Syria where Moscow is backing President Bashar al-Assad, while the outgoing U.S. administration has supported anti-Assad rebels.
Russia hopes Trump will give Russia a freer hand there and cooperate militarily to fight Islamic State.
Putin’s tone may have been softer than usual, but he still made it clear that Russia would continue to robustly stand up for its own interests.
Let’s not forget Vladimir Putin is a former Soviet Union KGB colonel. Here’s a guy who stated his greatest disappointment of the 20th century was the collapse of the Soviet Union. What I see in the statement from Putin is simple: I have the high ground, and have made all the requisite geopolitical moves I wanted. Get over it, and deal with me where I am…and we can be friends.
It’s important to judge Putin not by his words, but by his actions. Putin is not returning Crimea. Putin is not withdrawing his forces from Eastern Ukraine. Putin just employed anti-ship missiles into the enclave in Kaliningrad, which we shared with you. Putin still threatens the Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Putin has taken over disputed islands claimed by Japan and is fortifying them with military weaponry, same as China with the Senkaku Islands. And we see that Putin has done what he needed to do, prop up Bashar Assad, and maintain his hold on power because a weak Obama left a vacuum in the Middle East.
So, if I were Putin — who, in his mind, has made all of his necessary moves under Obama’s “flexibility” — sure, I’m playing that song by the group War, “Why Can’t We Be Friends.” Putin is not giving up anything and believes he can dictate the rules and policy to Trump, who is truly behind an eight ball…thanks to Obama.
The Trump national security team has to seek out Putin’s Achilles heel and exploit that gap in order to retake the high ground in this relationship. Critical will be our energy security program and how we can produce and export more energy and undermine European dependence on Putin. We also need to look at strategic power projection basing of our military assets, working in conduction with allies such as the Baltic States and Poland, and reintegrate ourselves into the Middle East…regaining respect and regard. One of the critical aspects is to subvert the strengthening bond between Russia and Iran; that’s an important foreign policy measure a strong SecState must push.
These past four years have seen a Vladimir Putin able to conduct his actions with impunity, with no challenge beyond statements of condemnation — which he sees as a child stomping their foot. Putin is a man who deals in action. And words to him are to be used as propaganda in order to mask his true intentions and objectives. President-elect Donald Trump would be wise not to trust a doggone thing Putin says, and verify him by an assessment of his actions. Anyone honestly doing that will see Vladimir Putin is full of crap, and will disregard this speech he gave. Putin is laughing, and remember he recently called Trump talking all nice, then within 24 hours was assisting in the bombing of Aleppo. Putin wants Assad to have Aleppo and destroy the rebel forces before January 20th, so that a President Trump has fewer options, and cannot have U.S. forces in Syria, as ISIS will be seen as an issue for Syria, and their Russian and Iranian allies.
As I’ve said before, restoring economic growth to America is the easy part…rebuilding our military capability and capacity, and reinvigorating our dead foreign policy is the heavy lift.
Reagan said “trust but verify,” but in the case of Vladimir Putin, don’t trust anything. Once KGB, always KGB. Evaluate Putin by what he does — and an alliance with Iran tells me all I need to know.