KYIV – President Trump’s zigzagging on Putin’s Russia is a deliberate pre-negotiating strategy, not a sign of confusion, Newt Gingrich, a longtime confidante of the president has told an audience here.
“We are bigger than you, richer than you, more powerful than you, if you really push us, there be a risk to get into something big,” Gingrich said, paraphrasing Trump’s message that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivered to the Kremlin last month. “The first big test is Eastern Ukraine. If they do not get Putin to understand that, there will not be a second step.”
President Trump confidante Newt Gingrich speaks to students at the Diplomatic Academy of Ukraine in a talk sponsored by the Pinchuk Foundation (UBJ Editor)
Will Fight Impeachment
Gingrich spoke Tuesday, hours before the latest impeachment talk heated up in Washington.
“Trump is not a person who backs down,” warned Gingrich, who last summer was on Trump’s short list of vice presidential nominees. Noting that Trump’s second book was
“The Art of the Comeback,” Gingrich predicted a long political fight, saying: “This is a guy who has been through a lot this is a guy who does not back down.”
In his talk, Gingrich repeatedly circled back to how the Republican Administration will deal with Vladimir Putin. With his visit sponsored by the Pinchuk Foundation, Gingrich spoke to several hundred students of the Diplomatic Academy of Ukraine.
Gingrich asked students to consume CNN and other American media reporting on Trump with skepticism.
“The Washington news media hates Donald Trump -- this is the most one sided reporting of my lifetime,” said Gingrich. Now 73 years old, Gingrich was a member the U.S. House of Representatives for 20 years, from 1979 to 1999.
Strong Foreign Policy Team
Contrary to mainstream media reporting, he said Trump has “assembled a very smart strategic team.”
“It is the best national security team since Eisenhower,” said Gingrich who spent part of the late 1950s living on American military bases in France and Germany.
Ukraine’s Success is Challenge to Putin
Gingrich, who has a Phd in European History, said that Ukraine’s success as a free market, multiparty democracy would be profoundly destabilizing to Putin.
“Nothing will help Moscow toward stability and rule of law than a successful Ukraine,” the influential Republican thinker said. “To the degree, the economy is growing under genuine rule of law – you become the standard by which everyday Russians measure things.”
Trump Cultivates China
Putin – and the rest of the world – got a taste of Trump’s political power strategy last month when he ordered the firing of 59 US Navy Tomahawk missiles at Syrian air base believed to have been the launching pad for a poison gas attack on civilians.
At the time, China’s president, Xi Jinping, was visiting Trump at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida.
“He leaves dinner, announces to the world he has hit Syria with 59 Tomahawks,” Gingrich recounted. “Then, he comes back and explains to the Chinese President. Xi turns to his interpreter and asks: ‘What did he just say?’”
“This was not planned,” continued Gingrich. “But it was a pretty good signal to the Chinese this is a different administration, one willing to use force.”
Gingrich asserted this contributed to China leaving Russia isolated in a United Nations vote on the Syria attack and to China announcing last week that it would resume imports of American beef ending a 14-year suspension.
Standing up to Putin
“This was also a signal to the Russians and the North Koreans,” Gingrich said, referring to two countries who see China as an ally. “It was also a signal to Putin he should underestimate pleasantness for softness.”
“We did not negotiate with the Russians, we did not give them a lot of warning --
one hour,” Trump said of the bombing of a base where Russian air force personnel were working. The message was: “We are not going to be pushed around by you.”
Gingrich said that Trump has gone out of his way to cultivate a rare, personal relationship with China’s president. He broke with protocol, taking him on a one-on-one, three hour walking tour of Mar-a-Lago, escorted only by an interpreter.
“We are chatting on the phone,” Gingrich recalled of a later conversation with Trump. “He says, ‘Newt, I’ve got to go. The Chinese president is on the other line.’
By building ties with China’s president and meeting one on one with the leaders of Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Saudi Arabia, Trump is deliberately putting Putin on the defensive, Gingrich said.
“He would like to find a way to a break through with Putin,” Gingrich said.
“That would require Putin to give up Crimea, Eastern Ukraine. Whether Putin can change that much, I think it is unlikely. We are dealing with someone very tough.”
Asked by the UBJ if Trump is ‘wobbly’ on Putin, Gingrich waved off the idea.
“He doesn’t want Putin to think he can get away with things without paying a huge price,” he said.
Ukraine Will Grow if it Attacks Corruption
Gingrich, a politician first elected to Congress in the midst of the Cold War, seemed to tell students that Ukraine should grow into the role of playing West Germany to Putin’s East Germany.
“We have a very deep interest in a safe, prosperous Ukraine,” he stressed.
How to get from here to there?
He recommended: “A lot has to do with continuing with the anti-corruption campaign.”
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Slider photo: President Trump confidante Newt Gingrich returned to Kyiv for the second time in one year to talk to students at the Diplomatic Academy of Ukraine in a talk sponsored by the Pinchuk Foundation (Victor Pinchuk Foundation/Serge Illin)
Posted May 19, 2017