Not Trump, but his domestic opponents have set in motion an unprecedented disturbance in Atlantic relations, and effectively put Berlin, Paris and Rome in the same camp with Moscow in opposing American policy. European governments are already consulting with Moscow about mechanisms to get around the sanctions. Russia has responded by expelling a large number of diplomats from the embassy in Moscow, but that is merely a symbolic gesture. There are more disagreeable measures that Moscow might take, such as providing advanced weapons to Iran, giving close air support to Iranian-controlled militias in Syria, and increasing military cooperation with China. Russia and China, as I have reported elsewhere, already back Iran’s international brigades of Shi’ites as a counter-toxin to Sunni jihadists shaken loose by America’s blunders in Iraq.
America won the Cold War by driving a wedge between Russia and China, and by persuading a frightened Western Europe to point medium-range missiles at the Russian heartland. Russia sought to compensate for its economic inefficiency by turning Europe into an economic colony, and the most dangerous operations of the Cold War were undertaken to prevent this. Now, for narrow political reasons, Trump’s enemies propose to undo the whole structure of relationships that won the Cold War and drive Europe into the arms of the Russians and Chinese. I do not believe for a moment that McCain and Schumer have a clue about this—they are like the “sleepwalkers” in Christopher Clark’s brilliant history of the outbreak of the First World War—but if I were a Russian operative, I would try to invent someone like John McCain, if McCain did not already exist.