Together, Trump and Putin can undo years of terrible foreign policy

Gadhafi's final hours on the run
Gadhafi's final hours on the run

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Gadhafi's final hours on the run 02:36

Story highlights

  • The President-elect is bold enough to dump multilateralism and return to a more blunt, more effective way of bringing order to the world
  • The fruit of five years of messy, multilateral diplomacy in Libya has resulted in fighting on a scale not seen since 2011

Richard Galustian is a business and security analyst who has lived in Libya since 2011. The opinions in this article belong to the author.

(CNN)His shoes won't touch White House carpet until January, but already the world is in dire need of Donald Trump's style of diplomacy, as Libya is about to equal Syria in fiery conflagration.

As of this week, militias are fighting each other across the Libyan capital of Tripoli, bringing down the curtain on hopes that the internationally-supported Government of National Accord (GNA), of which the Obama administration was a key architect, can impose order on this chaotic country.
As with Syria, the fruit of five years of messy, multi-lateral diplomacy in Libya has resulted in fighting on a scale not seen since the 2011 Arab Spring revolution.
Libya: The biggest issue for the next US president?
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Libya: The biggest issue for the next US president? 00:36
The militias, who the West supported in overthrowing Moammar Gadhafi five years ago, are now turning the capital into a veritable Mogadishu.
Obama admitted that failure to follow up the 2011 Libya intervention was his administration's greatest mistake, and the size of that mistake is being streamed live from the capital.
But Libya's chaos, as in Syria, is the result not of Obama taking his eye off the ball, but on his approach to international affairs, in which every player is consulted, every interest and faction considered, resulting in a smorgasbord of chaos spanning the region.
While the UN backs the GNA in Tripoli, it faces competition from a rival government, the House of Representatives parliament, based in Tobruk in the east of the country.
Tobruk forces at least have the virtue of not fighting each other as they combat the pro-GNA militias, who are now battling themselves for Tripoli real estate. And Tobruk's unity has seen it capture the country's all-important oil ports, giving their commander Khalifa Haftar the casting vote in Libya's future.
Enter Trump. His bold statements that he will cooperate with Russia, the other key player in Syria, has met a promising response from Moscow: "We've never sought enemies, we need friends," Putin declared this week at his annual state-of-the-union address.
Significantly, Putin's address came the day after Haftar left Moscow on a trip to request the Kremlin's help in this conflict.
Putin signals he wants to work with Trump
Putin signals he wants to work with Trump

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In the world of diplomacy, "friendship" is a relative term. Putin and Trump may not be sending each other Christmas cards. They can, however, work together, rather than against each other, in these two battlegrounds.
And many Libyans would welcome that kind of clarity, fed up with the multilateral broth of the United Nations Dialogue Committee that has seen the country fragment.
"The Libyan (peace) process has seen many participants in the dialogue committee who have no influence whatsoever on the ground," complains the Tobruk parliament's foreign minister, Mohamed Dayri.
For nearly two years, the US-backed United Nation's efforts at dialogue between Libya's warring factions, constructing ever more elaborate formulas for keeping all sides happy, have failed. The result is war and the collapse of central authority.
Trump's instincts are different. They are for the hard deal, rather than layered diplomacy. It may be ugly, even Machiavellian, but it is Moscow and Washington who supply the key weapons to all sides in these conflicts, and if they cut a deal, their proxies will be obliged to follow.
Syria: The biggest issue for the next US president?
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Syria: The biggest issue for the next US president? 00:41
How much of Libya and Syria will be left to bargain over by the time Trump gets to the White House in January is anyone's guess, and any grand deal promises to be a complicated affair.
Moscow can be expected to demand, in return for cooperation, some means of lifting the global oil price. Moscow will also want a line drawn in Europe, protecting its interests in Ukraine and Crimea, with an end to talk of further NATO expansion. The terms of any deal may take months, or years, to fully emerge.
But what looks clear is that such a deal will be attempted. Trump is old enough to remember the Cold War diplomacy of Kissinger and his ilk; it was hard, certainly not pretty, but it arguably saved the planet from Armageddon. And on available evidence, the President-elect is bold enough to dump multilateralism and return to a blunter, more effective, way of bringing order to the world.