The resignation by General Michael Flynn as National Security Advisor to President Trump on February 13 was immediately followed by a feeding frenzy of the sharks in the anti-Trump camp. Hillary Clinton came out of hiding to radiate pleasure at the announcement. We heard similar delight from the media as well as among Republicans who continue to hold key positions on Capitol Hill.
Even the members of Trump’s close circle, starting with Vice President Mike Pence in Munich collectively pledged that any new talks with Russia must be conducted from “a position of strength” and vowed to hold Russia accountable for the full implementation of the Minsk Accords, meaning all sanctions stay in place pending that achievement.
Never mind that per many independent and unbiased observers most of the violations of the Minsk Accords is the work of the Ukrainian military and nationalist battalions while pro-Russian Donbass responds only when attacked.
Judging from what is going on in Ukraine on the 3rd anniversary of the coup which was promoted and encouraged by Washington, one can obviously add this country to the list of dramatic failures of Trump’s predecessors in the White House. However, his team continues to point the finger at Moscow instead of admitting another tragic mistake next to Iraq, Libya and Syria which Trump mentioned during his election campaign.
These various confusing developments have unnerved even Trump’s closest loyalists. Some friendly pundits have claimed that Flynn was the sole advisor to Donald Trump urging accommodation with the Russians and that his departure dealt a fatal blow to détente. Others have urged the President to reconsider what they see as a collapse of will under Neoconservative and Liberal Hawk pressure. They remind him of the disasters that the policies of American global hegemony have created in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Implicit in this well-meaning and sometimes condescending advice is a remarkable failure to understand the political acumen of Donald Trump and his closest advisors. He did not win the election on November 8 by chance. It was the fruit of a more sophisticated calculation of voter support and Electoral College arithmetic than anyone else could muster.
Consequently, we view the present backtracking on Russia and on a New Foreign Policy as just a tactical move that does not mortgage its future. The events leading up to General Flynn’s resignation entailed use of illegally obtained tape recordings of his conversations with the Ambassador Kislyak from the time when he was still a private citizen. The content was selectively leaked to the public within the context of an impermissible collusion between the intelligence agencies and the liberal press intent on bringing down Trump.
It was obvious that no progress on his foreign policy change of course is possible until the subversive; perhaps even seditions plotters known as the “deep state” are sent packing. Only when his back is secure can the President begin the sensitive negotiations leading to policy change.
Trump’s appointment of a well-known businessman to evaluate and recommend reorganization of the intelligence services clearly points to a major shake-up there to restore order and loyalty to the Chief Executive.
At the same time, we may expect the President to rally public opinion around his Administration and its policies, both domestic and foreign. His appearance at the Melbourne, Florida airport this past weekend where huge crowds gathered is surely only the first of many such public demonstrations of popularity and generation of “alternative news” to what the mainstream media are fabricating.
Donald Trump remains in close contact with his supporter base across the country not only via social media but using weekly, at times daily questionnaires delivered by email and asking the respondents to prioritize his next possible moves. Surely this grassroots support gives him the confidence to wage battles against the Establishment in a bold manner.
However, it must be emphasized that Trump’s pre-electoral and post-electoral commitment to détente is not an aberration in his political thinking. What so many people, including supporters, fail to understand is that detente is essential to Trump to free up budgetary resources for the sake of his domestic programs, including his plans for investments in the infrastructure, increasing military assets within the USA, and for his commitment to address the needs of veterans.
Trump needs detente as much as Gorbachev did when he entered into talks with Reagan to end the Cold War. The difference being that Trump has business people around him who know how to put money to work, whereas Gorby didn’t.
There is no doubt that Trump’s enemies within the deep state will not give up easily. One can compare his fight with the establishment as that of David vs Goliath. According to the Bible it was David who won the battle. How it will work out this time remains to be seen.
• Edward Lozansky is President of the American University in Moscow. Gilbert Doctorow is Senior Fellow of the American University in Moscow.