Trump stumbles badly on his Russian openings; Europeans wary of Putin

Retired lieutenant general Michael Flynn quitted this week his position as National Security Advisor to President Donald Trump. (Snapshot from a video interview with Al Jazeera TV, 13 Jan 2016).

Retired lieutenant general Michael Flynn quitted this week his position as National Security Advisor to President Donald Trump. (Snapshot from a video interview with Al Jazeera TV, 13 Jan 2016).

In the fourth week of the Trump Presidency things have become more hectic. Those around the boss are now people of authority, and their actions directly affect America and the world. It’s not only that the chief himself changes his mind from one day to the next about crucial global issues, like the ‘one China’ policy or the Presidential advertising of his daughter’s ‘made in China’ garments; Trump has summoned around him a real circus of people, who are now on the helm of the US administration like Steve Bannon, the racist and extreme right journalist turned security expert, who inspired the boss’s unconstitutional order banning Muslims from travelling to the US. Thank God the US courts are always there, to remind Trump that he cannot run the country in the same arbitrary and unpredictable way as he manages his business.

All that, can, at the limit, be classified under a title of non-ruinous ‘Presidential Gaffes’, resulting from the complete lack of prior experience in public office and the attitude of an unstoppable entertainer. Some say he will soon adapt to his new duties. However, when things came to the central pillar of America’s foreign policy towards the European allies, the new President showed a very dangerous attitude of negative and rampant impatience. He probably rushed to accomplish what he had in mind from the very first moment, when he decided to run for President; to destabilize the serene and still democratic European Union and instead embrace autocratic Russia and its President Putin. Trump thinks that the absolute power that the ruler of Kremlin commands, plus his own unrestricted ego as the US Commander in Chief, may turn the world into a more manipulative place, for God knows what purposes.

Flynn like Trump

That’s why Trump cannot easily overcome the scandal of his obedient and Russia loving National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign this week for over-collaborating with the Russians. The retired lieutenant general couldn’t have acted without his master’s knowledge and directions. There is a whole chronicle about the relations between the Trump camp and Putin’s Russia. The traceable relations start right from the beginning, when Trump in 2015 was just one of the seven contenders of the Republican Party nomination for the US Presidential elections.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager until July 2016, had served as Russia’s representative in the US and Ukraine, receiving millions of dollars for that. Manafort, an old Washington fox, also benefited from some dark dealings with a Putin’s oligarch friend. The campaign manager must have been behind an eye caching change in the Republican Party’s policy text about Ukraine. Some key phrases like “anti-Russian sentiment” were left out in a later version of it. The course of the Russian money in the US is not equally easy to trace. It’s a proven fact, however, that Moscow financially supports western populist politicians like Marine Le Pen and Beppe Grillo, who want to destroy the European Union and thus open the way for an increased Moscow grip on Europe.

The enemy is Hillary not Putin

Trump himself has loudly advertised his relations with the Russians, praised Britain for leaving the European Union and insulted the club by encouraging more member states to exit. At the heart of the hacking scandal targeting the US Democratic Party servers during the 2016 electoral confrontation, despite the fact that the entire US secret services community unanimously accused Russia and personally Putin for that, Trump exclaimed: “Russia! If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing”. These are the Hillary Clinton’s e-mails of the time when she served as US Foreign Secretary. In a separate case last spring and summer, a round number of 3,000 e-mails were scrutinized by the FBI, because they weren’t operated through the official State Department servers. There were also another 30,000 electronic mails which were not detected by the FBI.

In any case, Trump strongly opposed the American security services findings about the Russian involvement in the US Presidential election, and accused the services of being politically motivated against him. Coming back to the present developments, it’s rather hard to believe that Flynn was acting on his own account, when talking over the telephone with the Russian ambassador in Washington long before the 20 January, after which date Trump and him were legitimately representing the US. In the face of it, this is the reason why Flynn was forced this week to quit his position as National Security Advisor. Evidently, he has promised the Russians some things before this date, at a time he didn’t have the authority to do so. Under US law, civilians are not allowed to deal in foreign policy.

Trump indifferent to Ukraine

It has become evident then, that Flynn, no matter when, had promised the Russians that the Trump administration will soon ease and probably lift altogether, the sanctions against Russia imposed by Barack Obama in early January. This is the real reason for his swift ousting from the White House. It seems that the anti-Russian and EU friendly quarters in Washington are still powerful, even within the Republican Party. Let’s return to the string of facts.

Only days before the inauguration of the new President, the previous administration felt obliged to introduce more sanctions against Moscow, to close down a Russian communications center on American soil and to expel from the US 34 Russians diplomats accused of spying. This was a tough American reaction against Moscow’s implication in the 2016 US election procedure, which favored Trump by hacking the Democratic Party servers and otherwise.

Obama also felt obliged to punish Russia, for the resumption of the separatist’s military action against the Kiev forces in the eastern parts of Ukraine. Obviously, Obama knew that nothing of the sort was expected under Trump. As it turned out, after 20 January, Trump did nothing to counter the Russia backed military action in Ukraine and for that he was strongly criticized by senator John McCaine.

Flynn was just an early bird

Flynn must have been Washington’s early bird of the new order in the area of Russian policy. As noted above, he had to resign because he did that before he was officially authorized, that is before he and his boss had officially taken the oath. Why did he rush to reassure the Russians, though, that the sanctions will be soon lifted? Some kind of pressure must have been exercised on him by the Russians. It’s as if a buyer demanding right away the delivery of the goods he has paid fort.

There is more to it though. The new Russian policy as expressed by Trump and Flynn – not a word yet from Rex Tillerson, the new Secretary of State – means that, at the same time, the European Union and NATO will be neglected by the US. In any case, Tillerson is in more ways associated with Russia as the CEO of Exxon-Mobil oil giant, than lieutenant general Flynn. The former has been opposing the sanctions against Russia, from the very beginning such action was taken by the Obama Presidency. In full consensus with the Obama administration, the West European powers, France, Germany and Britain, could not accept the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by Putin’s Russia, or Moscow’s aggressiveness in Ukraine and Syria, and this is still true today. Europe feels unsafe vis-à-vis Russia without the unconditional backing of the US. The EU is also alarmed with the new coalition between Russia and Turkey. This last country may have traded with Moscow her needs in the Syrian borders, probably against a blind eye by Ankara elsewhere.

Flynn’s ideas about the US – Russia relations are, certainly then, not just about the sanctions. In the immediate future Trump and Tillerson will surely again try to start the new chapter in the US-Russia relations. Clearly, there are already close contacts between the new American Commander in Chief and the Russian ‘Czar’. Tillerson may prove to be the catalyst between the two, with the Europeans left to wonder what price the EU has to pay for this American-Russian rapprochement.

 

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