Pat Buchanan – perhaps the U.S. politician with the greatest feel (as a thrice-times U.S. presidential candidate himself) for what President Trump is trying to achieve – tells us compellingly, just why Trump is now the US President:
[Simply,] …“He [Trump], read the nation and the world, better than his rivals. He saw the surging power of American nationalism at home, and of ethno-nationalism in Europe. And he embraced Brexit. While our bipartisan establishment worships diversity, Trump saw Middle America recoiling from the demographic change brought about by Third World invasions. And he promised to curb them.
“While our corporatists burn incense at the shrine of the global economy, Trump went to visit the working-class casualties. And those forgotten Americans in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, responded. And while Bush II and President Obama plunged us into Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Trump saw that his countrymen wanted to be rid of the endless wars, and start putting America first. [And] He offered a new foreign policy … Putin’s Russia is not ‘our number one geopolitical foe.’”
That’s it. That’s Trump’s domestic, and his foreign policy, in one.
What we all presently are obsessed with, is the bellicosity and hysteria to which Trump and his agenda has given rise: Is détente with Russia now effectively dead, as a consequence of the new Russo-phobic McCathyism? Or, is that which we are witnessing nothing more than “a mere tantrum by a clutch of ‘spooks’ whose jobs are under threat … along with the liberal press having a ‘parallel tantrum’: [not believing] that they lost the election to Donald Trump” – as one American commentator told MK Bhadrakumar? Or, are we seeing a brittle American Establishment splitting apart, in a more profound way?
We do not know the answer. The notion of removing Trump from office seems somewhat far-fetched (see here). Certainly, America is deeply divided: Trump plainly evokes strong, emotional reactions. Three-fourths of Americans react to him strongly – either positively or negatively.
The Pew Research Center’s latest survey shows that only eight percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents approve Trump’s job performance, which is the lowest rating for any new president from the opposing party in more than three decades. But interestingly, Pew also finds that 84 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaners, regard Trump’s initial job performance as president “favorably.”
A Divided Administration
But then, Gilbert Doctorow relates, as the new Administration got underway, “came a stunning about-face in the early roll-out of Donald Trump’s new foreign policy, which looked a lot like Barack Obama’s old foreign policy. We heard presidential press secretary Sean Spicer say Trump ‘expected the Russian government to … return Crimea’ to Ukraine.
“Then we heard Defense Secretary James Mattis in Brussels (NATO headquarters), Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Bonn (G20 Foreign Ministers meeting) and Vice President Pence in Munich (Security Conference) collectively pledge unswerving loyalty to the NATO alliance, insist that any new talks with Russia must be conducted from ‘a position of strength,’ and vow to hold Russia accountable for the full implementation of the Minsk Accords, meaning all sanctions stay in place pending that achievement which the Ukrainian government has consistently blocked, while blaming Moscow.
“Amid these signals of surrender from the Trump Administration – suggesting continuation of the disastrous foreign policy of the last 25 years – the newly revived enemies of détente on Capitol Hill added more anti-Russian sanctions and threats. In response to alleged violations by the Kremlin of the Treaty on Intermediate and Short-range Missiles (INF) dating back to 1987, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, introduced a bill enabling the re-installation of American nuclear-tipped cruise missiles in Europe. If enacted, this would undo the main achievements of disarmament from the Reagan years, and bring us back to a full-blown Cold War.”
This has unnerved Trump supporters; apparently disappointed some in Moscow; and also failed to reassure anxious Europeans at the Munich Security Conference. They are puzzling over which Administration faction to believe more correctly reflects future U.S. policy: the Pence/Mattis/Haley ‘wing’, that Europeans would like to hope is dominant; or, the Trump/Bannon/Miller triumvirate, which Steve Bannon hints views the European Union as a flawed construct, and who foresees conducting future relations with Europe, on a bilateral basis.
Which of these two, reflects America’s likely path, more accurately? Has the Establishment now succeeded in walking-back Trump’s agenda? Who now speaks for the President?
The answer is not hard to fathom: return to Pat Buchanan’s clear explanation of how Trump became President: “He saw the surging power of American nationalism at home, and of ethno-nationalism in Europe. And he embraced Brexit. While our bipartisan establishment worships diversity, Trump saw Middle America recoiling from the demographic change, brought about by Third World invasions. And he promised to curb them.”
Obviously, it is the Trump-Bannon wing. Were Trump to abandon his reading of the nation and of the Europeans that brought him to the Presidency, he might as well throw in the towel now. He will not be re-elected.
Weakening the Dollar
And Mr. Trump is showing no signs of reversing (for all the mixed messaging that has emanated from his diverse team). So, back to basics. What then is his foreign policy? Simply this: If President Trump wishes to keep his 84 percent (Republican) approval rating – and stay elected – there is only one way that he can do that: he must continue to carry “the working-class casualties and those forgotten Americans” (as Buchanan called them) of the Midwest, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
And the only way to do that is to bring back manufacturing jobs to this (white), Middle America, (hurting) constituency. And the only way you can bring those jobs back, is with a weak dollar. A strong dollar would be deadly to Trump’s project.
Today, the dollar is too strong to allow any real return of manufacturing to the U.S. Trump needs to staunch any propensity for the dollar to rise. And, in his very first interview upon taking office (with the Wall Street Journal), Trump’s main point, was that he wanted the U.S. dollar “down.”
Here it is, then: Trump’s main foreign policy objective is the return of jobs to Middle America – and that means, in practical terms, avoiding a strong dollar. Secondly, the ultimate point of détente with Russia – apart from Trump’s reading that Middle America is experiencing war fatigue – is that détente can release a “peace dividend” which would be vital for the task of rebuilding America’s frayed infrastructure. (His tax proposals ultimately will have to be revenue neutral if Trump is to avoid an ugly row with his Tea Party supporters, who are aggressively fiscal conservative.)
Again, détente with Russia is a domestic need, required to attend to the re-building of the frayed structures of the communities who voted him into office. It is not anchored in any particular foreign policy ideology, but merely in a sense of peoples’ fatigue.
Of course, wanting a weaker dollar and wanting détente with Russia, does not mean that Trump will get either; he will continue to face stiff internal resistance and filibustering. But these two aims, as it were, may be seen to constitute the overriding prism by which Trump views his foreign policy aims, in the longer term.
In the shorter term – perhaps – what we are seeing now, is a tactical pause, dictated by the malicious leaks from within the system, and by the unrelenting “war” being waged by the mainstream media – a pause to allow Trump to get on with sorting out his Administration – purging the leaks, putting in place his people, and contending with certain of the mainstream media.
It seems the purge is slowly happening (it must be a huge process, and be imposing a heavy demand on time). It is however, simply not very realistic for Trump to pursue an accord with either Russia or China while he is under siege, and when his very survival is being widely questioned. And, as is now widely known, Trump believes in negotiating from a position of strength, and not weakness. Pence and Mattis may well have been dispatched to Europe to apply some anaesthetizing balm, while the difficulties of the first month are being resolved.
So, how might this “foreign policy” be conducted in practice? Well, if Trump were to impose protectionist measures on other states (China, say), this would likely result in their currencies depreciating, as a consequence. A 30 percent tax might result in a 30 percent currency devaluation. We have seen something of the sort happening with the peso, in the case of Mexico. And, ipso facto, if the Mexican or Chinese currency weakens, the dollar appreciates (thus weakening U.S. capacity to compete).
There are two possible routes ahead: one is for Trump to negotiate bilaterally with (say) Germany, Japan, China and others, to warn them that either they revalue their currencies (or, at minimum, hold their foreign exchange value stable), or else to suffer the consequences of a U.S.-imposed protectionism, which would badly damage the health of their economies.
Or, Trump can revert to the Reagan tactic of the mid-1980s, when the then the U.S. President pulled together all the main global central banks and finance ministers in Paris, to instruct that the dollar was not to be allowed to rise in value any further (after its rapid appreciation in the early 1980s). This was known as the “Plaza Accord.”
Going with ‘Bilateralism’
It seems that Trump will pursue the first course (bilateralism), as he has already made it clear that he wants to negotiate on a fuller field than just the stability of foreign exchange values. Specific trade deals, and inward investment into the U.S., will be on the agenda – as well as his declared aim of leveraging U.S. defense provision as a bilaterally negotiated quid pro quo, in return further economic benefit to the U.S. – rather than having the U.S. defense umbrella being provided as a highly subsidized “good.”
The implications of this bilateral approach are significant. It does not imply, per se, that Trump should want to split Russia from China. Trump, by his own logic, would not want, ultimately, to resort to protectionism against China (other than as a negotiating ploy). Imposing punitive tariffs on China would likely lead to a strengthening of the dollar, and risk a devaluation of the yuan – even possibly a maxi-devaluation of the yuan. Rather, he wants a deal. One that would bring additional jobs and Chinese infrastructure investment to America.
The notion that America needs to divide Russia from China (or Iran) for strategic reasons (though one probably embraced by some of his team) is essentially “old think.” It belongs to the neoconservative era, which held that America must remain as a global defense and financial hegemon. And therefore must contain and weaken any contending rising power.
Russia will not, in any case, break with China. But in the Trumpian logic, why should that matter, so long as Trump has achieved satisfactory commercial deals with each? (Kissinger though, may try to persuade Trump otherwise.)
Again, pursuing the war on radical Islam (for which Trump has called for proposals from the Pentagon) would not necessarily call for decisive military U.S. interventions in the Middle East, on this logic. A change in policy, and in ethos, by a reformed CIA – away from using radical Islam as “a tool” by which to pursue its “interests” (as it has from Afghanistan in the 1980s to Syria in recent years), would in and of itself, bring about a profound change. It would quickly percolate through to European intelligence services – and more slowly – marinate Gulf thinking.
Changing the ‘Group Think’
Pat Lang, a former senior U.S. Defense Intelligence officer, notes how a small shift in bureaucratic “group think” from one paradigm to another can bring crucial change, simply by virtue of approaching a problem from a different direction:
“1. General Dunford, USMC, the uniformed head of the US armed forces, is meeting this week at Baku in Azarbaijan with General Gerasimov, the head of the Russian General Staff.
“2. My sources tell me that US and Russian air forces are increasingly coordinating and de-conflicting their air actions in Syria and Iraq. This can clearly be seen in USAF and US Navy air attacks on ‘moderate’ (in fact jihadi forces) in Idlib Province. These obviously have been coordinated with Russian air defenses.
“3. The CIA has stopped providing assistance to aforesaid ‘moderate’ jihadi and FSA forces in Syria. They would not have done that without instructions from outside and above CIA.
All of that tells me that sanity reigns in the Trump Administration no matter what lunatics like Schumer, Waters and McCain may do, think or say.” (emphasis added).
What then are the major risks to the Trump “paradigm”? They are not negligible. Any increase in international tension usually will lead to a flight to the “safety” of the U.S. dollar – thus to a “strengthening” of the dollar. (One good reason why Trump may stick with rhetoric against Iran, rather than action).
Secondly, although Trump has been trying to “talk down” the value of the U.S. dollar, most of his policies (de-offshoring of corporate cash, de-regulation and tax cuts) are seen as inflationary – and therefore are pushing the dollar upwards. So, too, are pronouncements by the Federal Reserve about the prospects for an interest rate hike next month. It is not clear that Trump will be able to keep the dollar weak, against a general sense that interest rates are heading upwards. David Stockman’s inflation index for the U.S., which uses more realistic values for energy, food, shelter and medical insurance than the official CPI index, is now rising at better than a 4 percent annual rate.
And thirdly, China may yet undo Trump’s plans. As one well-versed economic commentator notes:
“I strongly contend that a more than one-half Trillion ($) one-month Chinese Credit expansion in early 2017 will exert divergent inflationary impacts to those from early 2016…
“Inflationary biases evolve significantly over time… Liquidity will tend to further inflate the already inflating asset class(s); ‘hot money’ will chase the hottest speculative Bubble. Inflationary surges in Credit growth can, as well, have profoundly different impacts depending on inflationary expectations, economic structure and the nature of financial flows.
“I would argue that Chinese officials today face a more daunting task of containing mounting financial leverage and imbalances than just a few months ago. The clock continues to tick, with rising odds that Beijing will be forced to take the types of forceful measures that risk an accident.”
These inflationary risks threaten Trump, more than the unlikely prospect of impeachment. He has been consistent in warning that whomsoever won this Presidential election, would, sooner or later, face a financial crisis – and then possibly a concomitant social crisis. Like most revolutions, Trump’s revolution cannot afford to stand still: if it cannot, or does not, go forward, it will go backwards. We will return to the past. Trump, no doubt, grasps this.
Alastair Crooke is a former British diplomat who was a senior figure in British intelligence and in European Union diplomacy. He is the founder and director of the Conflicts Forum.
Opponents of the Trump administration have generally accepted as fact the common theme across mainstream media that aides to Donald Trump were involved in some kind of illicit communications with the Russian government that has compromised the independence of the administration from Russian influence.
But close analysis of the entire series of leaks reveals something else that is equally sinister in its implications: an unprecedented campaign by Obama administration intelligence officials, relying on innuendo rather than evidence, to exert pressure on Trump to abandon any idea of ending the New Cold War and to boost the campaign to impeach Trump.
A brazen and unprecedented intervention in domestic U.S. politics by the intelligence community established the basic premise of the cascade of leaks about alleged Trump aides’ shady dealing with Russia. Led by CIA Director John Brennan, the CIA, FBI and NSA issued a 25-page assessment on Jan. 6 asserting for the first time that Russia had sought to help Trump win the election.
Brennan had circulated a CIA memo concluding that Russia had favored Trump and had told CIA staff that he had met separately with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and FBI Director James Comey and that they had agreed on the “scope, nature and intent of Russian interference in our presidential election.”
In the end, however, Clapper refused to associate himself with the document and the NSA, which agreed to do so, was only willing to express “moderate confidence” in the judgment that the Kremlin had sought to help Trump in the election. In intelligence community parlance, that meant that the NSA considered the idea the Kremlin was working to elect Trump was merely plausible, not actually supported by reliable evidence.
In fact, the intelligence community had not even obtained evidence that Russia was behind the publication by Wikileaks of the e-mails Democratic National Committee, much less that it had done so with the intention of electing Trump. Clapper had testified before Congress in mid-November and again in December that the intelligence community did not know who had provided the e-mails to WikiLeaks and when they were provided.
The claim – by Brennan with the support of Comey – that Russia had “aspired” to help Trump’s election prospects was not a normal intelligence community assessment but an extraordinary exercise of power by Brennan, Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers.
Brennan and his allies were not merely providing a professional assessment of the election, as was revealed by their embrace of the the dubious dossier compiled by a private intelligence firm hired by one of Trump’s Republican opponents and later by the Clinton campaign for the specific purpose of finding evidence of illicit links between Trump and the Putin regime.
When the three intelligence agencies gave the classified version of their report to senior administration officials in January they appended a two-page summary of the juiciest bits from that dossier – including claims that Russian intelligence had compromising information about Trump’s personal behavior while visiting Russia. The dossier was sent, along with the assessment that Russia was seeking to help Trump get elected, to senior administration officials as well as selected Congressional leaders.
Among the claims in the private intelligence dossier that was summarized for policymakers was the allegation of a deal between the Trump campaign and the Putin government involving full Trump knowledge of the Russian election help and a Trump pledge – months before the election – to sideline the Ukraine issue once in office. The allegation – devoid of any verifiable information – came entirely from an unidentified “Russian emigre” claiming to be a Trump insider, without any evidence provided of the source’s actual relationship to the Trump camp or of his credibility as a source.
After the story of the two-page summary leaked to the press, Clapper publicly expressed “profound dismay” about the leak and said the intelligence community “has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable,” nor did it rely on it any way for our conclusions.”
One would expect that acknowledgment to be followed by an admission that he should not have circulated it outside the intelligence community at all. But instead Clapper then justified having passed on the summary as providing policymakers with “the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security.”
By that time, U.S. intelligence agencies had been in possession of the material in the dossier for several months. It was their job to verify the information before bringing it to the attention of policymakers.
A former U.S. intelligence official with decades of experience dealing with the CIA as well other intelligence agencies, who insisted on anonymity because he still has dealings with U.S. government agencies, told this writer that he had never heard of the intelligence agencies making public unverified information on a U.S. citizen.
“The CIA has never played such a open political role,” he said.
The CIA has often tilted its intelligence assessment related to a potential adversary in the direction desired by the White House or the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but this is the first time that such a slanted report impinges not only on domestic politics but is directed at the President himself.
The egregious triple abuse of the power in publishing a highly partisan opinion on Russia and Trump’s election, appending raw and unverified private allegations impugning Trump’s loyalty and then leaking that fact to the media begs the question of motive. Brennan, who initiated the whole effort, was clearly determined to warn Trump not to reverse the policy toward Russia to which the CIA and other national security organizations were firmly committed.
A few days after the leak of the two-page summary, Brennan publicly warned Trump about his policy toward Russia. In an interview on Fox News, he said, “I think Mr. Trump has to understand that absolving Russia of various actions that it’s taken in the past number of years is a road that he, I think, needs to be very, very careful about moving down.”
Graham Fuller, who was a CIA operations officer for 20 years and was also National Intelligence Officer for the Middle East for four years in the Reagan administration, observed in an e-mail, that Brennan, Clapper and Comey “might legitimately fear Trump as a loose cannon on the national scene,” but they are also “dismayed at any prospect that the official narrative against Russia could start falling apart under Trump, and want to maintain the image of constant and dangerous Russian intervention into affairs of state.”
Flynn in the Bull’s Eye
As Trump’s National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn presented an easy target for a campaign to portray the Trump team as being in Putin’s pocket. He had already drawn heavy criticism not only by attending a Moscow event celebrating the Russian television RT in 2016 but sitting next to Putin and accepting a fee for speaking at the event. More importantly, however, Flynn had argued that the United States and Russia could and should cooperate in their common interest of defeating Islamic State militants.
That idea was anathema to the Pentagon and the CIA. Obama’s Defense Secretary Ashton Carter had attacked Secretary of State John Kerry’s negotiating a Syrian ceasefire that included a provision for coordination of efforts against Islamic State. The official investigation of the U.S. attack on Syrian forces on Sept. 17 turned up evidence that CENTCOM had deliberately targeted the Syrian military sites with the intention of sabotaging the ceasefire agreement.
The campaign to bring down Flynn began with a leak from a “senior U.S. government official” to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius about the now-famous phone conversation between Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak on Dec. 29. In his column on the leak, Ignatius avoided making any explicit claim about the conversation. Instead, he asked “What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions?”
And referring to the Logan Act, the 1799 law forbidding a private citizen from communicating with a foreign government to influence a “dispute” with the United States, Ignatius asked, “Was its spirit violated?”
The implications of the coy revelation of the Flynn conversation with Kislyak were far-reaching. Any interception of a communication by the NSA or the FBI has always been considered one of the most highly classified secrets in the U.S. intelligence universe of secrets. And officers have long been under orders to protect the name of any American involved in any such intercepted communication at all costs.
But the senior official who leaked the story of Flynn-Kislyak conversation to Ignatius – obviously for a domestic political purpose – did not feel bound by any such rule. That leak was the first move in a concerted campaign of using such leaks to suggest that Flynn had discussed the Obama administration’s sanctions with Kislyak in an effort to undermine Obama administration policy.
The revelation brought a series of articles about denials by the Trump transition team, including Vice President-elect Mike Pence, that Flynn had, in fact, discussed sanctions with Kislyak and continued suspicions that Trump’s aides were covering up the truth. But the day after Trump was inaugurated, the Post itself reported that the FBI had begun in late December go back over all communications between Flynn and Russian officials and “had not found evidence of wrongdoing or illicit ties to the Russian government….”
Two weeks later, however, the Post reversed its coverage of the issue, publishing a story citing “nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls,” as saying that Flynn had “discussed sanctions” with Kislyak.
The story said Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak was “interpreted by some senior U.S. officials as an inappropriate and potentially illegal signal to the Kremlin that it could expect a reprieve from sanctions that were being imposed by the Obama administration in late December to punish Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 election.”
The Post did not refer to its own previous reporting of the FBI’s unambiguous view contradicting that claim, which suggested strongly that the FBI was trying to head off a plan by Brennan and Clapper to target Flynn. But it did include a crucial caveat on the phrase “discussed sanctions” that few readers would have noticed. It revealed that the phrase was actually an “interpretation” of the language that Flynn had used. In other words, what Flynn actually said was not necessarily a literal reference to sanctions at all.
Only a few days later, the Post reported a new development: Flynn had been interviewed by the FBI on Jan. 24 – four days after Trump’s inauguration – and had denied that he discussed sanctions in the conversation. But prosecutors were not planning to charge Flynn with lying, according to several officials, in part because they believed he would be able to “parse the definition of the word ‘sanctions’.” That implied that the exchange was actually focused not on sanctions per se but on the expulsion of the Russian diplomats.
Just hours before his resignation on Feb. 13, Flynn claimed in an interview with the Daily Caller that he had indeed referred only to the expulsion of the Russian diplomats.
“It wasn’t about sanctions. It was about the 35 guys who were thrown out,” Flynn said. “It was basically, ‘Look, I know this happened. We’ll review everything.’ I never said anything such as, ‘We’re going to review sanctions,’ or anything like that.”
The Russian Blackmail Ploy
Even as the story of the Flynn’s alleged transgression in the conversation with the Russian Ambassador was becoming a political crisis for Donald Trump, yet another leaked story surfaced that appeared to reveal a shocking new level of the Trump administration’s weakness toward Russia.
The Post reported on Feb. 13 that Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, an Obama holdover, had decided in late January – after discussions with Brennan, Clapper and FBI Director James Comey in the last days of the Obama administration – to inform the White House Counsel Donald McGahn in late January that Flynn had lied to other Trump administration officials – including Vice President Mike Pence – in denying that he discussed sanctions with Kislyak. The Post cited “current and former officials” as the sources.
That story, repeated and amplified by many other news media, led to Flynn’s downfall later that same day. But like all of the other related leaks, the story revealed more about the aims of the leakers than about links between Trump’s team and Russia.
The centerpiece of the new leak was that the former Obama administration officials named in the story had feared that “Flynn put himself in a compromising position” in regard to his account of the conversation with Kislyak to Trump members of the Trump transition.
Yates had told the White House that Flynn might be vulnerable to Russian blackmail because of the discrepancies between his conversation with the Ambassador and his story to Pence, according to the Post story.
But once again the impression created by the leak was very different from the reality behind it. The idea that Flynn had exposed himself to a potential Russian blackmail threat by failing to tell Pence exactly what had transpired in the conversation was fanciful in the extreme.
Even assuming that Flynn had flatly lied to Pence about what he had said in the meeting – which was evidently not the case – it would not have given the Russians something to hold over Flynn, first because it was already revealed publicly and second, because the Russian interest was to cooperate with the new administration.
The ex-Obama administration leakers were obviously citing that clumsy (and preposterous) argument as an excuse to intervene in the internal affairs of the new administration. The Post’s sources also claimed that “Pence had a right to know that he had been misled….” True or not, it was, of course, none of their business.
Pity for Pence
The professed concern of the Intelligence Community and Justice Department officials that Pence deserved the full story from Flynn was obviously based on political considerations, not some legal principle. Pence was a known supporter of the New Cold War with Russia, so the tender concern for Pence not being treated nicely coincided with a strategy of dividing the new administration along the lines of policy toward Russia.
All indications are that Trump and other insiders knew from the beginning exactly what Flynn had actually said in the conversation, but that Flynn had given Pence a flat denial about discussing sanctions without further details.
On Feb. 13, when Trump was still trying to save Flynn, the National Security Adviser apologized to Pence for “inadvertently” having failed to give him a complete account, including his reference to the expulsion of the Russian diplomats. But that was not enough to save Flynn’s job.
The divide-and-conquer strategy, which led to Flynn’s ouster, was made effective because the leakers had already created a political atmosphere of great suspicion about Flynn and the Trump White House as having had illicit dealings with the Russians. The normally pugnacious Trump chose not to respond to the campaign of leaks with a detailed, concerted defense. Instead, he sacrificed Flynn before the end of the very day the Flynn “blackmail” story was published.
But Trump appears to have underestimated the ambitions of the leakers. The campaign against Flynn had been calculated in part to weaken the Trump administration and ensure that the new administration would not dare to reverse the hardline policy of constant pressure on Putin’s Russia.
Many in Washington’s political elite celebrated the fall of Flynn as a turning point in the struggle to maintain the existing policy orientation toward Russia. The day after Flynn was fired the Post’s national political correspondent, James Hohmann, wrote that the Flynn “imbroglio” would now make it “politically untenable for Trump to scale back sanctions to Moscow” because the “political blowback from hawkish Republicans in Congress would be too intense….”
But the ultimate target of the campaign was Trump himself. As neoconservative journalist Eli Lake put it, “Flynn is only the appetizer. Trump is the entree.”
Susan Hennessey, a well-connected former lawyer in the National Security Agency’s Office of General Counsel who writes the Lawfare blog at the Brookings Institution, agreed. “Trump may think Flynn is the sacrificial lamb,” she told The Guardian, “but the reality is that he is the first domino. To the extent the administration believes Flynn’s resignation will make the Russia story go away, they are mistaken.”
The Phony “Constant Contacts” Story
No sooner had Flynn’s firing been announced than the next phase of the campaign of leaks over Trump and Russia began. On Feb. 14, CNN and the New York Times published slight variants of the same apparently scandalous story of numerous contacts between multiple members of the Trump camp with the Russian at the very time the Russians were allegedly acting to influence the election.
There was little subtlety in how mainstream media outlets made their point. CNN’s headline was, “Trump aides were in constant touch with senior Russian officials during campaign.” The Times headline was even more sensational: “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts with Russian Intelligence.”
But the attentive reader would soon discover that the stories did not reflect those headlines. In the very first paragraph of the CNN story, those “senior Russian officials” became “Russians known to U.S. intelligence,” meaning that it included a wide range Russians who are not officials at all but known or suspected intelligence operatives in business and other sectors of society monitored by U.S. intelligence. A Trump associate dealing with such individuals would have no idea, of course, that they are working for Russian intelligence.
The Times story, on the other hand, referred to the Russians with whom Trump aides were said to be in contact last year as “senior Russian intelligence officials,” apparently glossing over a crucial distinction that sources had made to CNN between intelligence officials and Russians being monitored by U.S. intelligence.
But the Times story acknowledged that the Russian contacts also included government officials who were not intelligence officials and that the contacts had been made not only by Trump campaign officials but also associates of Trump who had done business in Russia. It further acknowledged it was “not unusual” for American business to come in contact with foreign intelligence officials, sometimes unwittingly in Russia and Ukraine, where “spy services are deeply embedded in society.”
Even more important, however, the Times story made it clear that the intelligence community was seeking evidence that Trump’s aides or associates were colluding with the Russians on the alleged Russian effort to influence the election, but that it had found no evidence of any such collusion. CNN failed to report that crucial element of the story.
The headlines and lead paragraphs of both stories, therefore, should have conveyed the real story: that the intelligence community had sought evidence of collusion by Trump aides with Russia but had not found it several months after reviewing the intercepted conversations and other intelligence.
Unwitting Allies of the War Complex?
Former CIA Director Brennan and other former Obama administration intelligence officials have used their power to lead a large part of the public to believe that Trump had conducted suspicious contacts with Russian officials without having the slightest evidence to support the contention that such contacts represent a serious threat to the integrity of the U.S. political process.
Many people who oppose Trump for other valid reasons have seized on the shaky Russian accusations because they represent the best possibility for ousting Trump from power. But ignoring the motives and the dishonesty behind the campaign of leaks has far-reaching political implications. Not only does it help to establish a precedent for U.S. intelligence agencies to intervene in domestic politics, as happens in authoritarian regimes all over the world, it also strengthens the hand of the military and intelligence bureaucracies who are determined to maintain the New Cold War with Russia.
Those war bureaucracies view the conflict with Russia as key to the continuation of higher levels of military spending and the more aggressive NATO policy in Europe that has already generated a gusher of arms sales that benefits the Pentagon and its self-dealing officials.
Progressives in the anti-Trump movement are in danger of becoming an unwitting ally of those military and intelligence bureaucracies despite the fundamental conflict between their economic and political interests and the desires of people who care about peace, social justice and the environment.
President Trump rose from the ashes of Mike Flynn at his press conference last Thursday. In a bravura performance, defiant and funny at times, the President took on the corporate media en masse.
It is a performance that should not be missed. You can savor both video and transcript at your leisure here.
Trump: “Unfortunately, much of the media in Washington, D.C., along with New York, Los Angeles in particular, speaks not for the people, but for the special interests and for those profiting off a very, very obviously broken system. The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. Tremendous disservice. We have to talk to find out what’s going on, because the press honestly is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.”
Sounds like what many “progressives” have been saying for a mighty long time, and it deserves resounding applause from them.
Trump: “And I’ll tell you what else I see. I see tone. You know the word ‘tone.’ The tone is such hatred. I’m really not a bad person, by the way. No, but the tone is such — I do get good ratings, you have to admit that — the tone is such hatred.”
And: “Now, I will say this. I watch it. I see it. I’m amazed by it. The public gets it, you know. Look, when I go to rallies, they turn around, they start screaming at CNN. They want to throw their placards at CNN. You know.”
The bias of the press against Trump is so obvious and heavy handed that no one can miss it. I asked one friend who is an avid and careful reader of the NYT whether he could name a single pro-Trump article over the last year. He could not. Does the press believe that the public are such fools that they cannot see this tone? This is but one more sign of the contempt that the clueless Elite have for the working stiff.
Russia and Putin
The most important point of the press conference was undoubtedly Trump’s refusal to back off one inch from his desire to “get along with Russia,” what some call New Détente or Détente 2.0. It is the most important, because tension between the two nuclear powers could well lead to war and nuclear exchange. For anti-warriors of every stripe Trump’s steadfastness was good news. The Flynn episode has not changed Trump’s resolve one iota.
Trump continued. Were he to denounce Russia and Putin, he instructed the press, it would be much easier for him politically. He would be hailed by the corporate press, the elitists of both Parties, the neocons, the Hillarycons and the entire foreign policy establishment, all of whom are itching for a fight, heedless that it might lead to a nuclear exchange. So Trump’s willingness to hold to this position is hardly opportunistic.
But he went farther. Trump let the press know that the atmosphere they are creating would make it difficult to negotiate with Putin, to defeat ISIS, or to bring an end to the crises in Ukraine or Syria nurtured by the US over the last six plus years. Why? Because he would have difficulty making concessions, giving as well as taking which any negotiation or deal demands. Any concession would trigger the charge that Trump is Putin’s puppet, the crazed mantra with which we are harangued daily and for which after all these many months there is not a shred of evidence. This is the very same point that Stephen F. Cohen, Emeritus Professor of Russian History at Princeton and NYU, often makes in his weekly discussions (Jan.25 episode especially) of U.S., Russia relations with John Batchelor on WABC.
Trump: “But I want to just tell you, the false reporting by the media, by you people, the false, horrible, fake reporting makes it much harder to make a deal with Russia. And probably Putin said ‘you know.’ He’s sitting behind his desk and he’s saying ‘you know, I see what’s going on in the United States, I follow it closely. It’s going to be impossible for President Trump to ever get along with Russia because of all the pressure he’s got with this fake story.’ OK? And that’s a shame because if we could get along with Russia — and by the way, China and Japan and everyone. If we could get along, it would be a positive thing, not a negative thing.” (Emphasis, jw).
And later, Trump: “But you know what? I want to do the right thing for the American people. And to be honest, secondarily, I want to do the right thing for the world.
If Russia and the United States actually got together and got along — and don’t forget, we’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. There’s no upside. We’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. I have been briefed. And I can tell you one thing about a briefing that we’re allowed to say because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it, nuclear holocaust would be like no other. (Emphasis, jw)… They’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are we. If we have a good relationship with Russia, believe me, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.”
The idea of “getting along” with other nations, even as we compete with them economically, is of course the way to peace and the very antithesis of the path the neocons and liberalcons from the Clintons to Bush to Obama have set us on these past thirty plus years of killing and destruction. And yet the “peace movement” expresses nothing but hatred for Trump and pushes for his impeachment. Some “peace” movement, that.
Back to l’affaire Flynn for a moment. Permit this writer to make a surmise, scarcely a ripple on the sea of surmises these days about the Deep State, Trump etc. Flynn did nothing illegal. Trump did not have to let him go, and it can easily be argued that Trump may have kept blood out of the water by sticking by Flynn and keeping him on. Flynn has been an asset. He is a champion of Détente 2.0 with Russia. He knows the national “intelligence” apparatus and where all its skeletons are closeted. He seems to know the deep story of the support that the Obama and Hillary forces gave to ISIS – certainly indirectly through US allies and probably also directly through the CIA, Mossad etc. But Flynn is also a man near crazed with an irrational bellicosity to Iran. That would have thrown a monkey wrench into Détente 2.0 since Russia and Iran have close ties especially in the fight against Sunni fundamentalist terrorism. So sooner or later Flynn had to go to preserve Détente 2.0. Did Trump take this opportunity to do so? And did Tillerson also crave this? It is a suspicion worth pondering. Trump has shown a cold-blooded capacity to say “you’re fired” when someone’s liabilities outweigh their assets. This writer suspects that Flynn’s time had come.
John V. Walsh can be reached at email@example.com.
Fleeing to Canada is no longer an option
Liberals are supposed to be antiwar, right? I went to college in the 1960s, when students nationwide were rising up in opposition to the Vietnam War. I was a Young Republican back then and supported the war through sheer ignorance and dislike of the sanctimoniousness of the protesters, some of whom were surely making their way to Canada to live in exile on daddy’s money while I was on a bus going to Fort Leonard Wood for basic combat training. I can’t even claim that I had some grudging respect for the antiwar crowd because I didn’t, but I did believe that at least some of them who were not being motivated by being personally afraid of getting hurt were actually sincere in their opposition to the awful things that were happening in Southeast Asia.
As I look around now, however, I see something quite different. The lefties I knew in college are now part of the Establishment and generally speaking are retired limousine liberals. And they now call themselves progressives, of course, because it sounds more educated and sends a better message, implying as it does that troglodytic conservatives are anti-progress. But they also have done a flip on the issue of war and peace. In its most recent incarnation some of this might be attributed to a desperate desire to relate to the Hillary Clinton campaign with its bellicosity towards Russia, Syria and Iran, but I suspect that the inclination to identify enemies goes much deeper than that, back as far as the Bill Clinton Administration with its sanctions on Iraq and the Balkan adventure, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and the creation of a terror-narco state in the heart of Europe. And more recently we have seen the Obama meddling in Libya, Yemen and Syria in so called humanitarian interventions which have turned out to be largely fraudulent. Yes, under the Obama Dems it was “responsibility to protect time” (r2p) and all the world trembled as the drones were let loose.
Last Friday I started to read an op-ed in The Washington Post by David Ignatius that blew me away. It began “President Trump confronts complicated problems as the investigation widens into Russia’s attack on our political system.” It then proceeded to lay out the case for an “aggressive Russia” in the terms that have been repeated ad nauseam in the mainstream media. And it was, of course, lacking in any evidence, as if the opinions of coopted journalists and the highly politicized senior officials in the intelligence community should be regarded as sacrosanct. These are, not coincidentally, the same people who have reportedly recently been working together to undercut the White House by leaking and then reporting highly sensitive transcripts of phone calls with Russian officials.
Ignatius is well plugged into the national security community and inclined to be hawkish but he is also a typical Post politically correct progressive on most issues. So here was your typical liberal asserting something in a dangerous fashion that has not been demonstrated and might be completely untrue. Russia is attacking “our political system!” And The Post is not alone in accepting that Russia is trying to subvert and ultimately overthrow our republic. Reporting from The New York Times and on television news makes the same assumption whenever they discuss Russia, leading to what some critics have described as mounting American ‘hysteria’ relating to anything coming out of Moscow.
Rachel Maddow is another favorite of mine when it comes to talking real humanitarian feel good stuff out one side of her mouth while beating the drum for war from the other side. In a bravura performance on January 26th she roundly chastised Russia and its president Vladimir Putin. Rachel, who freaked out completely when Donald Trump was elected, is now keen to demonstrate that Trump has been corrupted by Russia and is now controlled out of the Kremlin. She described Trump’s lord and master Putin as an “intense little man” who murders his opponents before going into the whole “Trump stole the election with the aid of Moscow” saga, supporting sanctions on Russia and multiple investigations to get to the bottom of “Putin’s attacks on our democracy.” Per Maddow, Russia is the heart of darkness and, by way of Trump, has succeeded in exercising control over key elements in the new administration.
Unfortunately, people in the media like Ignatius and Maddow are not alone. Their willingness to sell a specific political line that carries with it a risk of nuclear war as fact, even when they know it is not, has been part of the fear-mongering engaged in by Democratic Party loyalists and many others on the left. Their intention is to “get Trump” whatever it takes, which opens the door to some truly dangerous maneuvering that could have awful consequences if the drumbeat and military buildup against Russia continues, leading Putin to decide that his country is being threatened and backed into a corner. Moscow has indicated that it would not hesitate use nuclear weapons if it is being confronted militarily and facing defeat.
The current wave of Russophobia is much more dangerous than the random depiction of foreigners in negative terms that has long bedeviled a certain type of American know-nothing politics. Apart from the progressive antipathy towards Putin personally, there is a virulent strain of anti-Russian sentiment among some self-styled conservatives in congress, best exemplified by Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Graham has recently said “2017 is going to be a year of kicking Russia in the ass in Congress.”
It is my belief that many in the National Security State have convinced themselves that Russia is indeed a major threat against the United States and not because it is a nuclear armed power that can strike the U.S. That appreciation, should, if anything constitute a good reason to work hard to maintain cordial relations rather than not, but it is seemingly ignored by everyone but Donald Trump.
No, the new brand of Russophobia derives from the belief that Moscow is “interfering” in places like Syria and Ukraine. Plus, it is a friend of Iran. That perception derives from the consensus view among liberals and conservatives alike that the U.S. sphere of influence encompasses the entire globe as well as the particularly progressive conceit that Washington should serve to “protect” anyone threatened at any time by anyone else, which provides a convenient pretext for military interventions that are euphemistically described as “peace missions.”
There might be a certain cynicism in many who hate Russia as having a powerful enemy also keeps the cash flowing from the treasury into the pockets of the beneficiaries of the military industrial congressional complex, but my real fear is that, having been brainwashed for the past ten years, many government officials are actually sincere in their loathing of Moscow and all its works. Recent opinion polls suggest that that kind of thinking is popular among Americans, but it actually makes no sense. Though involvement by Moscow in the Middle East and Eastern Europe is undeniable, calling it a threat against U.S. vital interests is more than a bit of a stretch as Russia’s actual ability to make trouble is limited. It has exactly one overseas military facility, in Syria, while the U.S. has more than 800, and its economy and military budget are tiny compared to that of the United States. In fact, it is Washington that is most guilty of intervening globally and destabilizing entire regions, not Moscow, and when Donald Trump said in an interview that when it came to killing the U.S. was not so innocent it was a gross understatement.
Ironically, pursuing a reset with Russia is one of the things that Trump actually gets right but the new left won’t give him a break because they reflexively hate him for not embracing the usual progressive bromides that they believe are supposed to go with being antiwar. Other Moscow trashing comes from the John McCain camp which demonizes Russia because warmongers always need an enemy and McCain has never found a war he couldn’t support. It would be a tragedy for the United States if both the left and enough of the right were to join forces to limit Trump’s options on dealing with Moscow, thereby enabling an escalating conflict that could have tragic consequences for all parties.
A senior Iranian official says the rhetoric of the US administration of President Donald Trump on the Islamic Republic is substantively no different from that of the former officials in Washington.
“There has been no substantive shift in the rhetoric of the new US officials [in comparison with] the previous [ones] and various figures and parties in the country have always maintained an aggressive approach toward independent countries,” Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani told reporters on Monday.
He added that the fact-based admissions by President Trump about the chaotic situation in the West and the United States are a new issue which had never been publicly acknowledged by other US leaders.
Such confessions show that Washington can no more cover up the tumultuous and confused situation in the US, the top Iranian official emphasized.
“Although it is still early to make a definitive judgment about the new US administration, the current trend shows that there will be no change in the chaotic situation of the country in the new era either,” the SNSC secretary pointed out.
The new US Republican president, who took office in January, has repeatedly echoed the same warnings made by former President George W. Bush who on several occasions said he would not take the military option against Iran off the table.
Former President Barack Obama also threatened military action against Iran before the nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers in 2015.
Trump said on February 2 that “nothing is off the table” in terms of a response to a recent ballistic missile test by Iran.
Iranian officials have always dismissed such statements as foreign meddling in the country’s domestic affairs, saying that the missile tests were the nation’s inalienable right to self-defense. Iran has also vowed a crushing response to any military attack against it.
On the surface, the resignation of General Michael Flynn is being sold as a cut-and-dried case of the General getting ahead of his skis by calling the Russian Ambassador to discuss the lifting of sanctions. This was ostensibly then complicated by the General not being honest about his discussions, when queried about it by Vice President Mike Pence. However, as is always the case in these types of affairs, the real story will go untold and General Flynn’s “resignation” will have ramifications far beyond these first headlines.
In reality, the General’s early fall is a signal that the Deep State is not about to permit rapprochement with Russia. This is because any moves to defuse the New Cold War could threaten to undercut Obama’s $1 Trillion, 30 year nuclear arms rearmament program, which has been quietly moving forward for several years.
Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which is the military’s counterpart to the CIA, was originally fired by Obama for an intelligence assessment, which disputed information that Obama was being fed by the CIA. In retrospect, this report was rather prescient, since it noted that an infant ISIS was a much bigger threat than Obama was being told, while further advising that it was a mistake for the CIA to be supplying them with arms in their ill-fated effort to bring down Assad in Syria.
This put Flynn in direct conflict with then CIA Director, John Brennan, then Director of National Intelligence, John Clapper, and a whole cadre of Neo-Con Interventionists inside Hillary Clinton’s State Department. Flynn’s timing was also bad, since the War Hawks had only recently overthrown Gaddafi and, in the ecstasy of their “success”, no one, especially Obama, wanted to be told that rain clouds were already gathering over their parade.
When General Flynn reemerged as an advisor to Trump during the campaign, there was no immediate concern within the Deep State, since Trump was not seen as a serious factor. However, as Trump began to talk about rapprochement with Putin’s Russia on the campaign trail, Flynn was identified as one of the driving forces behind this idea and, as a result, the Clinton Campaign opened up a new front to denigrate him as a racist nut-case. This may very well have been true, but it does not, as a consequence, make him wrong in regard to his recognition of the necessity to defuse the New Cold War with Russia.
Flynn’s early departure is a big victory for the Deep State Thugs who are heavily invested in the New Cold War. It is most certainly also a signal to Trump that he can be removed, since MSM talking heads are already spinning stories about the fired DOJ Acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, having previously warned the White House that tapped phone calls, between Flynn and the Russian Ambassador, might make the General subject to “blackmail” by the Russians.
Indeed, not-so-subtle threats of impeachment are already being floated, with nuances of the famous question, “What did the President know and when did he know it?” One Neo-Con Flim-flam man has already gone so far as to refer to the “Russian Stench” and demanded to know what is behind this “Russian connection”, which, if anyone gave it any real thought, was essentially a move toward peace.
However, this was apparently just the warm up act for the big guns, since the next up was Thomas Friedman, the influential NY Times op-ed writer, who helped the Bush and Obama Administrations to lie us into several wars. Adopting a stern demeanor, while staring directly into the camera, Friedman demands no less than a full investigation into Trump’s associations with these pesky Russkies, who “undermined our election”, ominously concluding that this was an “event as significant as Pearl Harbor”.
Meanwhile, early rumblings from Moscow are noting that this could be bad news for future relations with the US and could ultimately lead to a deterioration of relations. This is a nice way of saying that they know that our Deep State is undermining the move toward rapprochement, while also sending a subtle message to Trump that they hope he’s not falling for it. Sadly, it may already be too late.
This is the first move to set up Trump for impeachment, with Mike Pence, a Neo-Con, sitting in the catbird seat. Those that celebrate the demise of Flynn and hope for the early fall of Trump should be careful in regard to their wishes. The ultimate result intended in all of this is that there will be no rapprochement with Russia and that the New Cold War might eventually develop into a hot one.
The Empire has struck back. Whether one likes Trump or not, no one should be distracted by the “Russian Connection” Sideshow. This is about the future of a major rearmament program and the Deep State has subtly enlisted the support of the Trump haters on the left to create the conditions for Trump’s early removal.
With many Neo-Cons on the right also poised to feed on the carcass of a guy they couldn’t stop in the primaries, the American People better wake up. This is not a question of left or right. It may very well be a question of survival.
Beware ego, well two egos actually. Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law who seems to believe that he can solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and who is trying to persuade his father-in-law that “a foreign policy coup” can be his.
Behind the scenes, stand the dubious former British Prime Minister Tony Blair (lobbying via media baron Rupert Murdoch’s former wife Wendy Deng, who reportedly reconciled Kushner and Ivanka Trump after their 2008 split) and the equally dubious gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson, plus the Israeli Ambassador, Ron Dermer (who is a Bibi Netanyahu confidant, reportedly).
Trump would not be the first U.S. President to be glamour-struck by the prospect of being the one to solve the Palestinian conflict, if he should take the bait. He would be one of many. Yet it has proved to be a prize for none of these former Presidents, but rather has proved itself to be a poisoned chalice, time after time.
For Trump however, it would not be the standard hemlock imbibed by his predecessors, but more a case of welcoming into his Administration a Trojan Horse. It is, as journalist Robert Parry rightly asserts, a Trojan Horse carrying the neocons right back into the heart of foreign policy. It would result in “President Trump’s foreign policy sliding toward neoconservative orthodoxy on the Middle East …”.
What is “the bait” this time? Something very simple. Instead of Israel making peace with the Palestinians, leading to peace with the surrounding world, it would be the other way round: Israel would befriend the Arab world, which would then agree on some “solution” with Israel and impose it on the Palestinians.
This plan has been given a catchy sound-bite by Netanyahu: “Outside” (i.e. the Arab world), “in” (imposition on Palestinians), instead of “inside out.” The selling point is that the Palestinians are now so weak and divided, it is claimed, they have not the strength to object.
Leaving aside the fact that if the Israeli government had actually wanted a negotiated solution – the premise on which the 1993 Oslo Accords was founded (that it was in both parties’ interests to agree on a compromise) – there have been any number of occasions over the last quarter century, when Israel could have had one. History shows that Israel has always preferred continuing the (so-called) Peace Process to actually concluding peace. This understanding of the situation is common ground for both American and European officials, who have been part of “the process” over the years, (of which I was one).
The Wrong Starting Point
But for Trump, it is not the probability of failure in this venture that makes the Israeli initiative potentially so damaging, but rather that to launch his foreign policy from this platform may well prove lethal to his wider aims. Where you start matters. It matters a lot. It dictates the subsequent alignment of alliances.
Initially (and perhaps it still is so), Trump’s start point was détente with Russia. In terms of his aim to transform America’s foreign policy, that made sense. And one can understand why President Trump might be treading somewhat slowly on Russia, in the wake of the Deep State coup against Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the continuing attrition aimed against the President, but simply, were he to pursue his son-in-law’s plan, Trump will be handing over his foreign policy to the neocons.
Why? Because if Trump wants the Arab world (and Saudi Arabia in particular), to help Israel impose a settlement on the Palestinians, Trump will have to embrace Israel’s false narrative that Iran is the chief sponsor of terror in the Middle East. And, Trump equally will have to pay court to the equally false Israeli narrative of the threat of the Iranian “nuclear bomb.” He already has, at his meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu. It has never been Iran’s non-existent “bomb” that has concerned Israeli security officials: It has been Iran’s conventional military power and even more so, its soft, revolutionary power.
It is precisely this back-to-front neocon world view that has so corrupted American foreign policy: America, for decades now, has aligned itself with Saudi Arabia and Gulf States who finance, arm and support terrorist movements (such as Al Qaeda), while labeling Iran, which actually fights and defeats these “jihadists,” as the chief sponsor of terror in the Middle East. One really cannot get it more back-to-front. This is now more widely understood by the American public, yet the neocons never pull back; they never desist in trying to tie America to the Saudi Arabia-Israeli axis and to promote phobia towards Iran.
Will President Trump see the danger? His vaunted “war” on radical Islam will be laughed off the stage in the Middle East – as was Obama’s – if he is seen to have aligned himself this way: with Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. It will be viewed in the Middle East as another round of America “at war” with terrorism, and tucked up “in bed” with it, too.
And in Moscow, eyebrows too, will be raised at such a strategic alignment: Will Trump be any more serious than Obama in defeating radical jihadists, policy-makers in Russia may be asking? It will be yet another question mark to put beside the bigger question mark arising from President Trump’s acceptance of General Flynn’s resignation.
Journalist Pepe Escobar notes that “even before Flynn’s fall, Russian analysts had been avidly discussing whether President Trump is the new Victor Yanukovich – [the Ukrainian President] who failed to stop a color revolution on his doorstep.”
This has become a key question. Flynn’s conversation with the Russian Ambassador over an open telephone line (which he will have known to be routinely monitored by the security services), broke no rules: He spoke, as any diplomat about to assume office might. There was nothing improper in his conduct.
A British Shadow Foreign Secretary would be constantly in touch with foreign Ambassadors. It is expected, and required of him or her. If there were any breaking of rules, it would seem to have occurred elsewhere: in the intelligence services perhaps, or in the Department of Justice. The rules are that you do not intentionally tap your own officials (or about to be officials), and should this occur inadvertently, their identity and their contribution to the conversation should be minimized, i.e., redacted under privacy rules. Never should it leak.
And if there is a puzzle to this episode, it lies not so much in Flynn’s conduct, but in the response by the President. So, Vice President Mike Pence was miffed that General Flynn had been economical with his account of events to him. Why not call them both in: tell Flynn to apologize and Pence to accept the apology? End it there. Why give a scalp to Deep State opponents?
A puzzle it remains. Eli Lake on Bloomberg View draws out the wider implications: “…unanswered questions. It’s possible that Flynn has more ties to Russia that he had kept from the public and his colleagues. It’s also possible that a group of national security bureaucrats and former Obama officials are selectively leaking highly sensitive law enforcement information to undermine the elected government.
“Flynn was a fat target for the national security state. He has cultivated a reputation as a reformer and a fierce critic of the intelligence community leaders he once served with when he was the director the Defense Intelligence Agency under President Barack Obama. Flynn was working to reform the intelligence-industrial complex, something that threatened the bureaucratic prerogatives of his rivals.
“He was also a fat target for Democrats. Remember Flynn’s breakout national moment last summer was when he joined the crowd at the Republican National Convention from the dais calling for Hillary Clinton to be jailed.
“In normal times, the idea that U.S. officials entrusted with our most sensitive secrets would selectively disclose them to undermine the White House would alarm those worried about creeping authoritarianism. Imagine if intercepts of a call between Obama’s incoming national security adviser and Iran’s foreign minister leaked to the press before the nuclear negotiations began? The howls of indignation would be deafening.
“In the end, it was Trump’s decision to cut Flynn loose. In doing this he caved in to his political and bureaucratic opposition. [Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin] Nunes told me Monday night, that this will not end well. ‘First it’s Flynn, next it will be Kellyanne Conway, then it will be Steve Bannon, then it will be Reince Priebus,’ he said. Put another way, Flynn is only the appetizer. Trump is the entrée.”
So this is the question: Has the Deep State already neutered Trump’s foreign policy? It is too early to tell, but there are straws in the wind suggesting that Trump’s policy might be sliding towards neocon orthodoxy on Russia (as well as on Palestine), as Moon of Alabama web site observed:
“[On Feb. 14] the White House spokesperson said: President Trump has made it very clear that he expects the Russian government to deescalate violence in the Ukraine and return Crimea.
“[On Feb. 15] Trump tweeted: Donald J. Trump Verified account @realDonaldTrump
Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?
4:42 AM – 15 Feb 2017
“That is a position Trump had not previously taken. ‘Return Crimea’ is a no-no to any current and future Russian government. If Trump insists on this, the prospective détente is already dead.”
Flynn’s sacrifice does not allow a final judgment to be made. On the bigger chessboard, Trump has decided that “a pawn” can be sacrificed. The General had certain qualities (the ruthlessness perhaps necessary to wield an axe to the intelligence agencies), but also he had displayed a lack of political “nous” and basic understanding in Flynn’s book, The Field of Fight, (that unwisely he had co-authored with neocon Michael Leeden). Trump chose not to risk a more important piece to defend a pawn (especially as one more important “piece” (Bannon) reportedly was calling for this pawn to be sacrificed).
The question, finally, is about Trump’s character: Has he the “steel” to “drain the swamp”? Can he recruit tough-minded allies within the Deep State, ready to conduct a vicious internal war and to purge it thoroughly? Can he eliminate the sleeper cells from within his own administration? Tweets will not be enough. He will have to act soon.
Or else, will he “slide” (towards the neocons), and take the Netanyahu bait. And fall into the embrace of the neocon alignment with the Saudi-Israeli axis – and, having absorbed the basic hook of Iranophobia, go on to try to split President Putin from Iran (and China), in true neocon style?
This portends a vicious internal war within the U.S. – for even were the Deep State “color revolution” to succeed, it would not represent the end of the war, but perhaps the loss of a major battle within the wider war.
Alastair Crooke is a former British diplomat who was a senior figure in British intelligence and in European Union diplomacy. He is the founder and director of the Conflicts Forum.
After reading my Asia Times column yesterday, World community sizes up a diminished Trump, a well-meaning warm-hearted friend, an American from New York, wrote to me to explain gently that what we are witnessing in the United States is a mere “tantrum” by a clutch of spooks whose jobs are under threat and their hangers-on in the intelligence services, along with the liberal press having a “parallel tantrum” who cannot believe that they lost the election to Donald Trump. I was in two minds after reading the mail. Should I have called it a “civil war”, after all?
That is, until this morning when I read the transcript of the extraordinary 75-minute press conference in the White House late Thursday night. The press conference was originally called by Trump to announce his new pick for Labour Secretary, but in no time degenerated into a verbal brawl between the President of the United States of America and the White House press corps with former NSA Michael Flynn and Russia ties at the epicenter. It was all so surreal, to say the least.
Not even in the darkest hour of the Vietnam War or in the shameful hours of the Watergate cover-up or the sly escapades of Bill Clinton in the Oval Office would the White House have witnessed anything like this. Perhaps, this becomes an unprecedented event in American political history – the US president openly trading insults with the journalists who cover his presidency in real time.
The good thing for us who are non-Americans, in this extraordinary free-for-all with tooth and claw is that we learn so much about the American political system, how it works, what dissimulation and falsehood it spreads abroad while staking claim to the hogwash of “values”.
Trump tore into the so-called “Deep State” in America and the unscrupulous media, which is serving as its stand-in. He denounced loudly and repeatedly the “illegal leaks” by sources within the military-intelligence apparatus within the establishment to defame his presidency. Funnily, when Trump denounced the media as the mouthpieces of the intelligence agencies – even nailing the flag carriers such as New York Times and Wall Street Journal – there was no dissenting voice, no protest. In fact, the journalists seemed to accept it as a statement of fact. They didn’t show the spunk to refute the accusation even for purposes of record. So much for the Fourth Estate in America and the freedom of the press!
In the process, Trump also blurted out certain remarks on issues of war and peace, which make highly combustible stuff and will make many world chancelleries sit up and worry. They are indeed extremely worrisome.
Referring to a Russian warship apparently on a surveillance mission off the US west coast – something which the US and NATO routinely and incessantly do to Russia – Trump says, “The greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that’s 30 miles off shore right out of the water. Everyone in this country’s going to say ‘oh, it’s so great’… If I was just brutal on Russia right now, just brutal, people would say, you would say, ‘Oh, isn’t that wonderful’.”
Then, Trump went on to explain the implications: “We’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. I have been briefed. And I can tell you one thing about a briefing that we’re allowed to say because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it, a nuclear holocaust would be like no other.”
One shudders at the very thought of it – that a potential nuclear war between the US Russia has been the stuff of a briefing taken by Trump.
Like puss oozing out of a tumor that is fast becoming terminal, the US political system is throwing into the open the cumulative eddies of decades of its interventionist policies – with the military-industrial complex and the intelligence agencies that fattened up on the countless wars and horrific destruction in foreign lands refusing to give up their privileges and make way for an upstart president who walked in from nowhere who, they think, has no business to be running the White House, and on top of it, has the impudence to say that he intends to “drain the swamp”. (A columnist wrote a couple of days ago, Yes, Trump can drain the swamp but he must do THIS first or get eaten by the alligators.)
Look at the extent to which the military-industrial complex and the intelligence establishment in Washington goes to thwart any attempt by Trump to improve US-Russia relations. It’s a sickening scenario that without wars and bloodshed America cannot have a future — that the prospect of detente, peace and co-existence becomes so abhorrent a proposition for the Deep State as to stage an insurrection against the elected head of state.
No, this is more than about swamps. What we see here is nothing else than metastatic cancer. The cancer cells in America’s body polity have broken away to enter the bloodstream and the lymph system. Doctors call it “stage 4” cancer.
The full transcript of Trump’s press conference is here.
We wrote a few months ago that the only good thing one could say about Trump was that he was unpredictable. Just a month in the Oval Office, President Trump is living up to his reputation. His meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the 16th of February was not particularly well received in Israel. In contrast to President Obama, Trump’s body language and rhetoric strongly suggested he, and not Netanyahu, was in charge.
Trump was questioned about recent accusations that he was a ‘holocaust denier’. The American president imperiously ignored the question. Then, he dropped a bomb: The president indicated that he would be happy with a one-state solution in Palestine. I have argued for years that the creation of one democratic state encompassing Palestinians and Jews is the only option for long-term peace and stability. Zionists, however, do not even want any talk of that possibility; they understand that a one state solution will ultimately bring an end to Jewish supremacy – both in Israel and throughout the world.
The demographic statistics in Palestine show that the Arab population is growing rapidly. A one-state scenario would enable the millions of Palestinian refugees to return to their lands, thus swelling the Arab population. Moreover, power-sharing in the Knesset (or whatever a future assembly would be called) would change the domestic and foreign policy of the formerly ‘Jewish State’ entirely. The Israeli liberal press is worried about Trump. Yet Trump is arguably the most pro-Israeli President in history; his daughter ‘converted’ to Judaism and his son-in-law Jared Kushner has been financing Jewish settlements in Palestine. But the danger of the Trump regime for the Jewish supremacists is Steve Bannon, Trump’s Chief Strategist.
Steve Bannon has been accused of anti-semitism in the past for criticising the lack of American patriotism among international financiers who happen to be Jewish. But Bannon’s reactionary Breitbart News is staunchly Zionist. There is no contradiction between being Zionist and ‘anti-semitic’. In 1933, National Socialist Germany signed the Haavara Accord with international Zionists, whereby Germany would facilitate Jewish emigration to Palestine. After the Second World War, the USSR showed captured German films to soviet cinema goers. Some of the films such as Harlan’s Jud Süß were banned due to their Zionist content.
Steve Bannon calls himself a “Leninist” who wants to ” destroy the state”. Trump’s shadowy éminence grise, Bannon is believed to be the brains of the Trump administration. He certainly seems to understand dialectical materialism. But how could this dialectical conundrum play out?
During his election campaign, Donald Trump threatened to ban Muslims from entering the United States. His comments provoked international outrage. Benjamin Netanyahu was among the leaders who publicly denounced Trump’s xenophobic statements. We all know that far-right Zionist Netanyahu doesn’t care a farthing about Muslims. So, why would he make such a statement? We might say that, Netanyahu was attempting to present himself as a friend of the Arabs and all Muslims. But there is another aspect to the policy of borders: it is a policy which threatens the New World Order. Open borders and mass immigration are a key agenda of globalisation. We have shown that globalisation is being driven by liberal leftism. The most powerful institutions of the ‘Youth Industry’, ‘Colour Revolutions’, and ‘world-without-borders’ ideology are overwhelmingly Jewish-led. The same can be said for much of the liberal leftist ‘alternative’ media.
A state without borders
Israel has no official borders because they are constantly in expansion. Israel and its agents in the international media and academia unceasingly promote multiculturalism, immigration and open borders for all states – except Israel.
The Trump regime could render Israel’s espionage and intelligence penetration of the United States problematic. Dozens of Israelis were arrested after the 9/11 attacks on suspicion of terrorism. Some had been caught with explosives. They were all released due to the intervention of Homeland Security chief Micheal Chertoff, an Israeli-American. When Israeli Mossad agents were spotted celebrating the 9/11 terrorist attacks, they were described as ‘Middle Eastern-looking’.
Mohammed Atta, the chief terrorist suspect in the 9/11 attacks was, according to French intelligence, a Mossad agent. The Israelis have always used Islamist patsies and dupes for false flag attacks against civilian populations. Israeli security companies such as ICTS have repeatedly allowed terrorists to enter the United States and other countries. Is it possible that Netanyahu understood the significance of Trump’s xenophobic border policies? Impossible to tell.
But it is important to consider the fact that the real source of Jewish power in the world is the liberal ‘left’ media. Trump is currently at war with that establishment. Takfiri terrorism is and always has been a tool of Zionism. From the King David Hotel bombing of 1946, the Lavon Affair of 1954, to 9/11, the ‘war on terrorism’ has been about the recruitment, training and funding of Jihadi forces to be used as false-flag terror patsies and to fight proxy wars on behalf of Zionism.
The Takfiri and Wahhabi ideology is promoted by Israel’s ugly sister Saudi Arabia. If global Islam is taken over by Wahhabism – including in Gaza – Israel begins to look good, while genuine Muslims suffer. If Trump were to genuinely fight Takfiri terrorism in the Middle East, allying with President Assad, Israel’s ‘New Middle East’ project would fail. By putting a US embassy in Jerusalem, Trump is saying that a one-state option is back on the table. An Assad victory in Syria and a one-state solution, involving a burgeoning Palestinian population, would be the beginning of the end for Zionist world domination.
Left liberalism’s ‘Fisk-al deficit’
One only has to read what left liberal disinformation agents are actually saying to see the significance of all this. Take Robert Fisk’s latest piece: ‘ Why Israel is in for a rough ride under Trump’. Fisk believes that Trump and Bannon’s anti-Iran rhetoric is a threat to Israel. But he ignores the fact that it has been Israel, far more than the United States, who has been calling for war on Iran. Fisk is trying to imply that Israel wants peace with Iran. That is clearly not the case. Israel’s ‘left liberals’ and Mr Fisk have been backing the war against Syria to the hilt. As the Jewish-owned Brooking’s Institution makes clear in their 2009 Analysis Paper: ‘Which Path to Persia’, the destruction of Syria is the first stage of the war against Iran. Robert Fisk is right to be worried about Israel; his entire career of lies and disinformation about the Middle East may be undermined by Bannon’s methodological madness – at least at the level of discourse.
In many respects, Adam Curtis is correct to point out that Steve Bannon seems to be playing a similar role to Vladislav Surkov in Russia. Surkov, an advisor to President Vladimir Putin, developed the ideology of sovereign democracy, which Curtis claims led to a bewildering social state of “destabilised perception.”
Bannon and Surkov are the grand strategists of a new abstract art of disinformation designed to defend the interests of the national bourgeoisie against degenerate cosmopolitan elites and the working class. However, it is only by seeing this contradiction and taking control of its fallout that working class interests can be advanced. The White nationalist and violent ‘leftist’ hoodie-utionaries ultimately serve the same class interests. Workers should not be influenced by the reactionary ideology of either.
They are, in many respects, two sides of a Surkovian psyops ruthlessly conceived to maintain class domination.
Time to play Chess
In the Nineteenth century British imperial policy in Ireland consisted of co-opting the Irish to British power by granting them privileges and protection. The policy became known as ‘Killing home-rule with kindness’. The United States cannot afford to wage another catastrophic war of destruction against an emerging regional power like Iran.
Israel’s ‘rough ride’ under Trump will be a good thing if the Islamic Republic of Iran is sufficiently creative in its negotiations with Washington. Iran will need to tighten its alliance with Russia and China and correct serious foreign policy errors such as support for Zionist/Wahhabi agendas in South East Asia.
Iran should look towards strengthening its relationship with countries such as Hungary. Relations at present between Hungary and the Islamic republic of Iran are good. A Hungarian delegation recently visited Tehran and said that they hoped to make Budapest into Iran’s portal in Europe. Strengthening its diplomatic ties with nationalist countries in Europe and Russia, as well as constructive engagement with the Trump administration could contribute to the weakening of Zionism, the phoney war on terrorism and the Talmudic New World Order. Such policies will not bring the contradictions of capitalism to an end, but rather accelerate them. For those contradictions are systemic to the capitalist mode of production itself. But there is the possibility of a realignment of forces away from total war and destruction towards constructive change.
Did Trump blink in the face of a soft coup against an elected American government?
By John Chuckman | Aletho News | February 15, 2017
On first hearing, the resignation of Michael Flynn seemed less consequential than it did after a little reflection. After all, appointed officials do get let go, and Donald Trump made a popular name for himself as someone who doesn’t hesitate to dismiss staff who are not up to expectations.
The plausible reason offered – Flynn’s having not told the truth about what was said at his meeting with the Russian Ambassador to the Vice President – is just that, plausible, but only barely. It is almost certainly a “face-saver” explanation used to cover something of greater consequence.
At such levels in international affairs, “backchannel” communications are, if not everyday occurrences, employed now and again in highly delicate matters. We know John Kennedy employed exactly this method with Nikita Khrushchev, using a Soviet Ambassador, and he started moving towards doing the same with Castro. Most instances of such activity never reach our attention, of course.
Kennedy was involved in seeking peace during the Cold War, and today many have great hope Trump seeks the same around the Neocon Wars and Obama’s attempts to provoke and threaten Russia. Some of Trump’s words have offered encouraging signals. Michael Flynn was clearly working towards peace, and he had Trump’s confidence, but America’s power establishment is larded with many powerful and unaccountable people who share exactly the opposite purpose. What those who wish for peace regard as hopeful, these others regard as threatening.
“Backchannel” simply means that none of the ordinary paths of communication are used and that few, other than direct participants, are privy to it. It is an important tool at times. There is nothing illegal or insidious or treacherous about it, but it is of its nature highly confidential.
In some corporate press write-ups, today, we actually have irresponsible claims along those lines. Among other contemptible statements published today was this in Britain’s Independent : “Veteran anchor Dan Rather Broadcast journalist describes Russia scandal as ‘around a 5 or 6 on a 10-point scale of Armageddon for our form of government’, but says it is getting worse by the hour.”
My comment to that ridiculous statement was to remind readers of Rather’s record as a journalist, including first and foremost, his infamous description of the Zapruder film offered shortly after Kennedy’s death to reassure Americans about what had happened in Dallas.
If you’ve never seen Rather’s performance, here it is.
And here is the film he pretended to describe at a time years before anyone was permitted to see it.
I also reminded readers that Rather’s career with CBS ended over a story about George Bush, a story whose supporting materials he had failed adequately to scrutinize. He, essentially, was fired by the network. He certainly is a distinguished authority to quote in the current situation. Here is an outstanding example of a journalist the CIA has had in its pocket for decades.
Backchannel communication certainly was all that Michael Flynn was doing. But some insider, likely in the CIA – elements of which have already made more than one attempt to discredit Trump with stuff like evidence-free charges about Russian hacking and a paid-for, contrived Russian dossier, stuff which was rated as trash by the general public – got wind of Flynn’s effort and leaked it to one of his grateful journalist-contacts in a compliant corporate press.
There is a genuine question of treason here with security service people who decide to leak such ultra-secret material to a press which happily regurgitates the CIA view of events abroad daily. Does anyone want secret agencies determining who serves in government and what direction policy should go? This was a serious piece of dirty work which may well deserve the label treason. It is now being fully exploited by the very corporate press which has always hated Trump as well as by the hawks of both parties who gave us the Neocon Wars and Cold War Two.
Trump represents a threat against some of their favorite dirty projects, including the dangerous, non-stop assault on Russia, the engineered coup in Ukraine, and the deliberately-induced horrors of Syria employing hired terrorists.
We all lose if they win. Of course, by “all” I don’t include the corporate press so ably represented by Dan Rather and The Washington Post and The New York Times.
The American press establishment has been in bed with the security services for a long time. Much of what we read in the American as well as British press on subjects such as foreign affairs is little more than re-writes of stuff put “out there” by the CIA. I suppose in private, the owners and editors regard it as the patriotic thing to do, to support government policy no matter how bad it is.
The CIA has scores of clever manipulators who work full time on generating junk they distribute to cooperative friends in journalism. Even half a century ago, during another long CIA-terrorist project, the long one against Castro, you can read of the many creators of news employed to put the right face on what was being done and to hide a great deal of it. Papers like The New York Times openly cooperated with them, as we later learned in the explosion of information years after Kennedy’s assassination. Today, more than fifty years later and with far more powerful tools at their disposal, we can only imagine the inner workings of America’s richly-financed Ministry of Truth.
Nancy Pelosi – daughter of an old Mafia Don and bosom friend of the Neocons – has now climbed back on the “investigate Trump and Russia” bandwagon. Hillary Clinton, of course, never got off of it. Echoes of their shrill claims are even heard in Europe where several national elections now threaten governments which supported them. It’s what these people have been pushing for – the whole gang of the corporate press, senior Democrats, and various establishment interests. They have been trying to stop or derail Trump from Election Day.
It’s stylish and convenient for them to pretend their opposition is over matters like immigrants, but the truth is far darker. The War Party wants to continue literally re-shaping the face of the planet no matter how many lives it costs. Can you imagine, for even one moment, rhino-hided politicians like Pelosi or Clinton or Chuck Schumer shedding so much as one genuine tear over immigrants or refugees? These are people who have been complicit in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, including countless women and their families, in a whole series of countries.
It is deeply concerning now that Trump speaks of Obama’s maybe not having been tough enough on Russia. And we’ve heard that Crimea must be returned to Ukraine. Are these concessions from a wounded President to the people who inflicted the wound? Has Trump blinked after this attack?
The situation has the potential now not only of scuttling anticipated rapprochement with Russia but of cranking up the threat. Russia is no more “returning” Crimea to Ukraine than Germany is returning the former East Germany to its previous status. The local people have spoken and their choice was to rejoin Russia, with whom they have a history going back to Catherine the Great. They chose to leave a new version of Ukraine which displayed open hostility towards Russian-speakers from the first day of a CIA-financed coup.
This all has the smell of a “soft” coup against an elected American government, but that should not surprise us. To this day, we do not know the role of the CIA in a number of watershed events, including the Kennedy assassination, 9/11 as the kick starter for the Neocon Wars, and even the downfall of Richard Nixon.
Is that your idea of democratic government?
Moscow has criticized news reports alleging associates of Donald Trump had numerous contacts with Russian intelligence during the election, with the Kremlin’s spokesman complaining that it’s hard to distinguish fact from fiction in the US media lately.
“Those reports are not based on concrete facts,” Dmitry Peskov stressed on Wednesday, noting “there are five different sources in the story and none is named. So you see, really laughable stories are now given a go.”
The Russian president’s spokesman added, “Let’s not just believe the press. It’s difficult lately tell the real deal from fakes and hoaxes,” referring to reports in the New York Times and on CNN which cited anonymous US sources as saying that several people close to President Donald Trump had communicated with Russian intelligence officers during the presidential campaign.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has reacted cautiously, saying the publications indicate a big political game involving power bargaining is being played within the US establishment.
Other Russian officials were more forthcoming, however.
“It’s common tactic to discredit a person,” Senator Vladimir Dzhabarov told RIA Novosti, commenting on expose stories run by the New York Times and CNN, adding that it’s a continuation of the same campaign that forced Michael Flynn’s resignation as National Security Advisor earlier.
“Trump should realize that the real target of such leaks is him. Unless the American president puts an end to this witch-hunt and stops surrendering his people, this will all end bad. The final goal of his enemies is to impeach the president,” he added.
Dzhabarov, who holds a seat in the Russian Senate, is a veteran intelligence officer who retired with the rank of Colonel General.
Leonid Slutsky, a fellow legislator and head of the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, came to a similar conclusion, saying that the US mainstream media is carrying out a concerted attack on Trump.
“Such outlets use any chance to mar the new president and use this overused and baseless ‘Russian dossier’ for the purpose often because it makes a reliable impact on their readers,” he explained.
The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, whose agents Trump’s aides were allegedly in contact with, told TASS they were surprised by the reports and would not comment on “media speculations that lack proof.”
In an earlier article, the New York Times cited unnamed current and former US officials as saying that members of Trump’s election campaign had had contacts with senior Russian intelligence officers. The newspaper said US intelligence had intercepted the communications of Trump’s aides as they were collecting information to see if there was any evidence showing collusion between the Republican and Russia on the alleged hack of the Democratic National Convention – evidence that they reportedly failed to find.
The report said that, not only campaign members, but also other associates of Trump had been targeted by the surveillance. The only name it provided was that of Paul Manafort, who had to resign as Trump’s campaign manager after Ukrainian authorities accused him of having been involved in the corruption of the previous Ukrainian government. The evidence of such corruption was later disavowed by the Ukrainian investigators.
Commenting for the NYT report, Manafort denied having any ties with the Russian intelligence.
“This is absurd. I have no idea what this is referring to. I have never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers, and I have never been involved with anything to do with the Russian government or the Putin administration or any other issues under investigation today,” he told the newspaper.
The NYT sources would not disclose any details, including the names of alleged Russian spies or the number of Trump people that had allegedly communicated with them, claiming the data had been collected as part of routine surveillance of the communications of foreign officials.
CNN ran a similar story independently of the newspaper, citing anonymous “law enforcement and administration officials.”
The media has generally presented Trump as being ignorant and nonsensical in his discussion of American policies, and one example is his negative references to NATO as obsolete. The mainstream media is aghast that any political leader of the U.S. could possibly take a negative view of such an allegedly iconic alliance as NATO. A few days before Trump’s inauguration, the New York Times Editorial Board, for example, in an article entitled “Russian Gains When Trump Trashes NAT0,” found it “puzzling indeed for a president-elect to publicly denigrate leaders of his country’s closest allies as well as an alliance that for 70 years has stood firm against Russian expansion.” The Editorial Board of the Washington Post, in its praise for NATO, on the same date as the aforementioned New York Times editorial came out, maintained that “[i]t has greatly magnified U.S. power and global influence, even when its members were underspending on their military forces. Without it, the West would have no effective way to contain Russian neo-imperialism.”
The only question seems to be whether Trump is a total ignoramus or is he, for some malevolent reason, a traitor who puts the interests of Putinist Russia  above those of the United States. But if we take a brief walk down memory lane, we will discover that Trump is actually in very good company in his criticism of NATO, and those NATO critics include luminaries of the foreign policy establishment whom the Washington Post and the New York Times once readily embraced.
When NATO was coming into existence in 1949, it was not only being opposed by those who retained their World War II sympathy for the Soviet Union, such as former Vice President Henry Wallace, and conservative non-interventionists lead by Senator Robert Taft, but also by the most influential columnist and political intellectual of the era, Walter Lippmann. In 1947, Lippmann had written a series of articles called The Cold War that criticized the policy of containment—which called for efforts to prevent the expansion of Communism. The containment policy underpins NATO. And it is the intellectual architect of containment, George F. Kennan, who will be discussed shortly. Interestingly, while Kennan first applied the term “containment” to a foreign policy strategy, Lippmann, although he did not originate the term “Cold War,” made it an integral part of the political lexicon. 
Regarding Lippmann’s thinking on NATO, Lippmann biographer Ronald Steel writes: “Unlike the State Department and Pentagon planners, Lippmann saw no need for a military alliance with Western Europe. ‘I am convinced that the question of war or peace hangs upon the Soviet willingness to engage in a general war, and not on the strength of the local defenses in any particular part of the world,’ he [Lippmann] wrote.” 
Lippmann made a considerable effort to stop the development of NATO. Steel writes: “Lippmann put forth a six-page single spaced document on the German problem for John Foster Dulles to take to the Paris foreign ministers meeting in May 1949. In the memo Lippmann urged the demilitarization and neutralization of Germany, along with the withdrawal of all foreign troops. This plan, he argued, would keep German nationalists in check and remove the need for NATO.” In short, the Red Army’s occupation of central Europe, in Lippmann’s view, only existed because of the existence of Western troops in the vicinity. And if the Western troops were removed, Russia would reciprocate and, in Lippmann’s view, “there would be no more Russian problem today than there had been for a century.” 
Lippmann’s opposition went for naught and the NATO treaty passed the Senate by an overwhelming margin. Lippmann would express his opposition to NATO once again in 1952 when the alliance proposed to add two new members, Greece and Turkey. Lippmann maintained: “A great power like the United States gains no advantage and it loses prestige by offering, indeed peddling, its alliances to all and sundry. An alliance should be hard diplomatic currency, valuable and hard to get, and not inflationary paper from the mimeograph machine in the State Department.”  Once again, Lippmann lost the battle.
In 1958, Lippmann, like many American thinkers at that time, interpreted the launching of the Sputnik satellites as an indication that the Soviet Union was a power equal to that of the Western alliance. Lippmann contended: “The defenders of the existing policy consider themselves great realists who have put aside all wishful thinking. On what calculation, then, in the power relationships of great states, do they lease their expectation that Russia will withdraw from Europe while the United States and Great Britain remain, and are allowed to advance their military frontiers at least to the borders of Poland?” He maintained that “a settlement [with Russia] must be designed not only to protect our own vital interests. It must respect the vital interests of Russia.” 
George F. Kennan, who is widely considered to be the intellectual architect of America’s Cold War “containment” policy toward the Soviet Union in 1946 and 1947, expressed skepticism about the need to create NATO. His biographer John Lewis Gaddis writes that Kennan believed that “[I]f there had to be a military alliance, its members should include only the North Atlantic countries, where there was ‘a community of defense interest firmly rooted in geography and tradition.’ To go further would invite still further demands for protection: there would then be ‘no stopping point in the development of a system of anti-Russian alliances until that system has circled the globe and has embraced all the non-communist countries of Europe, Asia, and Africa.’ By then one of two things would have happened: the alliance would become meaningless like the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, or the United States would have become hopelessly extended, in which case it would have ignored warnings about the increased discrepancy between its resources and its commitments.” Such a situation did, in fact, materialize during the Cold War period as the United States established one alliance after the other in various areas of the globe—CENTO (Central Asia], SEATO (Southeast Asia).
Kennan maintained that the containment strategy he proposed had been excessively militarized by the U.S. government. In a 1996 interview with CNN he had said “[m]y thoughts about containment were of course distorted by the people who understood it and pursued it exclusively as a military concept; and I think that that, as much as any other cause, led to [the] 40 years of unnecessary, fearfully expensive and disoriented process of the Cold War.”
In a 1998 interview with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, Kennan described the U.S. Senate’s decision to ratify NATO’s expansion–which in 1999 would add Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to the alliance—as the “the beginning of a new cold war.” He held that “the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else . . . . We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way.”
Kennan said that he “was particularly bothered by the references to Russia as a country dying to attack Western Europe.” It seemed to him that Americans failed to realize that “[o]ur differences in the cold war were with the Soviet Communist regime. And now we are turning our backs on the very people who mounted the greatest bloodless revolution in history to remove that Soviet regime.” Kennan warned that this expansion showed “little understanding of Russian history and Soviet history. Of course, there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expanders] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are — but this is just wrong.”
Friedman did not disagree with Kennan and saw this development as having a negative effect on peace in Europe. If everything went well, future historians, he surmised, would say that in spite of this NATO expansion, Russia would continue to move along the path of “democratization and Westernization” because of the powerful impact of “globalization and arms control agreements.” However, “[i]f we are unlucky they will say, as Mr. Kennan predicts, that NATO expansion set up a situation in which NATO now has to either expand all the way to Russia’s border, triggering a new cold war, or stop expanding after these three new countries and create a new dividing line through Europe.”
In his concluding remarks in this article, Friedman wrote that “there is one thing future historians will surely remark upon, and that is the utter poverty of imagination that characterized U.S. foreign policy in the late 1990′s. They will note that one of the seminal events of this century took place between 1989 and 1992 — the collapse of the Soviet Empire, which had the capability, imperial intentions and ideology to truly threaten the entire free world . . . And what was America’s response? It was to expand the NATO cold-war alliance against Russia and bring it closer to Russia’s borders.”
As Putin began to exercise more and more power, Friedman’s views of NATO begin to change. In a 2014 column Friedman wrote that he had “opposed expanding NATO toward Russia after the Cold War . . . . It remains one of the dumbest things we’ve ever done and, of course, laid the groundwork for Putin’s rise.”  Later that year Friedman, although still acknowledging the negative impact of NATO expansion, began to put greater blame on Putin. Friedman stated that “[b]y expanding NATO at the end of the Cold War, when Russia was weak, we helped to cultivate a politics there that would one day be very receptive to Putin’s message that the West is ganging up on Russia. But, that said, the message is a lie. The West has no intention of bringing Ukraine into NATO. And please raise your hand if you think the European Union plans to invade Russia.”
In placing blame on Putin, Friedman ignored the fact while his American readers would not expect the European Union to invade Russia—and let us grant that Friedman is engaging in hyperbole here, and would mean the U.S. along with the European Union–it is not clear that Russians could be so sanguine. The United States did not feel secure with Soviet missiles being stationed in Cuba in 1962 and quite likely would not feel so today. And, of course, if Friedman were correct here, there never should have been any concern by Russia about having NATO near its borders, and Friedman never should have identified at all with Kennan’s position in 1998. Both Lippmann and Kennan recognized that the U.S. needed to consider the Russian view—and Russia had historical reasons for being worried about strong enemies on its borders since it had been invaded in the past.
Friedman even denied that Putin sought to protect Russia. “By seizing Crimea and stoking up nationalism, Putin was not protecting Russia from NATO,” Friedman asserted. “He was protecting himself from the viruses of E.U. accountability and transparency, which, if they took hold in Ukraine, could spread to Moscow, undermining his kleptocracy.”
Note that by making a distinction between Putin’s government and Russia, Friedman implied that the interests of Putin’s “kleptocracy” ran counter to those of Russia. Now Kennan and Lippmann, in line with the thinking of most Americans, did not believe that the Communist government was good for Russia; nonetheless, Kennan and Lippmann realized that it was in the interest of the United States to respect the interests of the Soviet government of Russia in order to avoid a dangerous conflict.
Finally, all of Friedman’s negative views of NATO disappear when he deals with Trump, as would be expected by a mainstream liberal. “How in the world do we put a man in the Oval Office,” Friedman maintained, “who thinks NATO is a shopping mall where the tenants aren’t paying enough rent to the U.S. landlord”?
“NATO is not a shopping mall,” Friedman averred; “it is a strategic alliance that won the Cold War, keeps Europe a stable trading partner for U.S. companies and prevents every European country — particularly Germany — from getting their own nukes to counterbalance Russia, by sheltering them all under America’s nuclear umbrella.”
Friedman’s change of opinion is indicative of the current view of mainstream liberalism. First, there is a definite proclivity to resist anything that Trump proposes—one result of what critics have labeled as Trump Derangement Syndrome. Moreover, there is now a tendency on the part of American liberals to be far more critical of Putin than they were of Soviet Communism. Liberals during the Cold War saw the Soviet planned economic system as being beneficial in some ways. In contrast, liberals find nothing in Putin’s system. In short, Putin’s Russia is widely attacked as a “kleptocracy,” as Friedman put it, and for its institutionalization of traditional values–Christianity, anti-abortion measures, natalism, discrimination against the homosexual life-style, and nationalism—which liberals now lambaste as retrograde and harmful to minorities and women.
Liberals’ views of the Russian internal system have impacted on how they judge Russia’s international threat. Mainstream liberals were far less willing to staunchly oppose the Soviet Union despite the fact that its military power was about on par with that of the United States and it promoted a popular global ideology with supporters throughout the world. Today Russia is much weaker militarily, especially in its conventional forces, and has an ideology with little global appeal. Moreover, the expansion of NATO has made it far more threatening to Russia as it now encroaches on Russia’s borders.
This focus on liberals does not mean that they are now the foremost supporters of NATO, which is also being backed by a number of other factions, including: neoconservatives, unchanged Cold Warriors, conservative hawks, and militarists. But the addition of staunch support from liberals for NATO has made that alliance politically invulnerable because of their dominance of the mainstream media.
The upshot of the reference to notable critics of NATO clearly illustrates that one does not have to be a Russian dupe or an ignoramus to question the existence of NATO. And, for various reasons to which this essay has alluded, the value of NATO deserves to be questioned more now than it was when mainstream luminaries Lippmann and Kennan were doing so. This is one thing for which Trump deserves credit, although he does not make a good case for his position. It is unfortunate that he has been moving away from this position as his appointees for national security positions in his administration have voiced their whole-hearted support for the alliance.
 The Editorial Board, “Russian Gains When Trump Trashes NATO,” New York Times, January 17, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/17/opinion/russia-gains-when-donald-trump-trashes-nato.html
 Editorial Board, “Trump’s Cabinet knows NATO is Important. It’s not clear he agrees.,” Washington Post, January 17, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/trumps-cabinet-knows-nato-is-important-its-not-clear-he-agrees/2017/01/17/e767258a-dcd2-11e6-acdf-14da832ae861_story.html?tid=a_inl&utm_term=.f4ec576cdb3c
 The mainstream media implies that Putin exercises absolute control of Russia and thus refers to Putinism as in the past Stalinism was used.
 “Cold War Origins—Genealogy of the term,” Encyclopedia of the New American Nation, http://www.americanforeignrelations.com/A-D/Cold-War-Origins-Genealogy-of-the-term.html
 Ronald Steel, Walter Lippmann and the American Century, with a new introduction by the author (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1999), p. 459.
 Steel, p. 460.
 Quoted in Steel, p. 478.
 Steel, p. 459.
 Walter Lippmann, “Mr. Kennan and Reappraisal in Europe,” The Atlantic Monthly, April, 1958 (originally published) accessed from The Atlantic Online, http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/96jan/nato/lipp.htm
 John Lewis Gaddis, George F. Kennan: An American Life (New York: Penguin Press, 2011), p. 333.
 Kennan on the Cold War, An Interview on CNN TV, Transcript, May and June 1996, http://www.johndclare.net/cold_war7_Kennan_interview.htm
 Quoted in Thomas L. Friedman, “Now a Word From X,” New York Times, May 2, 1998, http://www.nytimes.com/1998/05/02/opinion/foreign-affairs-now-a-word-from-x.html
 Quoted in Friedman, “Now a Word From X.”
 Friedman, “Now a Word From X.”
 Friedman, “Now a Word From X.”
 Thomas L. Friedman, “Why Putin Doesn’t Respect Us,” New York Times, March 4, 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/05/opinion/friedman-why-putin-doesnt-respect-us.html
 Thomas L. Friedman, “Putin and the Pope,” New York Times, October 21, 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/22/opinion/thomas-friedman-putin-and-the-pope.html
 Friedman, “Putin and the Pope.”
 Thomas L. Friedman, “Trump? How Could We?,” New York Times, September 27, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/28/opinion/trump-how-could-we.html
 For a discussion of this subject see: Boyd D. Cathey, “Examining the Hatred of Vladimir Putin and Russia,” Unz Review, December 29, 2014, http://www.unz.com/article/examining-the-hatred-of-vladimir-putin-and-russia/