"Numerous Washington think tanks have developed scenarios for military conflicts with Russian forces in the Middle East, in Ukraine, in the Baltic States and in cyberspace. The national security elite is not prepared to accept a shift in orientation away from the policy of direct confrontation with Russia along the lines proposed by Trump, who would like for the present to lower tensions with Russia in order to focus first on China." ("Behind the Flynn resignation and Trump crisis: A bitter conflict over imperialist policy," WSWS)
Foreign policy elites believe the US and its NATO allies can engage Russia in a shooting war without it expanding into a regional conflict and without an escalation into a nuclear conflagration. It's a risky calculation but, nevertheless, it is the rationale behind the persistent build up of troops and weaponry on Russia's western perimeter. Take a look at this from the Independent:
"Thousands of Nato troops have amassed close to the border with Russia as part of the largest build-up of Western troops neighboring Moscow's sphere of influence since the Cold War...Tanks and heavy armored vehicles, plus Bradley fighting vehicles and Paladin howitzers, are also in situ and British Typhoon jets from RAF Conningsby will be deployed to Romania this summer to contribute to Nato's Southern Air Policing mission...
"Kremlin officials claim the build-up is the largest since the Second World War." ("The map that shows how many Nato troops are deployed along Russia's border," The Independent)
Saber-rattling and belligerence have cleared the way for another world war. Washington thinks the conflict can be contained, but we're nor so sure.
The inexperienced Trump -- who naively believed that the president sets his own foreign policy -- has now learned that that's not the case. The Flynn slap-down, followed by blistering attacks in the media and threats of impeachment, have left Trump shaken to the core. As a result, he has done a speedy about-face and swung into damage control-mode. On Tuesday, he tried to extend the olive branch by tweeting that "Crimea was taken by Russia" and by offering to replace Flynn with a trusted insider who will not veer from the script prepared by the foreign policy establishment. Check out this blurb on the Foreign Policy magazine website on Wednesday:
"President Donald Trump offered the job of national security adviser to retired Vice Adm. Robert Harward on Monday night...If, as expected, Harward accepts the job today, he is likely to bring in his own team, from deputy on down, with a focus on national security types with some experience under their belts...
"Harward also would work well with Defense Secretary James Mattis. When Mattis was chief of Central Command, Harward was his deputy. Mattis trusted him enough to put him in charge of planning for war with Iran. Mattis has urged Harward to take the NSA job.
"If Harward becomes NSA, Mattis would emerge from the Flynn mess in a uniquely powerful position: He would have two of his former deputies at the table in some meetings. The other one is John Kelly, now secretary for Homeland Security, who was his number two when Mattis commanded a Marine division early in the invasion of Iraq in 2003." ("A Mattis protege poised to take the helm of Trump's NSC," Foreign Policy)
In other words, Trump is relinquishing control over foreign policy and returning it to trusted insiders who will comply with pre-set elitist guidelines. Trump's sudden metamorphosis was apparent in another story that appeared in Wednesday's news, this time related to Rex Tillerson and General Joseph Dunford. Here's a clip from CNN:
"Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford meet face to face with their Russian counterparts Thursday, as the Trump administration evaluates the future direction of US-Russian relations...But even as Tillerson's plane was taking off in Washington, the Pentagon announced the meeting between Dunford and his Russian counterpart Valeriy Gerasimov, which will take place Thursday in Baku, Azerbaijan...
"'The military leaders will discuss a variety of issues including the current state of U.S.-Russian military relations...Trump's envoys have been expressing positions more keeping with previous US policies.
"'Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, indicated the US would maintain sanctions on Russia for annexing Crimea in 2014. She condemned what she called the 'Russian occupation' of the Ukrainian territory...
"'The US has deployed thousands of troops and tanks to Poland and Romania in recent weeks, while other NATO allies have sent troops to Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
"'There is a common message from the President, from his security team, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, that they stay strongly committed to NATO,' he added."
Let's summarize: The sanctions will remain, the tanks are on the border, the commitment to NATO has been reinforced, and Dunford is going to explain Washington's strategic objectives to his Russian counterpart in clear, unambiguous language. There will be no room for Tillerson, who is on friendly terms with Putin, to change the existing policy or to normalize relations; Dunford, Haley, and Defense Secretary James Mattis will make sure of that.
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