The war party is back in power and the odds of normal relations with Russia have dropped to zero.
The appointment of Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster to the position of national security adviser indicates that Trump has done an about-face on his most critical foreign policy issue, normalizing relations with Russia. General Michael Flynn -- who recently stepped down from the post following allegations of lying to Vice President Mike Pence -- was the main proponent of easing tensions with Moscow which is a position that had been enthusiastically embraced by President Donald Trump. But McMaster does not support normalizing relations with Russia, in fact, McMaster sees Russia as a "hostile revisionist power" that "annex(es) territory, intimidates our allies, develops nuclear weapons, and uses proxies under the cover of modernized conventional militaries."
So, what's going on? Why has Trump put a Moscow-hating hawk like McMaster in a position where he'll be able to intensify the pressure on Russia, increase the provocations and, very likely, trigger a conflagration between the two nuclear-armed superpowers?
The appointment of McMaster is an attempt by Trump to placate his enemies in the Intel agencies and foreign policy establishment. Trump is signaling to his adversaries that he will cooperate in carrying out their strategic agenda provided they allow him to finish his term. Trump doesn't want to end up like Flynn nor does he want to do battle with the all-powerful deep state operatives who can launch one demeaning propaganda blitz after the other followed by years of excruciating investigations leading inevitably to a lengthy and humiliating impeachment that leaves Trump a broken, discredited shambles. That's not how Trump wants to end his career in politics. He wants to end it on a high note, riding a wave of burgeoning affection and love.
That's why he picked McMaster. The neocons love him, the liberal interventionists love him, the media loves him and the entire political establishment loves him. Everyone loves him. He's the "warrior-scholar" who "speaks truth to power" and writes futuristic books on "generation warfare," "information superiority" and "predictive battlespace awareness" all of which delight his devoted admirers. The downside of McMaster is that he is a hard-boiled militarist with a driving animus towards Russia. Judging by his writing on the topic, I would expect a broader and more lethal conflict to flare up in either Syria or Ukraine as soon as he gets settled in his new job.
Bottom line: The removal of Flynn has convinced Trump that powerful elements within the national security state have him in their cross-hairs. As a result, Trump has relinquished control of foreign policy and handed the whole mess over to gladiator McMaster who will coordinate with Sec-Def General James Mattis on a new strategy to deploy US troops to East Syria and West Iraq to establish a permanent military presence in "occupied" Sunnistan. (The area will also be used for natural gas pipeline corridors connecting Qatar to the EU) The strategy in Ukraine will focus primarily on luring Russia into a long and resource-draining war that will further depress the ailing Russian economy precipitating political instability, social unrest and regime change. That is the hope at least, that Russia's wars abroad will lead to the ousting of Vladimir Putin.
Here's a few clips from a presentation McMaster gave at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on May 4, 2016. They help to clarify the man's ominous world view:
"...what I'd really like to talk to you about is (the) period we're in right now, a period of increasing risks...risks to our nation, to our allies, and really all of humanity...
"globally -- the situation in connection with U.S. vital interests and security -- is changing really in a direction that's going to raise additional challenges to the U.S. and U.S. national security... what we're seeing is a shift in geopolitics in a way that imposes great dangers and has elevated the risk of a major international military crisis to the highest level in the last 70 years. A number of scholars are writing about this -- Jakub Grygiel and Wess Mitchell in particular in their great recent book 'Unquiet Frontier,' where they describe revisionist powers, Russia and China in particular on the Eurasian landmass, that are surrounded by weak states which are now becoming battlegrounds, areas of competition at the far reaches of American power." ("Harbingers of Future War: Implications for the Army with Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster," The Center for Strategic and International Studies)
We have discussed the "pivot to Asia" ad nauseam in this column. McMaster's comments help to underscore the fact that the struggle to control the "Eurasian landmass," the center of economic growth for the next century, is at the heart of the US imperial crusade which is now entering a new and more dangerous phase.
McMaster: "I also think Margaret MacMillan's great essay written in 2014 making the analogy between 2014 and 1914, and really making the point that geopolitics is back; maybe our -- what we might call our holiday from history in the post-Cold War period is over."
So in McMaster's mind, another global conflagration on a par with World War 1 is now in the making. Unlike most people, he sees this as a challenge rather than an apocalyptic event that should be avoided at all cost.
McMaster: "I think what might have punctuated the end of the post-Cold War period is Russia's invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. Now, this was -- this was not really a new development in terms of Russian aggression. I think you can go back to the denial-of-service attacks on the Baltic states in 2007, certainly the invasion of Georgia in 2008."
McMaster is extremely well read and follows the news closely. He knows that Georgia attacked South Ossetia and that Putin -- who was at the Olympics at the time -- merely responded. Why is McMaster deliberately misleading his audience about the details? And why doesn't he explain how the elected government of Ukraine was toppled in a CIA-State Department coup? Those facts are readily available to anyone who has seriously researched the incident.
It seems obvious that McMaster is twisting the truth to make his case against Russia.