Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Loose Cannons and Nuclear Buttons: Dealing with Russia

 

Every time I see “statesmen” foaming at the mouth about insufficient posturing against Russia, I go back to the basics. There are exactly two countries on this planet capable of reducing any country on the face of the earth to toxic, smoldering ruins in hours. These are the United States of America and the Russian Federation (the latest manifestation of the Russian empire).

President Trump has done an admirable job, like most presidents in the Atomic Age, of keeping the natural tensions between the two megadeath powers inside the safety limits. He has succeeded, so far, despite the worst efforts of his domestic enemies, who are more serious about destroying him than they are about national security.

I am not impressed by pseudo-moral preening, expressed in demands for bombastic rhetoric against the only country that can bomb us into a new Stone Age. President Reagan used confrontational rhetoric about the USSR version of the Russian empire, but he only called out their human rights record in face-to-face meetings after an earlier successful meeting to sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Further, when Reagan did use confrontational rhetoric, the response from the left and from the foreign policy establishment varied from shrieks of horror to sophisticated disapproval – as Peter Robinson can attest.

Beyond the existential threat of international miscalculation, driven by the internal politics of the two nuclear superpowers, there is the constitutional threat to America, driven by the outrageous refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of a presidential election that did not go the left’s way. We got a taste of this in President George W. Bush’s first term, but the Republican establishment did not fracture into factions that passive-aggressively enabled and sustained the left’s fantasy. That changed in 2016.

President Trump absolutely could not say what his enemies wanted him to say in Helsinki. It is the fault of Neuter Trump Republicans, who willfully keep alive the lie that Trump voters were, and are, an ignorant pack of deplorable, bitter-clingers who might actually have been swayed by Russians. As Mark Davis wrote at Town Hall:

The slightest hint of a Trump denunciation of Russian meddling would have been instantly, virally blasted around the universe as a confession that his election was indeed illegitimate. The hounds baying for his demise gleefully conflate Russians hacking Democrat emails with the Trump campaign conspiring to deny Hillary Clinton her rightful victory. They know that an under-informed public will lap up that narrative if they can hammer it forcefully enough.

So it is that President Trump, back on American soil, was careful to encase his “correction” of his comments in rejection of the election deniers’ lies.

So I’ll begin by stating that I have full faith and support for America’s great intelligence agencies. Always have. And I have felt very strongly that, while Russia’s actions had no impact at all on the outcome of the election, let me be totally clear in saying that – and I’ve said this many times – I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place. Could be other people also; there’s a lot of people out there. There was no collusion at all. And people have seen that, and they’ve seen that strongly. The House has already come out very strongly on that. A lot of people have come out strongly on that. [emphasis added]

President Trump’s actions relative to Russia conform to his National Security Strategy. The NSS signed by the President, put his stamp on the national security state, with the assistance of the military genius H.R. McMaster. Here is how the President assessed Russia in 2017:

China and Russia want to shape a world antithetical to U.S. values and interests. […] Russia seeks to restore its great power status and establish spheres of influence near its borders.

[…]

Russia aims to weaken U.S. influence in the world and divide us from our allies and partners. Russia views the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and European Union (EU) as threats. Russia is investing in new military capabilities, including nuclear systems that remain the most significant existential threat to the United States, and in destabilizing cyber capabilities. Through modernized forms of subversive tactics, Russia interferes in the domestic political affairs of countries around the world. The combination of Russian ambition and growing military capabilities creates an unstable frontier in Eurasia, where the risk of conflict due to Russian miscalculation is growing.

So how did President Trump instruct his administration to respond? Here is what his National Security Strategy says about checking Russia in Europe:

We will work with our allies and partners to diversify European energy sources to ensure the energy security of European countries.

[…]

The United States fulfills our defense responsibilities and expects others to do the same. We expect our European allies to increase defense spending to 2 percent of gross domestic product by 2024, with 20 percent of this spending devoted to increasing military capabilities.

President Trump’s actions, personally and through his appointees, have pushed forward on both the energy and military spending fronts. But what of threats to our domestic politics? President Trump was clear on the threats in December of 2017, name-checking Russia, but noting the adversaries go beyond Russia. In fact, China is a far more formidable threat to our economy, has stolen far more data, and is diligently working to shape public narratives about China.

Today, actors such as Russia are using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies. Adversaries target media, political processes, financial networks, and personal data.

Unfortunately, this set of threats is entangled in our fractious domestic politics. As a result, President Trump’s National Security Strategy only offers a minimal outline response. The very thin action list, relative to the rest of the NSS, found on page 14, suggests that McMaster could not get sign-off on very substantive initiatives. Perhaps, if the 2018 midterm election turns out to be a blue riptide, rather than wave, some consensus will emerge to work on real election security.

The reactions to President Trump’s first meeting with President Putin fully justify Trump’s adamant refusal to cede the terms of debate to his domestic foes. His actions, across all instruments of national power, give the lie to accusations of collusion, softness, and betrayal of allies. He has, so far, done as well as an American president could do within the extraordinary constraints of domestic opposition turned up to 11. At the same time, the past 18 months have debunked the claim that Trump could not be trusted with the nuclear codes. The unhinged opposition, on the other hand, does not inspire confidence in what would happen if they had that big nuclear button.

There are 24 comments.

  1. James Gawron Thatcher

    Clifford A. Brown: Every time I see “statesmen” foaming at the mouth about insufficient posturing against Russia, I go back to the basics. There are exactly two countries on this planet capable of reducing any country on the face of the earth to toxic, smoldering ruins in hours. These are the United States of America and the Russian Federation (the latest manifestation of the Russian empire).

    Cliff,

    This is the magical world of optics that the media, academia, and, of course, the entertainment industry, think is the end all and be all of foreign policy. Facts on the ground which provide the only real context for strategic thinking mean nothing to these people. You might surmise that they neither understand such concepts nor wish to understand such concepts. They are being paid very well for their shallow optics diatribe and thus see no reason to learn a new trick.

    The genocide being carried on against Christians over the last few decades in the Middle East isn’t even worth mentioning. That the latest version of the Russian Empire is still illiberal is not exactly news. Here’s some real politic that the media might go after but they’d much rather talk about Trump’s wide ties at Helsinki and how they portend an end to Life on Earth.

    NATO’s Challenge Is Germany, Not America

    Polls show that in most NATO countries, the idea of fighting on behalf of another country receives scant public support. The notion that the Dutch would march into Estonia to save its capital, Tallinn, from Russia is a cruel joke.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #1
    • July 19, 2018, at 6:57 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  2. Valiuth Member

    Trumps corections are transparent lies, the incinserity of them is plain to see. At no point in his career did Reagan ever draw the moral equivalencies between the US and USSR that Trump now draws between us and Russia. A pattern that far predates his holding of the office where rhetoric naturally should be more guarded. Did Regan run in 1980 saying what a great a powerful leader Brezhnev was? How the US military were a bunch of killers like the Russians? That we kill lots of people too?

    Your excuse for Trump is that admitting to the truth would only empower his domestic critics to further criticise him. This reveals to me the true depravity of Trumpism, which is that it rejects truth in favor of support for Trump. 

     

    • #2
    • July 19, 2018, at 7:04 AM PST
    • 1 like
  3. Gary Robbins Reagan

    I am a Reagan Republican, not a Helsinki Republican.

    • #3
    • July 19, 2018, at 7:06 AM PST
    • Like
  4. Locke On Member

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    I am a Reagan Republican, not a Helsinki Republican.

    http://docquery.fec.gov/cgi-bin/fecimg/?201701099041247749
    http://docquery.fec.gov/cgi-bin/fecimg/?201701099041237487
    http://docquery.fec.gov/cgi-bin/fecimg/?201701099041237947
    http://docquery.fec.gov/cgi-bin/fecimg/?201701099041253037
    http://docquery.fec.gov/cgi-bin/fecimg/?201702149049587293
    http://docquery.fec.gov/cgi-bin/fecimg/?201702149049564816

    • #4
    • July 19, 2018, at 7:38 AM PST
    • 1 like
  5. DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey Member

    I recommend everyone read this.

    Specifically this part. It might help you understand the art of diplomacy

    Putin is a bad guy. A really bad guy. He is better than Lenin. Better than Stalin, Khrushchev, Kosygin, Brezhnev, Pol Pot, Mao. But he is a really bad guy.

    Here’s the thing: Putin is a dictator. He answers to no one. He does whatever he wants. If there arises an opponent, that guy dies. Maybe the opponent gets poked with a poisoned umbrella. Maybe he gets shot on the street. Maybe the opponent is forced to watch Susan Rice interviews telling the world that Benghazi happened because of a YouTube video seen by nine derelicts in Berkeley and that Bowe Berghdal served with honor and distinction. But, one way or another, the opponent dies.

    Trump knows this about Putin. And here is what that means:

    If you insult Putin in public, like by telling the newsmedia just before or after meeting with him that he is the Butcher of Crimea, and he messed with our elections, and is an overall jerk — then you will get nothing behind closed doors from Putin. Putin will decide “To heck with you, and to heck with the relationship we just forged.” Putin will get even, will take intense personal revenge, even if it is bad for Russia — even if it is bad for Putin. Because there are no institutional reins on him.

    But if you go in public and tell everyone that Putin is a nice guy (y’know, just like Kim Jong Un) and that Putin intensely maintains that he did not mess with elections — not sweet little Putey Wutey (even though he obviously did) — then you next can maintain the momentum established beforehand in the private room. You can proceed to remind Putin what you told him privately: that this garbage has to stop — or else. That if he messes in Syria, we will do “X.” If he messes with our Iran boycott, we will do “Y.” We will generate so much oil from hydraulic fracturing and from ANWR and from all our sources that we will glut the market — if not tomorrow, then a year from now. We will send even more lethal offensive military weapons to Ukraine. We can restore the promised shield to Eastern Europe that Obama withdrew. And even if we cannot mess with Russian elections (because they have no elections), they do have computers — and, so help us, we will mess with their technology in a way they cannot imagine.

    • #5
    • July 19, 2018, at 7:46 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  6. DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey Member

    Cont. from above.

    Trump knows from his advisers what we can do. If he sweet-talks Putin in public — just Putin on the Ritz — then everything that Trump has told Putin privately can be reinforced with action, and he even can wedge concessions because, against that background, Putin knows that no one will believe that he made any concessions. Everyone is set to believe that Putin is getting whatever he wants, that Trump understands nothing. So, in that setting, Putin can make concessions and still save face.

    That is why Trump talks about him that way. And that is the only possible way to do it when negotiating with a tyrant who has no checks and balances on him. If you embarrass the tyrant publicly, then the tyrant never will make concessions because he will fear that people will say he was intimidated and backed down. And that he never will do. Meanwhile, Trump has expelled 60 Russians from America, reversed Obama policy and sent lethal weapons to Ukraine, and is pressing Germany severely on its pipeline project with Russia.

    But yeah, go call him out publicly for a liar, and see how far you get in your negotiations.

     I can’t believe how stupid people are being about Helsinki.

    • #6
    • July 19, 2018, at 7:47 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  7. genferei Member

    Sure, calling Putin a poopy-head in public hasn’t worked for more than a decade. But if we do it one more time, it might. After all, it’s the first rule in international diplomacy that the truth shall set us free…

    • #7
    • July 19, 2018, at 8:16 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  8. Columbo Member

    EX CIA chief Brennan states that the intel community will withhold info from Trump

    Treason by any other name …?

    • #8
    • July 19, 2018, at 9:09 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  9. James Gawron Thatcher

    Columbo (View Comment):

    EX CIA chief Brennan states that the intel community will withhold info from Trump

    Treason by any other name …?

    Columbo,

    Odd but I was thinking exactly the same thing. Can we arrest Brennan for open sedition? Maybe somebody could just hit him with a water balloon filled with lime jello. However, I don’t want to encourage anyone to do any bad behavior because that would be so very wrong.

    Brennan is such a [redacted].

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #9
    • July 19, 2018, at 9:29 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  10. Sweezle Member

    Trump isn’t a polished diplomat and he probably should have skipped the Putin press conference in Helsinki. But one of the few things Obama got right was that it does no good to try and publicly humiliate a leader of Russia who has as many nuclear weapons as we have.

    • #10
    • July 19, 2018, at 9:51 AM PST
    • 1 like
  11. Hang On Member

    Valiuth (View Comment):

    Trumps corections are transparent lies, the incinserity of them is plain to see. At no point in his career did Reagan ever draw the moral equivalencies between the US and USSR that Trump now draws between us and Russia. A pattern that far predates his holding of the office where rhetoric naturally should be more guarded. Did Regan run in 1980 saying what a great a powerful leader Brezhnev was? How the US military were a bunch of killers like the Russians? That we kill lots of people too?

    Your excuse for Trump is that admitting to the truth would only empower his domestic critics to further criticise him. This reveals to me the true depravity of Trumpism, which is that it rejects truth in favor of support for Trump.

     

    Just because you keep repeating a lie doesn’t make it any more true.

    • #11
    • July 19, 2018, at 9:59 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  12. Stina Inactive

    Clifford A. Brown: We will work with our allies and partners to diversify European energy sources to ensure the energy security of European countries.

    Which precisely explains why Trump went after Merkel for her energy deal with Russia.

    Again, if you don’t see Trump as predictable, the problem is with you and not with Trump. Clearly, information is missing.

    It also explains why he’s been so harsh with NATO allies. They need their backsides smacked a bit until they understand that running in a busy road is a spectacularly bad idea.

    • #12
    • July 19, 2018, at 10:02 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  13. Columbo Member

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    Columbo (View Comment):

    EX CIA chief Brennan states that the intel community will withhold info from Trump

    Treason by any other name …?

    Columbo,

    Odd but I was thinking exactly the same thing. Can we arrest Brennan for open sedition? Maybe somebody could just hit him with a water balloon filled with lime jello. However, I don’t want to encourage anyone to do any bad behavior because that would be so very wrong.

    Brennan is such a [redacted].

    Regards,

    Jim

    Jim, you and I are on the same page as Joe DiGenova. Check out 29:40 (and following) of Hannity last night …

    https://video.foxnews.com/v/5811046281001/?#sp=show-clips

     

    • #13
    • July 19, 2018, at 10:09 AM PST
    • Like
  14. EJHill Podcaster

    Gary Robbins: I am a Reagan Republican, not a Helsinki Republican.

    And in some ways that’s a problem. Because this is not 1987. And it never will be again. 

    The problem with the Obama response to Romney in 2012 wasn’t its substance, it’s the way the Left memory-holed it for convenience. 

    No one admired The Gipper more than me. But we cannot be cemented into the late 20th Century forever. 

    • #14
    • July 19, 2018, at 12:26 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  15. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    As the material in a post I made yesterday indicated, the only way that Trump could have appeased those American Globalists who hate him for being President would have been for him to have placed Putin in a choke hold and then beaten him to a bloody pulp.

    Today’s “post-able material” would include a sequence wherein first you view Obama leaning over and with a large grin on his face, whispering something to Putin. Because as those who are paying attention know, Obama was more appeasement-oriented in his dealings with Putin and other world leaders than Trump would ever be.

    The same clip then goes on to depict a demonic and red faced Anderson Cooper looking like his head would explode, because Trump something something something while in Helsinki.

    • #15
    • July 19, 2018, at 12:32 PM PST
    • 1 like
  16. drlorentz Member

    You can’t fight in here. This is the War Room!

    • #16
    • July 19, 2018, at 1:42 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  17. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    From a frequent Trump critic:

    The veteran intelligence hand I spoke with in January 2017 said that Putin’s goal in leaving fingerprints was to create chaos in our political system. But the two explanations — Mukasey’s and my friend’s — are not mutually exclusive. Putin might well have wanted to embarrass, damage, and warn Clinton in the likely event she won the presidential race, and to create chaos regardless of who won.

    As to the latter objective, Putin was already succeeding in January 2017. With the help of Democrats and their friends in the media, he has succeeded beyond his dreams since.

    http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2018/07/what-putin-was-up-to.php

    I accept claims that Putin despises Hillary Clinton. It does not necessarily follow that he feared her policies. Indeed, he flourished under her time as Secretary of State. Perhaps his distaste arose from her role as the ascendant half of the ultimate political grifter team. No one likes having the touch put on them.

    • #17
    • July 19, 2018, at 2:38 PM PST
    • 1 like
  18. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    From Neo-Neocon, on Senator Jeanne Shaheen calling for hearings with the interpreter from the Helsinki meeting:

    Back when Obama was caught on an open mike talking to Medvedev about his own increased “flexibility” post-election (when he no longer would have to answer to the public), and Medvedev said he’s convey the message to Putin, no Republican suggested increased oversight of Obama’s dealings with Russia. He was the president, after all, although he had said something incredibly suspicious there, thinking it was off the record.

    [Senator] Shaheen’s behavior is an indication that the Democratic Party must see this sort of behavior on their part as a winner with the public, because otherwise they wouldn’t be speaking (and tweeting) so freely about their intentions. If Shaheen of New Hampshire feels free to be this route—or even compelled to go this route—it’s a very bad sign.

    I agree it is bad, but think it is a matter of the Democratic Party base rather than the general NH electorate. She is not up for reelection until 2020, so needs to maneuver in the current crazy currents.

    • #18
    • July 19, 2018, at 2:50 PM PST
    • 1 like
  19. fidelio102 Coolidge

    Outside the USA, the intelligence and law-enforcement agencies, whether the CIA (whose meddling in other countries’ elections has been a source of amusement to the outside world for some decades), the FBI or any other agency with a less well-known acronym, have been held in great respect, even awe. (And when a Brit uses the word ‘awesome’, it’s not to describe the square footage of his new kitchen).

    That has been the case up until now. I’m not sure how much of the idiocies now being uttered by Messrs Brennan, Clapper, Comey, McCabe, Strzok and Ms Page are actually being reported in other countries, but they are doing a great disservice to the institutions they once worked for.

     

    • #19
    • July 19, 2018, at 7:59 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  20. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    People who identify as Republicans overwhelmingly support President Trump’s performance in Helsinki.

    Though many GOP lawmakers have been critical of the president’s statements in Helsinki, party voters are registering their support for Trump’s handling of Putin. According to a CBS News poll released Thursday, 68 percent of Republicans approved of the president’s performance, even as 55 percent of voters overall, including 53 percent of independents, disapproved. And a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Tuesday found that 71 percent of Republicans approved of Trump’s handling of Russia even as more than half of all voters disapproved.

    • #20
    • July 20, 2018, at 9:53 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  21. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    There is a political cadre within the permanent government, who are fighting President Trump’s attempts to challenge them.

    The central campaign in this political war has been to pit Trump against the intelligence community. Needless to say, many within the various agencies, including the CIA, FBI and NSA, are devoted public servants with the best interest of the country at heart and who do their jobs honestly and effectively. But many are also committed leftists in whom progressivism, anti-Americanism, multiculturalism, and moral relativism are deeply embedded.

    And they do so with the half-truth of Russian meddling.

    The archive shows that during the Cold War, the KGB did not just gather intelligence—invariably in line with what Moscow wanted to hear—but it also undertook a wide variety of what it called “active measures” (aktivinyye meropriatia). The aim here was to influence the course of world events in favour of the Soviet Union, while discrediting and undermining the influence of the United States, termed the “Main Adversary

    A high-ranking former KGB officer, Oleg Kalugin, described active measures as being the “heart and soul of Soviet intelligence.” They were run by a special branch of the KGB’s foreign intelligence directorate, Service A, and involved a wide spectrum of political warfare activities. These included disinformation, for example using forged documents to inculcate conspiracy theories, which were spread by KGB officers stationed abroad, known as Line PR officers; to gathering compromising material on western politicians and officials and blackmailing them; media manipulation; and outright “special action,” which involved various degrees of violence, including assassinations.

     

    • #21
    • July 21, 2018, at 1:17 PM PST
    • 1 like
  22. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    There is a political cadre within the permanent government, who are fighting President Trump’s attempts to challenge them.

    The central campaign in this political war has been to pit Trump against the intelligence community. Needless to say, many within the various agencies, including the CIA, FBI and NSA, are devoted public servants with the best interest of the country at heart and who do their jobs honestly and effectively. But many are also committed leftists in whom progressivism, anti-Americanism, multiculturalism, and moral relativism are deeply embedded.

    And they do so with the half-truth of Russian meddling.

    The archive shows that during the Cold War, the KGB did not just gather intelligence—invariably in line with what Moscow wanted to hear—but it also undertook a wide variety of what it called “active measures” (aktivinyye meropriatia). The aim here was to influence the course of world events in favour of the Soviet Union, while discrediting and undermining the influence of the United States, termed the “Main Adversary

    A high-ranking former KGB officer, Oleg Kalugin, described active measures as being the “heart and soul of Soviet intelligence.” They were run by a special branch of the KGB’s foreign intelligence directorate, Service A, and involved a wide spectrum of political warfare activities. These included disinformation, for example using forged documents to inculcate conspiracy theories, which were spread by KGB officers stationed abroad, known as Line PR officers; to gathering compromising material on western politicians and officials and blackmailing them; media manipulation; and outright “special action,” which involved various degrees of violence, including assassinations.

     

    And with the Gallup polling people coming out two weeks ago to explain that the percentage of Americans who are concerned about Russia is such a low percentage they have no way of charting it, it is probably not a profound leap to mention that most Americans are unaware that the KGB ceased to exist a long time ago. –

    • #22
    • July 21, 2018, at 1:22 PM PST
    • Like
  23. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    CarolJoy (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    There is a political cadre within the permanent government, who are fighting President Trump’s attempts to challenge them.

    The central campaign in this political war has been to pit Trump against the intelligence community. Needless to say, many within the various agencies, including the CIA, FBI and NSA, are devoted public servants with the best interest of the country at heart and who do their jobs honestly and effectively. But many are also committed leftists in whom progressivism, anti-Americanism, multiculturalism, and moral relativism are deeply embedded.

    And they do so with the half-truth of Russian meddling.

    The archive shows that during the Cold War, the KGB did not just gather intelligence—invariably in line with what Moscow wanted to hear—but it also undertook a wide variety of what it called “active measures” (aktivinyye meropriatia). The aim here was to influence the course of world events in favour of the Soviet Union, while discrediting and undermining the influence of the United States, termed the “Main Adversary

    A high-ranking former KGB officer, Oleg Kalugin, described active measures as being the “heart and soul of Soviet intelligence.” They were run by a special branch of the KGB’s foreign intelligence directorate, Service A, and involved a wide spectrum of political warfare activities. These included disinformation, for example using forged documents to inculcate conspiracy theories, which were spread by KGB officers stationed abroad, known as Line PR officers; to gathering compromising material on western politicians and officials and blackmailing them; media manipulation; and outright “special action,” which involved various degrees of violence, including assassinations.

     

    And with the Gallup polling people coming out two weeks ago to explain that the percentage of Americans who are concerned about Russia is such a low percentage they have no way of charting it, it is probably not a profound leap to mention that most Americans are unaware that the KGB ceased to exist a long time ago. –

    The article goes on to point to the KGB’s new incarnation. Russia’s secret police and spy apparatus changed letterheads and evolved tactics.

    • #23
    • July 21, 2018, at 1:34 PM PST
    • Like
  24. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    @michaelramirez nails the real threat to European security:

    • #24
    • July 21, 2018, at 3:05 PM PST
    • Like