U.S. Officials ‘at a Fucking Loss’ Over Latest Russia Sellout

Current and former American diplomats are expressing disgust and horror over the White House’s willingness to entertain permitting Russian officials to question a prominent former U.S. ambassador.

.. “It’s beyond disgraceful. It’s fundamentally ignorant with regard to how we conduct diplomacy or what that means. It really puts in jeopardy the professional independence of diplomats anywhere in the world, if the consequence of their actions is going to be potentially being turned over to a foreign government,”

.. During President Trump’s press conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Putin pivoted a question about extraditing the 12 Russian intelligence officers whom Robert Mueller has indicted into a quid pro quo for going after longtime betes noire currently beyond his reach.

.. Putin singled out Bill Browder, whose exposure of widespread Russian tax fraud led to the passage of a U.S. human rights sanctions law Putin hates. Standing next to Trump, the Russian president accused Browder of masterminding an illegal campaign contribution to Hillary Clinton and alleging vaguely that he had “solid reason to believe that some intelligence officers guided these transactions.” Should Trump permit the Russians to question people around Browder, Putin hinted, he will let Mueller’s people be “present at questioning” of the intelligence officers.

.. On Wednesday, Russian prosecutors escalated the stakes. The prosecutor-general’s office said it wanted to interview Michael McFaul, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, another Putin bete noire. McFaul—the Obama-era ambassador to Moscow—replied on Twitter that the Russians know well that he wasn’t even in Russia during the relevant time frame for any case against Browder.

.. Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to rule out permitting the Russians to question McFaul. Sanders said that there had been “some conversation” in Helsinki about the issue, though Trump made no “commitment.”
.. Heather Nauert called the Russian request for McFaul “absolutely absurd”—which was closer in line with how former U.S. diplomats viewed Putin’s gambit.If the U.S. would make a former diplomat avail for questioning by a foreign government without evidence of wrongdoing, then that would be quite horrifying,” said Ron Neumann,

.. Susan Rice, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and Barack Obama’s national security adviser, tweeted that the lack of commitment to protecting McFaul was “beyond outrageous.
.. If the White House cannot defend and protect our diplomats, like our service members, they are serving a hostile foreign power not the American people.”
.. “To even hint that there’s some element of credibility to Russian disruptions and distractions puts a bullseye on the back of any diplomat and invites authoritarian regimes to bully and threaten American public servants for the crime of doing their job
.. Ned Price, a former CIA analyst and spokesman for the Obama National Security Council, said Sanders’ comments made Trump look “even weaker” than during Trump’s Monday press conference with Putin. “Trump has always been all too eager to cave to Putin, but, as far as we know, it’d been largely in the abstract. He sells out our intelligence community, attacks NATO, shelves our commitment to human rights. But Putin now has specific demands in the form of human beings—one of them formerly our designated representative to Russia,” Price said.
.. “By failing to reject the idea out of hand – immediately and forcefully – Trump signaled that absolutely nothing is off limits when it comes to Putin. And just as shocking, he’s willing to play Putin’s brand of ball, in which the world is purely transactional and lives are expendable.”
.. The current U.S. diplomat said the openness to turning over McFaul capped off a shocking week for U.S. geopolitics.
.. The president has first and foremost his interests at the top of his mind, as opposed to the government’s. That’s very clear over the past week and a half, between shitting on our NATO allies and kissing Putin’s ass,” the diplomat said. “He cares more about himself than the nation and any of us who serve it.”The diplomat continued: “Either he’s compromised by Putin or he’s a pussy, in which case he should grab himself.”

Mike Pompeo Is Good for Diplomacy

dwell for a moment on the awfulness of Tillerson.

He came to office with no discernible worldview other than the jaded transactionalism he acquired as ExxonMobil’s C.E.O. He leaves office with no discernible accomplishment except a broken department and a traumatized staff.

Six of the 10 top positions at State are vacant; even now the United States does not have an ambassador to South Korea, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, South Africa or the European Union, among other posts.

.. he did seem to figure out that Vladimir Putin is a bad guy. But that’s progress only because he was previously the Russian despot’s premier apologist.

.. he opposed the president’s two best foreign policy decisions: moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and decertifying the Iran deal.

.. Some secretaries of state — Colin Powell, for instance — alienate their bosses by siding with the bureaucracy. Others, like Henry Kissinger, do the opposite. Tillerson is the rare bird who managed to do both.

.. unlike Tillerson, he will have credibility with foreign governments. Just as importantly, he’s been willing to contradict the president, meaning he’ll be able to act as a check on him, too.

Trump isn’t going to be disciplined by someone whose views are dovish or establishmentarian. But he might listen to, and be tempered by, a responsible hawk.

.. The notion that Kim Jong-un is going to abandon his nuclear arsenal is risible. What, other than reunification of Korea on Pyongyang’s terms, would Kim exchange his arsenal for?

Equally risible is the idea that his regime will ever abide by the terms of a deal. North Korea violates every agreement it signs.

.. might strike it at South Korea’s and perhaps Japan’s expense. This president has never been particularly fond of our two closest Asian allies, much less of the cost to the United States of aiding in their defense.

.. The promise of Pompeo is that he can provide ballast against some of Trump’s other gusts, particularly when it comes to the Kremlin.

  • On Syria, he dismisses the possibility of a collaborative relationship with Russia.
  • On Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he insists, “America has an obligation to push back.”
  • On WikiLeaks, he calls it a “non-state hostile intelligence service.”
  • On Russian interference in the U.S. election, he acknowledges it as incontrovertible fact and warns of the “Gerasimov doctrine” — the Russian conviction that it can use disinformation to win a bloodless war with the West.

.. If the thought that Putin has strings to pull with this president alarms you, Pompeo’s presence should be reassuring. However much you might otherwise disagree with him, the guy who graduated first in his class from West Point is not a Russian stooge.

.. he’d be smart to model his behavior on Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the administration’s one undisputed star, who thrives in his job because he’s plainly not afraid of losing it, much less of speaking his mind.

The Peril of Trump’s Populist Foreign Policy

His style of deal-making prizes uncertainty and brinkmanship, without a plan for what comes next.

Mr. Trump’s foreign policy reflects his instinct for political realignment at home, based on celebrity populism.

Populist movements feed off grievances and impatience with traditional politics. Frustrations—whether generated by economic distress, social displacement, or cultural challenges—fuel skepticism about institutions and elites. Challengers (who want to become the new elite) attack traditional leaders as out of touch, incompetent and corrupt.

.. First, it professes to reflect the will of a scorned people.

.. Second, populism finds and blames enemies, domestic or foreign, who thwart the people’s will. Mr. Trump has mastered insulting such scapegoats.

.. Third, populism needs “the leader,” who can identify with and embody the will of the people. Like other populist leaders, Mr. Trump attacks the allegedly illegitimate institutions that come between him and the people. His solutions, like those of other populists, are simple. He contends that the establishment uses complexity to obfuscate and cover up misdeeds and mistakes. He claims he will use his deal-making know-how to get results without asking the public to bear costs.

.. Mr. Trump’s foreign policies serve his political purposes, not the nation’s interests

  • .. He says the U.S. needs to build a wall to keep Mexicans at bay—and Mexico will pay for it. He asserted he would
  • block Muslims from coming to America to harm us.
  • His protectionist trade policies are supposed to stop foreigners from creating deficits, stealing jobs, and enriching the corporate elite.
  • Mr. Trump also asserts that U.S. allies have been sponging off America. T
  • he U.S. military is supposed to hammer enemies and not bother with the cleanup—even if the result, for example in Syria, is an empowered axis of Iran, Shiite militias, Hezbollah and Bashar Assad’s regime.

.. The president’s emphasis on discontinuity—breaking things—demonstrates action while disparaging his predecessors.

.. His style of deal-making prizes uncertainty and brinkmanship, which risks escalation, without a plan for what comes next.

..  Other presidents led an alliance system that recognizes U.S. security is connected to mutual interests in Europe, the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East. Past presidents believed that the U.S. economy would prosper in a world of expanding capitalism

..  Mr. Trump dismisses this U.S.-led international system as outdated, too costly and too restrictive of his case-by-case deal-making.

Institutions:

  • .. Trump disdains America’s intelligence agencies and is
  • dismantling the State Department. His foils at home are
  • the courts,
  • the press, a clumsy
  • Congress beholden to antiquated procedures, and even
  • his own Justice Department.

.. Mr. Trump’s recent trip to Asia reveals that foreigners have taken his measure. They play to his narcissism. He in turn basks in their attention, diminishes his own country by blaming past presidents, and preens with promises of great but unspecified things to come. 

.. The president’s need to project an image of personal power—for his domestic audience and his ego—makes him more comfortable with authoritarian leaders. Presidents Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin and Rodrigo Duterte have noticed, as has part of the Saudi royal family. 

.. Sixty percent say alliances with Europe and East Asia either are mutually beneficial or mostly benefit the U.S. Record numbers say international trade is good for consumers (78%), the economy (72%) and job creation (57%). Some 65% support providing illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, and only 37% characterize immigration as a critical threat. All these numbers have shifted against Mr. Trump’s positions since the election.

 .. Democratic leaders face a challenge as well. Their voters, especially younger ones, increasingly support trade

A Turning Point for Trumpinology

A headline in Politico Monday read: “ Trump national security team blindsided by NATO speech.” If this report is correct, President Trump left his top team—national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson —in the dark regarding his May 25 speech at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters in Brussels. All three officials, Politico reports, believed the president’s address would explicitly affirm his commitment to Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which states that an attack on one ally is an attack on all. Only when Mr. Trump began speaking did they realize he had removed the crucial sentence, reportedly with encouragement from chief strategist Steve Bannon.

.. The president withheld information from his top advisers and then forced them to offer “awkward, unconvincing, after-the-fact claims that the speech really did amount to a commitment they knew it did not make.”

.. veteran national-security scholars and officials who regard this as a turning point in their assessment of the administration. Until now they believed Mr. Trump’s experienced advisers would be able to run American foreign policy along more or less conventional postwar lines

.. They no longer believe this. Instead, they say, his modus operandi will be transactional.

.. a highly placed Asian official who said Washington “is now the epicenter of instability in the world.”

.. Lt. Gen. McMaster and Gary Cohn, the head of the National Economic Council, teamed up to publish a startling defense of Mr. Trump’s crockery-breaking European tour. The key doctrinal sentence runs: “The president embarked on his first foreign trip with a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a ‘global community’ but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage.”

.. Lest the reader conclude that the authors regard this as a disagreeable reality, they declare: “Rather than deny this elemental nature of international affairs, we embrace it.” Hooray for the war of all against all!

.. There is a lot of daylight between Hobbes and Kant. Anarchy is not the only alternative to World Federalism.

.. Lt. Gen. McMaster and Mr. Cohn continue, “we delivered a clear message to our friends and partners: Where our interests align, we are open to working together.” The implication is that where they do not, we aren’t.

.. What about doing the right thing for its own sake, as President George W. Bush did when he placed America’s moral authority and material resources behind the global struggle against AIDS?

.. President Truman and Secretary of State George Marshall had learned the answer to these questions from Franklin Roosevelt : In the long run, the U.S. will not survive as an island of democracy in a sea of autocracy.

.. By contrast, Mr. Trump embraces self-interest wrongly understood, and his enablers, who surely know better, are helping him peddle this poison as medicine.

.. Yes, NATO partners should contribute more to the common defense. But even if they paid nothing, a free and democratic Europe would still serve the interests of the U.S.