The president has long caused concern with his approach to foreign policy. Among other issues, he has been consistently soft on Russia even though the nation’s continued campaign of aggression around the world warrants some kind of response. When pressed, he has insisted that it’s in our best interest to be on good terms with Russia — apparently no matter the cost.
The president’s take on the issue of Russian governmental aggression could hardly be said to be widely shared, but one individual in the president’s orbit who has spoken out against the Kremlin, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, is on his way out of the Trump administration. The president will thus soon be even more prone to having his ideologies about the world reinforced by those around him.
Even still, McMaster used what will likely be the last opportunity available to him to make public remarks to reiterate his position on Russian aggression and the appropriate response to it.
During a Tuesday speech at the Atlantic Council in Washington DC, the outgoing presidential national security adviser commented of the response to Russian strategies including “infiltrating social media, spreading propaganda, weaponizing information, and using other forms of subversion and espionage” that:
‘For too long, some nations have looked the other way in the face of these threats. Russia brazenly and implausibly denies its actions, and we have failed to impose sufficient costs. The Kremlin’s confidence is growing as its agents conduct their sustained campaigns to undermine our confidence in ourselves and in one another.’
One of those influence campaigns was undertaken during the 2016 U.S. presidential election via the theft of massive troves of emails from key officials in the Democratic Party. Those emails were disseminated to the public largely through Wikileaks, and it’s still an open question just how much the Trump team did or did not cooperate in those efforts.
While in office, the president has consistently sought to dismiss the significance of Russian aggression, employing strategies to that effect from saying he believes Putin’s denials of election meddling to saying that the Democrats are the ones who truly colluded with Russia.
Months after a deadline set by Congress for imposing such measures, the Trump administration finally got around to imposing sanctions on Russia over their election meddling activities last month.
Besides the turn in the Trump team’s stance in the context of the Congressionally-mandated late January deadline, the sanctions also represent a sharp turn away from their stance back during the transition period leading into this administration. During that period, the president’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, sought to assure the then-Russian Ambassador to the U.S. that the incoming administration would undo sanctions imposed under Obama.
In light of the actions that the administration has taken to address the issue of Russian aggression, McMaster, while maintaining his overall stance that we have not done enough, offered praise for the president.
He said that Trump has “repeatedly told the truth about these murderous regimes” and pointed to the administration’s expulsion of Russian diplomats in response to a suspected Kremlin-directed poisoning of an ex-KGB officer in the United Kingdom as an appropriate response to these kinds of situations.
He is set to formally be replaced by noted war hawk John Bolton next week.
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