Trump has been excoriated for daring to articulate that some U.S. policies with respect to Russia have been misguided and also for publicly laying bare his doubts about assessments by the various U.S. intelligence agencies. Yet, it has been quite common among U.S. national-security specialists to suggest that NATO expansion was a major mistake. Was George Kennan, one of America’s greatest ever diplomats and geopolitical thinkers, a “traitor” for suggesting that such a move would engender a Russian nationalist backlash? Obvious not. Kennan’s perspective has proven prophetic and so Trump’s rendering was simply correct. As for the intelligence agencies, an observer with vast experience (from inside the U.S. government) of U.S. intelligence practices, Russia and U.S. diplomacy generally cast serious doubt on that the intelligence community’s conclusions regarding alleged meddling in the 2016 election. If former Ambassador James Matlock has grave doubts, then so can the American president. Indeed, anyone remotely familiar with the rather mixed record of the U.S. intelligence agencies over the last several decades should actually hope that the president would meet their conclusions with pronounced skepticism. From a legal perspective, moreover, Daniel McCarthy rightly notes: “If Trump decides that Russia will not be our enemy, the intelligence community has no standing to challenge him. To do so, would be a coup d’état.”
Despite the xenophobic and bellicose malarkey that passes for analysis these days, the U.S. president is hardly alone in desiring to seek better relations with Moscow in order to safeguard U.S. national interests and also global security more generally.
Lyle J. Goldstein is a research professor in the China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) at the United States Naval War College in Newport, RI. In addition to Chinese, he also speaks Russian and he is also an affiliate of the new Russia Maritime Studies Institute (RMSI) at Naval War College. You can reach him at [email protected]. The opinions in his columns are entirely his own and do not reflect the official assessments of the U.S. Navy or any other agency of the U.S. government.
Image: U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a joint news conference after their meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque