The Washington Post reported yesterday that Donald Trump is scrapping “the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad.” As luck would have it, that’s precisely what Vladimir Putin’s Russian government wanted the American president to do.This wasn’t an isolated development. As we discussed last week, Trump has also tried to weaken sanctions, isolated the United States diplomatically, fractured Western alliances, diminished the influence of the State Department (which is now led by Putin’s closest American ally), and largely ignored Russia’s attack on the U.S. elections – all of which serve Moscow’s strategic goals. As Rachel noted on Tuesday’s show, the list of actions in D.C. that Putin is certain to like keeps growing.
It’s against this backdrop that the Associated Press reports that some officials close to the U.S. president have noticed the recent pattern, and they’re not pleased.
President Donald Trump’s persistent overtures toward Russia are placing him increasingly at odds with his national security and foreign policy advisers, who have long urged a more cautious approach to dealing with the foreign adversary.
The uneasy dynamic between the president and top aides has been exacerbated by the revelation this week of an extended dinner conversation between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the recent summit in Germany. The previously undisclosed conversation, which occurred a few hours after their official bilateral meeting, raised red flags with advisers already concerned by the president’s tendency to shun protocol and press ahead with outreach toward Russia, according to two U.S. officials and three top foreign officials.
The AP article added that American diplomats and intelligence officials are “dumbfounded” by the president’s approach, and that White House National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster is among those urging Trump not to trust the Russian autocrat.
The divisions within the White House are important at face value, but reports like these also shed light on how Trump World is operating. Given that Trump is America’s first amateur president, with no background in or experience with international affairs, it’s tempting to assume he’d be eager to follow the advice of his national security and foreign policy advisers.
And yet, when it comes to Russia, Trump ignores their counsel. I’d love to hear more about why this is.