Trump Versus US Establishment Groupthink On Russia – Analysis


The disagreement between US President Donald Trump and his main critics on Russia lingers on. In a July 31 MSNBC segment, former US Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul said that Trump was tame in his reply to the Russian government measures taken against US diplomatic interests in Russia. For McFaul, what earlier happened to Russian diplomatic staff in the US is apparently okay, unlike the Russian retaliation, which came months AFTER the US based Russian diplomatic personnel were penalized. McFaul misleadingly underscored that Trump’s playing nice with Putin hasn’t worked.

Actually, the tough talk and sanctions against Russia haven’t worked. Trump’s effort at improving relations with Russia has been greatly stonewalled. This surely isn’t an act on his part. In line with the predominating Capitol Hill and US mass media groupthink, it’d be politically convenient for him to fully acquiesce to their line – something he hasn’t done. Some related matters caught my eye.

CNN’s backpedal admission of a faulty story claiming an Anthony Scaramucci-Russian connection might’ve played a role in Trump’s attraction to hire Scaramucci (who at times), can look effective in a sound bite moment. With some credence, Trump has been regularly blasting CNN – especially that network’s ongoing mantra about a possible Trump-Russia collusion. (Regarding CNN’s retraction, don’t get so giddy over the perception of ethics at that station. As an American establishment sort, Scaramucci has some clout if wronged. Think of the numerous unnamed sources with dubious claims used by CNN, along with some top heavy segments at that station – typical of what’s evident in dictatorial societies.)

Shortly after being appointed to a Trump administration position, the since fired Scaramucci stated that Trump might not sign the US Congressionally motivated bill to further sanction Russia, on the basis that it wasn’t harsh enough. Given Scaramucci’s exhibited tendency to pop off (when he reasonably shouldn’t), it’s quite possible that he made that remark without first consulting Trump. The US president is known to not like it when people under him get more media play and/or take action which he doesn’t agree with.

Scaramucci aside: within his administration, Trump has elements taking a more confrontational line on Russia than him. They include Vice President Mike Pence and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. Pence serves as Trump’s outlet with establishment Republicans. Haley’s appointment has served to satisfy the Lindsey Graham/Marco Rubio/John McCain wing of the Republican Party. Concerning Russia, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Adviser HR McMaster seem like they’re closer to Haley and Pence than Trump. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson comes across as perhaps being comparatively closer to Trump.

Trump and Tillerson, have expressed a reluctance in going along with the increased sanctions against Russia, which is overwhelmingly supported by the mostly groupthink minded (on Russia) US Congress and Senate. Trump and Tillerson can make a strong case on why the sanctions are counterproductive. Specifically:

  • the EU’s (notably Germany’s) negative reply to the advocated further sanctions
  • Russia’s retaliatory response
  • limits in persuading Russia to go against its reasonable interests.

When it comes to US mass media and body politic, the last particular is very much in the too hot to handle category. The present lack of a strongly detailed Trump rebuttal to the Congress and Senate is what led Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to say that the US president has been too capitulationist. Medvedev also said that the Trump signed sanctions bill is an attempt to squeeze Russia out of foreign markets. (The bill seeks to penalize Western companies doing business in Russia.)

Within US mass media, there’ve been some second guessing of the Capitol Hill groupthink sanctions against Russia. David Ignatius’ August 3 Washington Post column expresses that view. Notwithstanding, Ignatius clings to the faulty belief in “Russia’s well-documented meddling in the 2016 presidential election.” I’d love to see him directly reply to the counterclaim on that opinion, which he presents as a clearly established fact.

The Tucker Carlson hosted Fox News show continues to provide some reasonably dissenting views. One such recent segment featured retired US Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor, who believes that Capitol Hill has been overly bellicose towards Russia. Mind you that Macgregor is no Russophile. He expressed doubt on whether the US and Russia can ever become allies and characterized the latter as a periodic 300 year menace to the West.

On this point, I expressed my disagreement to Macgregor (who I’ve had some prior limited discourse with) by noting that:

  • The West hasn’t been so monolithic, in conjunction with Russia not being such a perennial threat.
  • The US fought Germany in two world wars – not Russia.
  • Russian behavior during America’s Revolution, War of 1812 and Civil War was more favorable to America than the British stance.
  • Russia joined Britain, Prussia and Austria in opposing Napoleon.
  • Russia had openly inquired about NATO membership upon the Soviet collapse.
  • Russia was the first nation to console the US on 9/11, followed by Russian cooperation with the US in Afghanistan.

I haven’t gotten a reply back from him. In the aforementioned Fox News segment, Macgregor noted how some special interest groups get disproportionate influence in the US. Concerning that matter, I brought to his attention the Democratic National Committee-Kiev regime collusion and a July 31 pro-Polish/anti-Russian National Interest article, which is cherry picked history – contradicting the realist image of the venue where it appeared.

I’m of the belief that patriotically minded Russians should be able to acknowledge bad moments on Russia’s part relative to Poland and some others. Conversely, the same should hold true when it comes to the wrongs of others. While glorying Poland and bashing Russia, The National Interest article in question omits the following:

  • 1919 – Under Josef Pilsudski, Poland seeks to take former Russian Empire territory, largely inhabited by non-Poles with ties to Russia. The Pilsudski led Poles reject a Russian White offer to combat the Reds, when the Bolsheviks were in a losing situation. The Russian Whites were willing to recognize a Polish state within Polish ethnic boundaries.
  • 1920 -Thousands of Soviet POWs die under miserable conditions while in Polish captivity.
  • 1934 – Polish-Nazi non-aggression pact, four years prior to the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact.
  • 1938 – Polish, Nazi and Hungarian taking of CzechoSlovak territory, with the Soviet call for a joint Soviet-West (particularly French) counter support for CzechoSlovakia rebuffed.

According to German General Heinz Guderian and some other sources, the Soviets needed a break on their WW II westward offensive. After the Stalingrad battle, the Nazis were still a threat, as evidenced by the many casualties they were still able to inflict on the Red Army. The Polish Home Army didn’t initially seek to coordinate their uprising with the Red Army. That only came after the Nazi counterattack in Warsaw.

Under Stalin, the USSR had some especially brutal aspects. Nevertheless, equating the USSR with Nazi Germany is false. The former utilized a good number of Jews and Poles – something the latter wouldn’t tolerate. Between the two world wars, Poland left something to be desired on the subject of respecting non-Polish minorities.

One can also go back to the early 1600s Polish subjugation of Russia, as well as the close to 100,000 Poles who joined Napoleon in his attack on Russia.

*Michael Averko is a New York based independent foreign policy analyst and media critic. This article was initially placed at the Strategic Culture Foundation’s website on August 6.

Michael Averko

Michael Averko is a New York based independent foreign policy analyst and media critic. He has appeared as a guest commentator on the BBC, RT and WABC talk radio, in addition to having been a panelist at the World Russia Forum, Russia Forum New York and Experts' Panel. Besides Averko's Eurasia Review column -, Counterpunch, Foreign Policy Journal, Global Research, History News Network, InoSMI.Ru, Johnson's Russia List, Journal of Turkish Weekly, Kyiv Post, Oriental Review, Penza News, Pravda.Ru, Pravoslavie.Ru, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Russia Insider, Sputnik News, Strategic Culture Foundation, The Duran, The Huffington Post, Valdai Discussion Club, Yonkers Tribune and WikiLeaks, are among the numerous venues where his articles have either appeared or been referenced. The American Institute in Ukraine and the Lord Byron Foundation for Balkan Studies, have referenced some of Averko's articles, along with academic white papers prepared for NATO Watch, Ohio State University, Problems of Post-Communism and the Royal College of Defence Studies. He has been referenced in the Council on Foreign Relations, Defense One and The New York Times. Averko is source referenced in Richard Sakwa's book "Frontline Ukraine". His Eurasia Review article on Pavlo Skoropadsky, provides the first full online English language transcript of Skoropadsky's edict calling for an "All-Russian Federation", inclusive of Russia and Ukraine. Among other issues, that article explains the relationships among the major combatants in the Russian Civil War. He can be reached via [email protected]

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