Monday, December 04, 2017

Trump and Russia: It was that close

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo argues that a defacto alliance between Russia and the USA came THAT CLOSE to being implemented in the earliest days of the Trump Administration:

Since this rapid settling of accounts with Russia is no longer the focus or at least at the forefront of coverage, we need to refresh our memories of exactly what was intended. The Trump transition planned to move rapidly in its first days and weeks in office to engineer a dramatic reshuffling of policy toward Russia, in essence a grand bargain which would start with lifting the December 2016 sanctions as well as those imposed in March 2014 for the annexation of Crimea. But it wouldn’t end there. It was also to include a basic reorientation of policy in the Middle East (a policy of close collaboration with Russia in Syria and Iraq/ISIS) and at least some shift in US policy toward Europe and the EU. ...

Despite the claim that Flynn had gone rogue and that Vice President Pence was lied to, details that emerged in the Flynn plea documents make clear that Flynn’s discussions with Kislyak were widely discussed among President Trump’s top advisors. Pence almost certainly knew about them, though we as yet have no direct proof of this. Events were moving rapidly. A string of denials about Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak were hit with a rush of leaks that refuted each in turn. By February 13th Flynn was out. The next day President Trump asked Comey to drop the investigation into his activities. Comey politely refused. Events were moving quickly and badly.

Various reports, including Isikoff’s, tells us that the staff planning for a rapprochement which was kicked off in the administration’s first days continued. Indeed, in the months since we’ve seen it pop up here and there. There have been repeated hints of discussions to return the diplomatic compounds seized by the Obama administration in late December. In his May trip to Europe Trump had to be coaxed and prodded to commit to the defense of NATO allies. We saw it in Trump’s bizarre and semi-secret Oval Office meeting with Kislyak and Lavrov just after firing Comey. Still, it seems clear that by mid-February, with Flynn fired and the Russia scandal dominating the headlines, any hope of an immediate and thorough-going reset in relations with Russia were abandoned as unrealistic. While the desire is clearly still there, it has been the drama of the unfolding investigation, rather than a grand partnership with Russia that has dominated the news and the administration ever since.

Image:  The new alliances that resulted from the Diplomatic Revolution of 1756

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