ANURADHA CHENOY | 14 FEBRUARY, 2017
'Washington Swamp' Gets Flynn: National Security Over Business
NEW DELHI: General Michael Flynn who has been a close associate and advisor of US President Donald Trump since his campaign for president and was his natural choice as the US National Security advisor has resigned. The reason being that he had a conversation with the Russian ambassador to the US, just before President Trump’s team took over where he let out to the Russian ambassador, that the US was likely to re-consider some of the sanctions that President Barack Obama had imposed on the Russians for having allegedly intervened in the US elections.
To make matters worse, Flynn, who ought not have spoken to the Russian ambassador as a private citizen, according to US law, further lied to the Vice President Pence that he did not remember any such conversation.
Given the hostility between Russia and the US, it is not surprising that all hell broke loose, when the US Justice Department along with the FBI, produced a transcript of the conversation between Flynn and the Russian ambassador and showed this to be a violation of national security.
This led to the quick resignation. Trump let Flynn be the first fall guy, even though what Flynn said was what Trump has been often quoted as saying to the media. There were no regrets from the Republicans and jubilation from the Democrats in a deeply divided America.
Beyond the resignation there are other issues. The first is of course is that the establishment or “Washington swamp” as Trump calls it, is very much in control, and the Trumpites better watch their indiscretions.
Second there is disunity, factionalism and competition between the Trump advisors and groups, given how quickly the knives were out and could force this resignation and damage control.
And then there is the question of US-Russia relations. Trump had centred his foreign policy pre-election on improving relations with the Russians, or at least being able to have some transactions with them, in order to improve the US economy. As a businessman Trump’s interests are in having better business relations. Linked to this is the Russian-US oil deals that were in the making involving billions of dollars for US companies and Russia. This deal was nipped in the bud because of US unilateral sanctions after Russian foreign policy moves in Ukraine and Syria.
The point being brought to Trump, by the establishment is that US national security always was and will be supreme over US economy. It appears that the old saying that ‘what is good for General Motors is good for the US’ is not always true. There is contestation over the perception of Russia as enemy number one, which Trump tried to gloss over for business interests. Flynn has helped him lose the first round in this contest.
Will Trump give up on his foreign policy plans? It appears that Democrats and the liberal establishment are forming a ring around Trump. His governance style, his domestic policies from Islamphobia, racism, misogyny, etc are becoming more evident. The popular coalition against him is increasing. Despite the Republican majorities, he may lose the confidence even within his own party on many issues. National security is the heart of American politics, just as is its militarism. Trump and foreign policy may become victim of his own follies as yet.
(Anuradha Chenoy is senior Professor in Jawaharlal Nehru University and a recognised expert on Russia and foreign policy)