Does Steve Bannon's Departure from the Trump Administration Mean the Neocons and Deep State Hawks Have Won the Debate Over Its Foreign Policy? Or is It Too Early to Say?
Taken in isolation, the first visit of a U.S. Defense Secretary to Ukraine since 2007 could be dismissed as political posturing by Washington, including for the purpose of debunking the relentlessly propagandized notion that President Trump is 'soft on Russia' or is 'Putin's puppet'. However, the recent long range U.S. Global Hawk drone flights skirting Russian air space and the Donbass, along with the rapid construction of what appears to be a permanent 'rotational' naval base along the Black Sea coast near Crimea, appears to be part of a larger plan.
The U.S. State Department approved this week the sale of long range (up to 200 miles) HIMARS rocket launch systems to Romania, which faces no other conceivable adversary to use such weapons against besides Russia or its proxies in the unrecognized Moldovan republic of Pridnestrovie (the PMR also known as Transnistria). Across the Black Sea, the Americans are stepping up their military exercises with Georgia, whose bid to join NATO under former President Saakashvili collapsed after the country's humiliating defeat in the short August 2008 war with Russia. These U.S. power projection efforts of course, must be balanced against the reality controlling Crimea makes Moscow the overwhelmingly dominant power in the Black Sea basin, and the high probability that Washington's once staunch NATO ally Turkey will leave the alliance and evict the Americans from Incirlik Air Base within the next few years.
Globally, there is a bright spot of tacit (if at times grudgingly acknowledged) cooperation between the U.S. and Russia to deconflict their forces and destroy ISIS as a territorial entity in Syria. But overall, with the departure of anti-neocon adviser Steve Bannon from the White House, the Trump Administration appears to be slouching towards the Cold War 2 policies of its predecessor. It was no coincidence that Bannon felt free to speak his mind to the liberal/progressive magazine the American Prospect, shorty before his announced exit from the White House. It remains a matter of dispute whether Bannon resigned, as he told Circa News national security reporter Sara A. Carter, or if he was fired, as his detractors in the Administration and media insist.
Is Bannon Returning to Breitbart to Wage War on Neocons and Globalists Pressuring Trump Alongside Congress to Maintain Cold War 2 at All Costs?
What's indisputable is that Bannon stated his opinion that China, not Russia, is America's top geostrategic adversary. Like many other economic nationalists such as Pat Buchanan (who is reportedly on friendly terms with Trump in private and writes columns in support of the beleaguered President), Bannon sees the battlefield between Washington and Beijing playing out primarily in the realm of economics, rather than through a first Cold War-style arms race. Bannon's words can be interpreted in many ways, but they strike the Russia Analyst as a not so subtle rebuke of Trump's surrounding himself with generals, for whom the world's biggest military industrial complex hammer tends to require only martial and not economic nails, as well as a poke at Washington's bipartisan obsession with Russia.
Although Bannon is no Russophile or Vladimir Putin fan, as his 2014 remarks via video conference to a Vatican conference make clear, he is a critic of technocratic globalism and therefore had been the most vilified man in the Administration to date. The rivalry between Steve Bannon and Anthony Scaramucci aka 'The Mooch' culminated in the latter delivering obscenity laced 'off the record' tirades against the former to a reporter for The New Yorker before being fired. But the clash between Bannon and White House National Security Adviser and career military man H.R. McMaster, who succeeded the short lived tenure of Bannon ally retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, has been covered extensively as a consequential battle within the Administration. This is in no small part thanks to independent 'alt lite' blogger and Trump supporter Mike Cernovich accusing McMaster of being a serial leaker to the legacy media, while also purging Flynn loyalists from the National Security Council (NSC). McMaster was also accused by not only Cernovich but others grumbling to pro-Trump outlets of supporting former National Security Adviser Susan Rice as having done nothing wrong in 'unmasking' Trump campaign members and associates whose phone calls were supposedly picked up 'incidentally' in National Security Agency (NSA) wiretaps.
Cernovich's credibility has been attacked, while simultaneously being amplified in the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) globalist mouthpiece Foreign Policy, but appear to be based on actual credible sources inside the Administration. Whether dissatisfaction with Bannon loyalists leaking to Cernovich played a role in Steve's departure from the White House, the blogger's reporting that McMaster supported sending more troops to Afghanistan appears to have been confirmed by reports of a forthcoming 'new strategy' that looks much like the mini-surge Obama approved a few years ago.
The Democratic Party and Deep State mouthpiece media, by contrast, have rallied around McMaster, as has the U.S. Senate's neocon foreign policy proconsul in chief, John McCain (R-AZ). As the Russia Analyst wrote in a previous RogueMoney article, the neocons at the German Marshall Fund's so-called Alliance for Securing Democracy have claimed the #FireMcMaster hash tag on Twitter was 'amplified by' Russian government funded bots and trolls. Media outlets hostile to Trump such as Reuters, the #NeverTrump er neocon fanatics at The Weekly Standard and neolibcons of The Washington Post have repeated these claims despite the troika of ex-FBI agent Clint Watts, former Hasbarah troll/cyberstalker Andrew Weisburd and leftist researcher J.M. Berger providing no proof to back up their claims. What's clear is, regardless of the alleged bad blood between Bannon and McMaster, the former is now much more free to go after the latter at Breitbart than he was from inside the Trump White House.
Multiple and Often Contradictory Foreign Policies Coming from a D.C. in Disarray
As the Russia Analyst's friend The Saker said in his recent interview with Southfront.org, Washington presently has multiple, often contradictory foreign policies. There are multiple agendas coming from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's office, stripped down to bare bones to plug the leaks State Department; the Pentagon's empire of overseas bases (including thoe being constructed around Russia) and military to military diplomacy; a CIA Director in Mike Pompeo who differs little in his rabid Russophobia from his predecessor, the outspoken Trump hating former DCI John Brennan, and lastly the President's Twitter feed. The latter appears to be, along with friendly outlets like Breitbart, Fox News, Washington Times or Circa among the few tools the seemingly neutered President has to get his own message and foreign policy views out (whatever they happen to be at the moment). This is sadly the case after Congress voted to strip President Trump or any successor of the ability to lift sanctions against Russia, in a seemingly unprecedented usurpation of presidential powers by a legislative branch hellbent on making Cold War 2 permanent. It's difficult to see, even if Bannon's ambitious plans of launching a new 'Trump TV' network under the Breitbart or other brand come to fruition, sufficient pushback against the second Cold War now underway actually changing policy.
What we do know about Breitbart as it relates to Russia, is that the outlet has endorsed Disobedient Media and Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)'s challenging of the US intelligence community assessment that Russian security services hacked the Democratic National Committee (DNC). And even months before Breitbart challenged the hack that didn't happen at the heart of the fraudulent Russian meddling in the 2016 election story, it was attacked by Cold War 2 waging propagandists, including EU Stratcom's Jakub Kalensky. This track record and his recent thinking shared with the American Prospect suggest that with Bannon's return to Breitbart, the outlet is going to concentrate on undermining the mainstream media and deep state's Russia story while focusing its foreign policy fire on (Israel's enemy) Iran and China.
Have McMaster and the Generals 'Won' If Bannon and the Populists Lost?
Given the fact that Moscow is inseparably allied to Tehran and Beijing, and that Chinese' One Belt One Road is integral to the Russian and European pivot to the East, it's hard to describe Breitbart's editorial line as 'soft' on Moscow -- but the globalist shills will insist Bannon's boys have a soft spot for Putin regardless. Which brings us to the inevitable question: now that Bannon is out of the White House, have H.R. McMaster and 'the generals' won the debate over foreign policy for the deep state?
Does America now basically have a quasi military government, as futurist John Robb and other critics contend? Has Trump simply rolled over to a hawkish agenda that will include more troops in Afghanistan, while blaming Russian arming of the Taliban for further setbacks and failures in Kabul? What about Syria and Iraq? Has the U.S. given up there now that Russia and Iran have secured the Assad government's victory, while increasing their support for a more assertive Baghdad that doesn't need American help to crush the remnants of ISIS on Iraqi soil? Or will Washington push for Kurdish independence from Iraq as a step toward formalizing the secession of Kurdish areas it occupies without Damascus consent in Syria? What about Libya, where Moscow is supporting with arms a general who is also backed by Egypt? Will the Pentagon and CIA double down on the tragic 2011 NATO intervention that overthrew Gaddafi, and send more special forces to allegedly fight ISIS while actually trying to check Russian influence in North Africa?
Returning to the main subject of this article, U.S. policy in Ukraine, there is abundant evidence in the public domain that McMaster will push a harder line. Months before Trump asked him to become his National Security Adviser, McMaster was "quietly overseeing a high-level government panel intended to figure out how the Army should adapt to this Russian wake-up call [in Ukraine]".
Election Meddling Against Trump, Lies and Disinfo Coming Out of Kiev
Acknowledging that Russia's operation to secure Crimea was highly skilled and/or Russian armed forces have made rapid strides in recent years is not controversial. The evidence from Syria in particular that Russian armed forces have rapidly modernized and employ highly sophisticated tactics and technologies is overwhelming. What is troubling about McMaster to the Russia Analyst is the extent to which he and the US Army have fallen under the spell of Ukrainian propaganda, which seeks to downplay Kiev's casualties, while turning 'Russian active measures' into some sort of black magic to explain why Crimeans voted in a super-majority to join Russia. In addition to sidestepping Ukrainian nationalism's 'hearts and minds' problem in the Donbass, Kiev's propaganda grossly exaggerates the involvement of regular Russian armed forces in the humiliating Ukrainian Army defeats of 2014-15. This creates a feedback loop between a cash strapped Kiev government looking for more money and arms courtesy of the American taxpayer and hawks in Washington who view Ukraine as an instrument of proxy escalation against Russia.
The truth, that there are only a handful of active duty advisers in Donetsk and Lugansk, and that if Moscow truly intended to occupy Ukraine it would've done so by now after three years of proxy fighting, gets buried under Cold War 2 rhetoric. The fact that the Russian leadership has largely written the country off as a hopelessly Russophobic economic basket case Moscow can no longer afford to subsidize and is best served separating itself from is missed by Washington analysts who prefer to imagine that in just a few years, Washington can make Ukraine sufficiently less corrupt and divided to join a (crumbling) EU. Other dreams of achieving a rapid victory on the cheap using only Ukrainian rather than NATO servicemen's lives to storm Donetsk and Lugansk without the Russian army directly intervening in crushing fashion are also dangerous, but more remote for the present.
What's clear is that Phil Karber, president of the Potomac Foundation, whose UAF reports from the Donbass frontlines likely influenced McMaster's study of Russian intervention in Ukraine, has promoted Kiev's disinformation in the past. During one embarrassing 2015 moment for the Potomac Foundation, Mr. Karber's Ukrainian associates provided U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) photos of what they said were Russian tanks invading their country, only for the photos to be identified as having been taken during the 2008 Russia-Georgia War. Similar claims about Russia's most modern currently fielded main battle tank, the T90, appearing in Donbass advanced by Bellingcat have never been substantiated. T72 tanks which Bellingcat claims are B3 models that could have only come from Russian Army stocks on the basis of certain infrared/strobe lights set on their frames may have been Ukrainian models equipped with a Belorussian device sold to or captured by the Donbass natives.
Nonetheless, not even the Donbass fighters themselves dispute that their salaries if not ammunition come from Russia, and pro LDNR writers like Crimea based blogger Col. Cassad speak of a 'voentorg' (army surplus store) supplying the breakaway republics from Russia. What hasn't happened, and what the Ukrainian general staff admitted at the height of the fighting for Debaltsevo, is that entire Russian army units as opposed to individual servicemen (and GRU intelligence or electronic warfare specialists) have crossed the former Ukrainian border in battalion or brigade much less division strength to fight the UAF.
Karber himself has spoken in Potomac Institute videos about cross border Russian rocket and artillery fire allegedly destroying two Ukrainian battalions in minutes. Yet Kiev's ludicrously low admission of only 34 dead servicemen from this attack points to either it not happening or more likely, the Ukrainians grossly understating the true casualties from this particular barrage.
Escalation in Ukraine and McMaster's 'Forward Deterrence...Raising Costs' for 'Russian Aggression'
Given such widespread dissembling, as well as Kiev paying no price so far for its actual and not just alleged efforts to meddle in the election against Donald Trump (acting through the Ukrainian Embassy's unregistered foreign agents the Chalupa sisters), it's difficult to expect any serious U.S. investigation into the allegations Ukraine shipped powerful rocket engines to North Korea, violating United Nations sanctions. Nor will the tendency of demoralized Ukrainian soldiers selling U.S. provided equipment to the Russian backed Donbass forces likely deter H.R. McMaster and his aides from pushing for NATO arms to be supplied to Kiev -- even if Javelin missiles remain excluded from the supply stream.
Donbass fighters have already recovered mortar and grenade launcher rounds from the Avdeevka prom zone with Bulgarian markings, while documents obtained by Southfront.org demonstrate the U.S. is supplying longer ranged RPG-7 rounds to Ukrainian forces. Such supplies cannot help the Ukrainian Army achieve a substantial operational breakthrough on the front lines facing Donetsk or Lugansk, but can and will increase casualties from trench warfare as the LDNR respond with their own 'voentorg' supplied anti-tank missiles striking Ukrainian positions.
For now, it looks like the deep state has won tactical victories over Trump's populist and 'let's get along with Russia' base, even as the Anglo-American globalists are losing the long war for petrodollar protecting, full spectrum dominance to the Eurasian powers.
McMaster's increasingly unrivaled prominence in shaping the Administration's foreign policy, together with the appointment of former CIA agent and McCain Institute hard liner Kurt Volker as U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, strongly suggest more escalation in the Donbass is coming. That in turn, will mean a Russian response, not only to more heavily arm its proxies in Donbass, but a strengthening of its military posture and capabilities to directly intervene if absolutely necessary against combined NATO/Ukrainian forces. In this, Moscow would be preparing a response not only to a Ukrainian threat to its less than recognized territory in Crimea, but also to a U.S.-backed Romanian army occupation of Moldova that would threaten Russian peacekeepers in Transnistria.
Just because the Russian Army has largely abstained from using even a fraction of its fighting power against the Ukrainian military since the mid to late summer 2014 artillery and rocket fire barrages against the UAF units trapped in the 'Southern Cauldron' does not mean that Moscow is running the Zapad2017 exercises featuring the 1st Guards Tank Army for nothing. Those in Washington like McMaster who acknowledge the rapid modernization of Russian armed forces may still be underestimating just how rapidly much of the Ukrainian Army would panic or surrender if faced with a direct assault from Russian armies and airpower -- the latter of which has been completely absent in the Donbass. Yet all a Ukrainian army soldier or NATO analyst has to do to imagine what a real war with Russia would look like as opposed to the 'hybrid war' currently being fought in the Donbass is watch the online footage of Russian Kalibr cruise missiles and bombs raining down on jihadists in Syria.
The Russia Analyst's concern is, after three years of the pro-Russian Ukrainians and ethnic Russians of Donbass being shelled and besieged by a NATO proxy army, Moscow has still not directly intervened -- but that does not mean it will never happen. Particularly if geopolitical conditions were to radically change, and U.S. influence in Europe were to crater along with the U.S. dollar, Moscow may find a way via local republic uprisings to finally end the 'low intensity' war and topple the regime in Kiev. However, that prospect will certainly not involve 'Russian tanks in Kiev', and appears to be far off, along with London Paul's forecast that the present territory of Ukraine will eventually be partitioned into five states or statelets. The near term is likely to bring only further suffering for the people of Donbass, as Moscow resists Washington's efforts to drag it into a costly occupation of Ukrainian territory, and the UAF acting on U.S. deep state orders step up their shelling of former compatriots.
Here from a transcript of the video posted below is McMaster's speech in mid-2016 to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) sketching an outline on his theories regarding 'forward deterrence' against 'Russian aggression' (with a nod to the early 20th century British strategist Halford John Mackinder's 'Heartland Theory' which was the original document on containment of then imperial Russia):