Considering the unpredictability that US President Donald Trump has shown, there should be little surprise that he changed his secretary of state and national secretary adviser without ceremony. Rex Tillerson and Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster were both well thought of professionals in their respective fields. The President, on the other hand, is new to foreign policy but an old hand at “cutting deals” (as a globally successful businessmen), and therefore cannot be dismissed as a man lacking in knowledge of the world, though his understanding often runs against even establishment Republican values, leave alone the template on which the Democrats’ and liberals’ positions rest. The incoming secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and the new NSA, John Bolton, will have to bend themselves to the President’s will — and yes, moods. They are from an arch-conservative background, and that suits
Mr Trump perfectly to impress his core constituency. In fact, this is a consideration that appears to inform many of the US leader’s decisions — such as on immigration, seeming toughness on trade, and slashing tax rates for the rich. Ostensibly, the stance on trade and taxes help create more American jobs. It’s in the area of international affairs that Mr Trump has perhaps come in for the sharpest criticism from both Republicans and Democrats alike. And nothing riles the American establishment more than the President’s eagerness to have serious conversations with Russia and President Vladimir Putin. It’s on the Russia question alone that a high-level special prosecutor investigation has been opened over the Trump election campaign and grabs world attention. In contrast, the pitch is not raised on Cambridge Analytica of Britain acknowledging that it meddled with the last US election in Mr Trump’s favour.
From the start of his presidency, Mr Trump has shown unwavering consistency in insisting that engaging with Russia is good for America and the world. Only last week, he telephoned President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his sweeping election victory. This was against explicit advice of his principal mandarins. But the US leader went right ahead, and in several tweets justified his action. He said engaging with Russia was important to solving major world problems. He listed Syria, North Korea and Iran, besides international terrorism and the arms control talks that he anticipates. There seems nothing wrong with any of this as an approach to peace is brought nearer even if each conversation does not travel the full distance. Mr Trump prefaced his remarks with the statement that engaging “with Russia (and others)” is good for the world. This speaks of a rare openness to discuss and negotiate not seen for a long time. The President also reminded his interlocutors that his predecessor President Barack Obama had wanted a “reset” of US ties with Russia but failed due to lack of energy.