Trump wary of Russian deal; new advisers urge tougher stand
Julie Pace, AP, Mar 4 2017
FASCHINGSTEIN — Pres Trump is telling advisers and allies that he may shelve, at least temporarily, his plan to pursue a deal with Moscow on the Islamic State group and other national security matters, according to administration officials and Western diplomats. In conversations with diplomats and other officials, Trump and his aides have ascribed the new thinking to Moscow’s recent provocations. But the reconsideration of a central tenet of his foreign policy underscores the growing political risks in forging closer relations with Russia, as long as the FBI investigates his campaign associates’ connections to Moscow and congressional committees step up their inquiries into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. Trump’s new skepticism about brokering a deal with Moscow suggests the rising influence of a new set of advisers who have taken a tougher stance on Russia, including ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis and new national security adviser H R McMaster. During his first meeting with NSC staff, McMaster described Russia as well as China as a country that wants to upend the current world order, according to an administration official who attended the meeting. Michael McFaul said:
Trump has been open about wanting warmer relations with Russia, but he hasn’t picked people to the best of my knowledge at senior levels that share that view.
Euro vassals also have been pushing the Trump administration not to make any early concessions to Russia. Trump is said to have shown interest in a broad deal with Russia that could address cooperation in fighting Daesh, nuclear arms control agreements and Ukraine. But in recent days, the administration has signaled that the moment for such a deal may not be right. In an Oval Office meeting last week, Trump told advisers that Russia’s recent violation of a Cold War-era arms control treaty was among the complicating factors. In February, the Trump administration accused Russia of violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty by deploying a cruise missile. A White House official confirmed the discussion, saying that Trump believes the treaty violation is making a diplomatic and security agreement with Russia “tougher and tougher to achieve.” Top administration officials have also echoed that message in conversations with some allies, according to diplomats. The president and his advisers have yet to settle on a formal approach to Russia and discussions about how to proceed are still in early phases, a second White House official said. While Trump has continued to talk about a detente with Russia since taking office, there have been some signs of his administration taking a more traditional approach. Trump, in a news conference after Flynn’s firing, suggested the firestorm could hamper his ability to make a deal with Russia, saying:
It would be unpopular for a politician to make a deal.”It would be much easier for me to be so tough! The tougher I am on Russia, the better!