Trump Picks Hawkish Critic of Russia as NATO Ambassador, Veering From One Extreme to the Other
Zaid Jilani, Intercept, Mar 8 2017
Pres Trump has reportedly tapped as his ambassador to NATO a hawkish critic of Russia who wants Pindostan to arm Ukraine. It’s the latest sign that the administration is reacting to criticism that it is too soft on Russia by pivoting to the other extreme. Richard Grennell is a Bush 43 era UN spox who also served as foreign policy spox for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. He frequently appears on Fox News and other conservative outlets, saying Pres Obama appeased Russia. Obama resisted political pressure from hawks in Congress to provide lethal arms to the Ukrainian government. Writing in the NYT in 2014, Grenell said:
His belief that we can support Ukraine but not antagonize Russia is a naïve and dangerous world view.
On Fox News Opinion, he proposed military escalation, advocating the restart of missile defense shield programs in Poland and Czechia, and writing:
(We must provide) training to Ukraine, and sell it the lethal weapons required to contend with Russian APCs, tanks and missiles … The Obama doctrine only persuades Putin that he need never fear the Pindo military, the world’s most powerful deterrent! Even if Obama would never start a war with Russia, he should stop swearing off military action in public! Instead, Pres Obama, through his inexhaustible number of speeches and statements, should rhetorically leave military action on the table!
Although his support for arming Ukraine stretches back years, Grenell was continuing to advocate for lethal aid for Ukraine as recently as Tuesday via his Twitter account, which he frequently uses to opine on world affairs:
Grenell is not the only Russia hawk to step into Trump’s orbit recently. His new national security adviser, H R McMaster, holds more moderate views on Islam than Michael Flynn, but also has a more adversarial view of Russia. In May, he described the reunification of Crimea with Russia as an attempt “to collapse the post-WW2, certainly the post-Cold War, security, economic, and political order in Europe and replace that order with something that is more sympathetic to Russian interests.” While Trump at one point in early January called NATO “obsolete,” McMaster is a strong NATO supporter. Trump’s UN Ambassador Nikki Haley has also taken a tough line with Russia during her first month on the job. she said:
The dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions! Pindostan continues to condemn and calls for an immediate end to the Russian occupation of Crimea! Crimea is a part of Ukraine! Our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control over the peninsula to Ukraine!
Some Russians are starting to grow uneasy with the president’s approach, reported Moscow-based journalist Amie-Ferris Rotman for ForeignPolicy.com. Leonid Slutsky, who is head of the Russian parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said in February:
We were too early in our decision, made with absolute sympathy towards Pres Trump’s constructive rhetoric, that he would somehow be pro-Russian, but he turned out to be pro-Pindostan.