This past week has certainly been a bumpy one for the Trump administration at a time when stability is desperately needed. While Vice President Mike Pence and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis were meeting with NATO on their way to the Munich Security Conference, back at home Gen. Michael Flynn resigned from his position as National Security Advisor.
According to reports, the Justice Department informed the White House of Gen. Flynn’s contact with the Russian ambassador and identified him as susceptible to blackmail weeks prior to his resignation. When asked why Gen. Flynn stayed on board for such as long period of time (with full security clearance) after the initial contact from the Justice Department, the White House said it would have been shortsighted to fire the National Security Advisor prior to a full legal review.
However, this incident highlights ethical and policy questions that go beyond the scope of the law. It’s not good policy to have the National Security Advisor conducting international policy deals, and it certainly is not ethical to mislead the President and Vice President of the United States. I discussed this with NBC Nightly News, which you can watch below:
The National Security Advisor needs to be someone who can build a team and maintain the trust of the President. I think Vice Adm. Bob Harward, who was offered the position by President Trump, was a good pick. I have known him for two decades and have boundless admiration for his ingenuity, integrity and ability to navigate choppy seas — both operationally in the field and in the battlefield of D.C., but he turned down the position. While this was disappointing, it was not necessarily unexpected. I spoke with The New York Times about Bob; you can read my comments here.
While Gen. Flynn and others still in the administration may have an increasingly cozy relationship with the Kremlin, Russia will continue to push the limits of the U.S. and the NATO alliance. Just recently, the nation deployed a cruise missile that would violate an international arms treaty and Russian planes buzzed a U.S. warship in the Black Sea. The hope of these actions is to create friction among the NATO nations and ultimately dismantle the alliance. I spoke with NPR’s Morning Edition about Russia’s intentions and you can listen to the interview below:
While Russia continues to test the alliance, NATO remains on edge in other ways due to comments made by President Trump during the election and that he has continued to make through the early weeks of his presidency, warning that if NATO nations do not meet their two percent GDP spending goal, the U.S. will reduce its commitment to the alliance.
The President presents a complicated picture on this. One minute NATO is obsolete; the next minute he loves NATO. One minute NATO is an impediment and doesn’t do anything for terrorism, and the next it is the centerpiece of the global fight. This back and forth does nothing to assure our allies that the U.S. is committed to the organization, and so I was glad to see that Vice President Pence would be leading the talks earlier this week. I think the Vice President will set a more reassuring tone because of his personality: he’s calm, he’s centered, he’s thoughtful and he’s widely regarded with respect on both sides of the aisle in the United States. I spoke with Reuters about this, and you can read the article here.
During this time of uncertainty, one this is certain: this administration will continue to keep us glued to our TV screens and mobile devices to see what happens next.
As always, thank you for reading.
Dean Stavridis with his basset hound, Lilly.
Dean James Stavridis is the 12th leader of The Fletcher School since its founding in 1933. A retired Admiral in the U.S. Navy, he led the NATO Alliance in global operations from 2009 to 2013 as Supreme Allied Commander.
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