"CrossTalk Bullhorns: Trump vs the generals"
RT.com (November 16, 2020)
Trump is facing probably his last battle as president. Will he triumph over the generals? And will Biden's foreign policy pick up where Obama left off? Will the Neocons, again, be back in control?"
CrossTalking with George Szamuely and Dmitry Babich.
Peter Lavelle: "Trump may be, if he's not inaugurated again in January, fighting the last battle of his term in office here, and it's with the Pentagon. It's with the generals here. And I think it's being underplayed here very much in the media. This is a very serious business right now. He has made it emphatically clear. His administration will pull out troops from Afghanistan, also possibly from Syria. And I find it quite odd that we keep hearing from the liberal media that Trump may resort to a coup to stay in power. Well, it looks to me that the Pentagon and national security state is committing a coup against Trump in the last months of his presidency by not obeying direct orders from the Commander in Chief. This is serious business. Go ahead, George."
George Szamuely: "It is extremely serious because he is the Commander-in-Chief. And he has a right and a duty to implement his policy. And what we're getting is the Pentagon explicitly just ignoring instructions from the Commander-in-Chief. So we get in Afghanistan, in which the United States has actually signed an agreement with the Taliban committing itself to withdrawing itself by early next year, and the Pentagon decided: We're not going to implement this policy. And they're going to condition it on what the military regards as the situation on the ground. Even if there is nothing in the agreement with the Taliban in which the departure of the Americans is conditioned by the situation on the ground. The only situation which the United States deemed a deal-breaker is if the Taliban is attacking US forces or if the Taliban is co-operating with ISIS or Al-Qaeda. There is no evidence the Taliban is doing any of that. But nonetheless, the miliary is ignoring the president."
"And the same thing is happening in Syria, where we learned the other day from Jim Jeffrey who was the Trump administration point man on Syria that, basically, he has been lying to the President. He has been misleading the President as to the actual troop numbers in Syria. He told him, 'Oh, we've only got about two hundred forces there.' It turned out it's at least nine hundred, maybe even more. And what is so shocking about this that he was (a) very proud of having misled the President and (b) the media were clapping and cheering: 'Oh, this is wonderful that this Deep State or national security state is simply misleading the elected Commander-in-Chief.' So it is very troubling, yes."
[4:11] Peter Lavelle: "You know, Dima, on the tail end of what George just said there. I mean, there are no consequences for obstructing your superior, the Commander-in-Chief here. This Jeffrey character, they applauded him because he outwitted the President of the United States. Under any other president, this would be serious charges here. Not only would you be humiliated, you would probably be barred from working in the national security state ever again. And I don't know. There could even be legal issues in play here. But just the opposite here. The cheering. I have said from the beginning of the Trump presidency, this resistance opposition to the President within the government is destroying institutions. And one of the most sacred institutions we have is the Civilian Control of the Military. Go ahead, Dima."
[4:53] Dmitry Babich: "Yes, and in fact what we are having now looks suspiciously like military control of politics. Because generals, like for example, Ben Hodges who commanded NATO forces in Europe, he's now in the Atlantic Council. He's now advising the US foreign policy. I'm sure he will gain more importance under Trump [Biden?]. And Ben Hodges has recently said that we should include Georgia in NATO now. Well everyone understands what kind of consequences that may have. He said that with Ukraine, we can postpone it some. But, again, Ukraine would be the reddest of the red lines for Russia. So these people are dangerous. And Trump replaced four Defense secretaries during his term. So it's not the lack of Constitutional powers. It's the fact that they're all against him. There is an ideology against him, not just a few misbehaving generals. And what is especially troubling is the way it is presented in the American liberal media, but in the European media. The Europen media presents it as 'Trump is going to have a coup before he leaves office! He fired that excellent Defense Secretary! He fired the Chief of Military Intelligence! He's up to something terrible!' And the problem is they get sources from the United States. Der Spiegel Magazine in Germany has just published a big interview with James Stavridis, the former commander of NATO forces in Europe. And James Stavridis says: 'Trump is unpredictable. He is embittered and frustrated. He can do anything. He can attack Iran now. He can send the US warships to the waters near China and provoke a war there.'
[6:56] "What is amazing about these ultra-liberal generals is that whatever Trump does is bad, you know. In Syria they accused him of pulling out the troops and leaving the oil to Russians. Or Betraying our Kurdish friends. And worse, encroaching on Syrian territory. But just recently the US was clapping when Turkey and other NATO actually openly intervened in Syria, just passing the borders sometimes, helping the insurgents inside Syria. That was fine. And suddenly when Trump had an agreement with Erdogan, this is against Syrian territorial integrity. There is no logic with these guys, you know. They obviously hate Trump. Someone who is frustrated and unpredictable, this is them. And the way it is played out in the European press is shameless. Saying that Trump wants to have a coup when you have generals openly disobeying him. Openly obeying the ideology and not the elected authorities."
[8:14] Peter Lavelle: "You know George, these generals and these neocons are more concerned with Syrian sovereignty and borders than American borders. Dima said something that I think is very important: Trump is deemed to be unpredictable. You know what is predictable is the reaction to Trump and these neocons and their approach to security policy around the world. They're very, very predictable. And that's why they are so dangerous. And there is no control on them. And particularly -- and we'll talk about it in the second part of the program -- under the Biden administration. But this tells us everything we know. It really has nothing to do with party affiliation. It's that you have these Deep State characters. They determine what national security policy is. It's irrelevant who the president is."
[9:04] George Szamuely: "Yes, exactly, because if you'll remember the latter days of the Obama administration -- this isn't Trump, this is the Obama Administration -- when John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov signed an agreement that the United States and Russia would jointly conduct military operations against ISIS. Within hours of the signing of the agreement the US military launched an attack against the Syrian military -- not against ISIS but the Syrian military -- and of course, since this led to serious casualties, the agreement was null and void, the Russians were so furious about this. So this was a clear act of sabotage. The military basically said, 'We don't agree with this policy of co-operating with the Russians, so we will sabotage this.'
"And so that's what we have here. The military has decided we will maintain a military presence, in perpetuity, everywhere we are at the moment and in future military missions. So anything that the president does when he says we need to withdraw, we will sabotage. We will leak all sorts of stories in the media, tell the media what they want to hear: 'Trump is erratic' 'Trump is insane' 'Trump is narcissistic' 'Trump doesn't have any understanding of strategy,' and therefore we just create the atmosphere in which any withdrawal becomes out of the question because its either 'assuaging Trump's insane ego' or -- worst of all -- 'HELPING THE KREMLIN.' And we know the "links" between the Kremlin and Trump. So these people are really very very dangerous and should have been cut down to size many many years ago."
[10:54] Peter Lavelle: "Yes. Ever since the lie of going into the Iraq war. All of those people, they failed upward apparently. You can be wrong, but it doesn't hurt your CV and your future prospects. You know, Dima, it has been widely rumored that Trump may, or that he's considering a run for the presidency in 2024. What he does in the last few months of this term, his time in the White House, could be determinate. Because this is a very important promise he made in 2016 to end these wars here. It is within his grasp to do it. There is an array of forces to stop him, which we have already alluded to. But this is very important to him. He has been defeated by the Deep State. I think we have to all admit that. But this is his chance to go out in a blaze of glory, saying: 'I did this.' And that is a message to his base. Because it's going to be a rocky four years. Go ahead, Dima."
[11:56] Dmitry Babich: "Well, I think, if he is smart, he is going to repeat all the time: 'I was the first president in thirty years who didn't start a single new war.' But it will be very difficult for him to reach the people because ALL the media are saying exactly the opposite. The media are saying 'We're going to be back to the Good Old Days,' 'We're going to be back to the stability of the Obama years.' Which 'stability'? Obama started several wars, or at least he made them much more dangerous and bloody than they could be. In Libya, he intervened and the civil war is still continuing. In Syria, he intervened on the side of the forces which lost and which almost ruined the country. And the situation is still very dangerous. So when people talk about stability and about 'experienced diplomats' of the [Secretary] Clinton years, that's just ludicrous."
[13:07] "And it's very important talking about the generals. I think Ray McGovern was right to pay attention to what John Brennan had to say. John Brennan told MSNBC that wholesale declassification of intelligence in order to further Trump's political interests is going to take place. Again, Trump is unpredictable. He is going to do something terrible. Yes. He may fulfill the US Constitution and expose, I'm sorry, your murders. John Brennan was the author of the drone killing program. And John Brennan prided himself on that in the New York Times."
Peter Lavelle: "What Trump wants is transparency. And the left and the media are against that."
[14:05] Peter Lavelle: "To remind you, we're talking about a possible Biden presidency. OK. Let's go back to George in Budapest. George, I'm not in the habit of reading Joe Biden's tweets. But he did say, and we're talking about a possible future Biden foreign policy:
When I am speaking to foreign leaders, I am telling them: America is back. We're going to be back in the game. "
Peter Lavelle: "What do you take away from that because that gives me dark forebodings. Go ahead, George."
[14:41] George Szamuely: "Well, the dark forebodings are justified. I'm assuming that what he means is that we're going to go back to the interventionism of the Clinton/Bush/Obama years. Which means that whereve there is any kind of conflict, or any potential for conflict, America will be there to stoke the fires and make sure that the conflict intensifies. And the killing will start. And then America can pose as the intervener against the bad guys, play the peacemaker, or whatever. I think that's been the model for the past couple of decades."
Peter Lavelle:"And it's very lucrative, George. It's a very lucrative model."
George Szamuely: "Very lucrative, exactly. Something to do for after you leave the administration. You get a nice consultancy gig with a think tank, a military hardware producer. You have lots and lots and lots of government jobs. So we can already see Libya. There has been a success on the part of Trump in avoiding getting involved in the ongoing civil war in Libya. You can be absolutely certain that the Biden administration will get itself involved in the civil war in Libya. Syria already. Anthony Blinken is likely to have a very senior position in the Biden administration. And he has already said that he intends to renew the war against Bashar al Assad, overthrow him. So that means we'll be back to sponsoring ISIS and Al Qaeda and everything that America has been doing during the Obama years."
[16:39] "Ukraine. Ukraine is Biden's baliwick. [PL: 'In more ways than one']. More ways than one, exactly. He wants to justify the 2014 coup organized by Obama and Biden. And then, of course, Biden's lucrative career subsequently there. And I also think the Nagorno-Karabach situation, still unstable, and a Biden administration will get itself sucked into that one as well. And I'm sure there are others where people will mention that Biden will become active."
[17:03] Peter Lavelle: "It's a lot of work running the world. Dima, tell me what your thoughts are, what you have heard of a potential Biden foreign policy as it relates to Russia. The way I have looked at it for two decades now is that the Kremlin is prepared for anyone who goes into the White House. And it's basically being prepared for the worst. And that has been a realistic approach. What are your thoughts?"
[17:30] Dmitry Babich:". . ."
[20:55] Peter Lavelle: "George, what's really intersting is that while there is "aid" going from the United States to Ukraine -- and Trump got impeached over it, apparently -- what's really interesting to me is that Zelinksi, the president of Ukraine, because of the situation on the ground, was having to have to think about some kind of reconcilliation with Russia. And you can go through different sectors, like energy, for example. After all of this, Ukraine's biggest trading partner remains Russia here. Now there are certainly those in Kiev who came to power after the coup in 2014 that want a much more strident policy, and Biden's people will want it. The reason I'm pointing this out is that, left alone, reconcilliation and simmering-down a conflict can happen. But when you have an outside power like the United States -- we can look at Libya, we can look at Syria, we can look at Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Ukraine -- this is what I meant in my introduction: picking up where Obama left off."
[21:57] George Szamuely: "Yes. That is exactly right. Because Russia has made clear that it has no interest in annexing any Ukrainian territories. So those living in Donetsk and Lugansk they've no real hope of being incorporated within Russia. So the only thing the Russians insist on is the special status for these two provinces. Now that, Kieve hasn't really made any moves towards achieving that. And this just keeps the conflict going. Now, with the Biden team, they view this as a zero-sum game. If they heat up the conflict in Ukraine, urge some kind of offensive against Donetsk and Lugansk, for them its a win-win. It's either Donetsk and lugansk are defeated, which is unlikely, or Russia is drawn into the conflict which means that Russia and Ukraine are at loggerheads and it's a real headache for the Rusians because it's a serius military conflict between two brother nations. So they don't really care about Ukrainians. They just see it as a zero-sum game that is bad for Russia. And that's the mentality of these people. That's why they are very dangerous. Because their only concern is let's make life as difficult as possible for Russia. Let's suck them into all kinds of conflicts that give them headaches, may cause instability within Russia. And that's a very dangerous game to play. Because we know how easily such situations get out of control.
[23:50] Peter Lavelle: "You know, Dima, it seems to me the Left in the United States have not learned the lesson. They just never had an autopsy about why Hillary Clinton lost. And one of the reasons she lost is the unpopularity of foreign wars. Endless wars. And I would throw in interventions and meddling, as George just described to us when it comes to Ukraine. They haven't learned the lesson. These neocons and Deep State players, they're quite happy with that.Because they can continue down the path of their ideological obsessions. Russia is one of them and, of course, China is getting higher and higher on the menu. Go ahead, Dima."
Dmitry Babich: "You are right. Even the attitude of Joe Biden towards more than 72 million people who voted for Trump. He didn't have anything to tell them except 'I also lost a few times in my life.' He didn't say, 'We are going to correct the policies, perhaps we did something wrong before 2016, Why are there so many of you?'
Peter Lavelle: "He was for the Iraq War! Pro-Iraq War! Was that part of the campaign? George, was it ever mentioned? During the general campaign? About supporting endless wars. I don't remember it coming up. Just the opposite. At the Democratic Convention they brought out all these neocons cheering a failed foreign policy. And I say failed, because the American people voted against it. In three election cycles they voted against endless war. What I'm saying is that there is just this huge disconnect here. George, I'll give you the last thirty seconds."
[25:34] George Szamuely: "Yes. I think that's what you get. The Biden team is the standard interventionism and what Biden's whole political career has been about. We remember him from the 1990s when he was an absolutely implacable advocate of bombing Yugoslavia. He was an ardent supporter of bombing. He didn't just vote in favor of the Iraq War. He was an enthusiastic supporter. And then he had the temerity to say, Well, I think we should partition Iraq. As if, somehow, [that is within the purview of the US."
[26:15] Peter Lavelle: "We're almost out of time, so I'll end here. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said about Joe Biden: 'Every policy stance he took on foreign policy was wrong.' We'll probably find that out."