Regardless of the veracity of the claims (which originated from outside the US intelligence community), I think it’s fair to say that we’ll open the Trump administration with an unprecedented level of hostility between the President and the IC. One way to read this is deep concern on the part of the IC on just how compromised Trump may be; discussion of the leaks, and of Russian hacking efforts, works to reduce his policy latitude and minimize the degree of Russian influence. Another way to read it is deep concern over the degree of his outreach to Russia; the leaks and the hacking work to prevent Trump from carrying out policies that he would otherwise prefer, but that the IC loathes.
There’s clearly a middle ground. Trump sees the prospect for friendly relations with Russia because he’s done business with Russians before, because he has some personal admiration for Putin’s governance style, and because he shares some ideological priors with the Putin government. Those factors serve both as the foundation for Russian support during the election, and as the basis for potentially sketchy relations between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
An interpretation that strains credulity is the one we find on the pro-Russia right and the pro-Russia left; that the IC has manufactured these claims from whole cloth in order to discredit Trump and start a NEW COLD WAR. In addition to running contrary to publicly available, non-IC evidence, this would go well beyond any precedent in the history of the US IC (and yes, this includes WMD, Operation Northwoods, COINTELPRO, etc.) as well as against what we know about current divisions in the US IC over the prospects of the Trump administration. While not many in the IC see strong relations with Russia as a positive, there are big factions that see Flynn’s more kinetic approach to Islamic terrorism as a big plus.
I would also add that for the Department of Defense and the US defense industry, Russia is almost completely irrelevant to the NEW COLD WAR. Although Moscow has clearly displayed its effectiveness at non-military operations, and showed up more effectively than many (including myself) expected in Syria, Russia is not the major driver for defense innovation and defense expenditure. If you want a bigger, more expensive US military, you talk China, and Trump has already demonstrated that he’s quite capable of driving tensions with Beijing.
Despite the snow and frigid temperatures, the NYC LGM Meetup came off fabulously. Fool’s Gold was an outstanding venue. See some photos here. More such things should be held in the future; whenever we can expect two or more front pagers to be together in a metro area that has a significant number of LGM readers…
In the mid-1930s, the Nazi government began to plan in detail for the reconstruction of German naval power. The destruction of the German High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow remained central to the mythology of German betrayal and defeat in World War I; rebuilding the fleet would be a grand achievement worthy of the Nazis, but also in accord with long-term German foreign policy goals.
I’m on the mailing list for a few defense-oriented DC think tanks, mostly so I can stay abreast of what people are working on. Occasionally, though, I have the chance to spend some time in DC, and have the good luck to be able to attend a roll out. Three quarters of the point of attendance is to see folks and make connections, something that’s doubly important when you only make it to DC three or four times a year. The other quarter point is to find good material for writing. Such was the CNAS “Future Foundry” event on the future of the US defense industry:
Two weeks ago, the Center for New American Security released a new report on the future of U.S. defense innovation. Titled Future Foundry, the report introduces the concept of “optionality,” an interpretation of the Third Offset; the idea that the United States can leverage technological advantage to offset the rise of China and the military re-emergence of Russia.
I can also, for those who have maintained their strong mooch instincts, that CNAS lays out a lovely breakfast buffet.
Last month’s DC Meetup was so fabulously successful that we’re planning to do it again. Several front-pagers will be gathering in Manhattan on Saturday, January 7. We have tentatively scheduled the meetup for 3pm at Fool’s Gold (145 E. Houston Street). We’re pretty solid on the time, but may adjust the location before Saturday; we’ll keep you informed. Facebook event page here; RSVPs appreciated, but not necessary.