Saturday, December 07, 2019

Who Decides U.S. Foreign Policy?


thenation |  President Trump campaigned and was elected on an anti-neocon platform: he promised to reduce direct US involvement in areas where, he believed, America had no vital strategic interest, including in Ukraine. He also promised a new détente (“cooperation”) with Moscow.

And yet, as we have learned from their recent congressional testimony, key members of his own National Security Council did not share his views and indeed were opposed to them. Certainly, this was true of Fiona Hill and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. Both of them seemed prepared for a highly risky confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, though whether retroactively because of Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea or for more general reasons was not entirely clear. 

Similarly, Trump was slow in withdrawing Marie Yovanovitch, a career foreign service officer appointed by President Obama as ambassador to Kiev, who had made clear, despite her official position in Kiev, that she did not share the new American president’s thinking about Ukraine or Russia. In short, the president was surrounded in his own administration, even in the White House, by opponents of his foreign policy and presumably not only in regard to Ukraine.