With the departure of the Trump’s national security adviser, political crisis in the US has only depended and is likely to exacerbate into a full-fledged struggle for power and control between Trump and what some call ‘deep-state.’ While Donald Trump is an elected president of the United States of America, he doesn’t seem to be able to exercise power in actual terms. This is evident from the way a so-called ‘pro-Russian’ adviser has been forced to resign. Following this resignation an intense debate has emerged in the US, leading a considerable number of people, 48 per cent according to a recent poll, reject the way Trump has performed in the first month of his presidency. Already Trump has retracted on Crimea. Accordingly, he is in no hurry to engage Russia in Syria nor does he consider NATO to be “obsolete.” In the same vain, his U-turn towards China is something that nobody could foresee during his election campaign. As of now, a great deal of Trump’s election rhetoric is dead and lies buried deep inside the rubric of deep structures of power, marking the very first instance of its sort when an American president has found himself deeply at odds with the system. And, there is no certainty that he can or may overcome this tussle and emerge as the American ‘knight in a shining armour.’
While this may or may not happen, a lot of questions about Trump’s ability to steer the course of American foreign and domestic policies have emerged following Flynn’s resignation and with it the so-called crisis of legitimacy has deepened, leaving minimum to no space for Trump to freely determine the course of American policy making.
The crisis, or the power struggle, has depend to an extent where an American elected president has been forced to publicly blame American intelligence agencies for feeding media with information against him and claimed that today`s America was `just like Russia`.
The Russophobia campaign is, indeed, being fed to the American public and the declining support for Trump is a direct result of this spread of false information than an outcome of an actual ‘bad performance.’
The media leaks have already led to Michael Flynn`s resignation. The Washington Post has recently reported that Flynn had “discussed sanctions” with a Russian official during the transition period, although Flynn had assured Vice President Mike Pence that this did not happen.
In turn, The New York Times noted on February 14, 2017, that other officials of the Trump administration and his election campaign have had contacts with Russian intelligence agents as well.
Flynn`s departure just three weeks after Trump`s inauguration as president has allowed the media to claim that the White House was in total disarray.
The media`s propagandist claims has certainly irked Trump who went to his favourite medium of communication Twitter to fire off a series of tweets, attacking the media as well as the intelligence agencies. In at least two tweets, Trump named the agencies the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and National Security Agency (NSA) that he said were `running a campaign against him`.
`The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by `intelligence` like candy. ‘Very un-American’, he tweeted. `Information is being illegally given to the failing New York Times and Washington Post by the intelligence community.
The crisis that has thus ensued and which is being fanned out by the mainstream US media is asking for changes in the policies, particularly towards Russia about Crimea and co-operation in Syria, that Trump had advocated during his election campaign.
We have already seen that some of it has already changed. What this retraction implies, in political terms, is that the establishment has also shown that it has the ability and the grit to undermine Trump if he were to deviate from their script—a script that is premised on the existence of an enemy (Russia) and which the establishment and the deep-state can use to protect, enhance and materialize its own political and economic interests in both domestic and global political and economic arenas.
The “Russophobia” based containment of Donald Trump is, however, not going to remain exclusive to the US’ domestic political circles. On the contrary, it is likely, and already has, to expand into international political arena and is going to define and shape Trump’s relations with the US’ European allies, who in turn are neither comfortable with Trump’s foreign policy nor are going to allow him to retract the US-NATO security system (read: NATO is no longer “obsolete”).
Interestingly enough, this ‘trans-Atlantic Russophobia’ is being transformed into a new Cold War. The NATO defence ministers have been recently been discusing the presence of their fleets in the Black Sea in a closed summit in Bruselrs. Clearly, the western bloc on the whole loathes Trump, creating an unprecedented disequilibrium within the Western alliance wherein Trump leads the alliance, but the partners do not know how far he is to be taken seriously due to his inability to control things (read: establishment’s course of action is more appealing to the NATO allies for its anti-Russia, pro-sanctions commitments).
The Trump administration has lost, by losing Flynn, its authority and the ability to guide the American public to its vision. On the contrary, the media-establishment nexus has hijacked Donal Trump’s own vision, forcing him to forget his election rhetoric promises and come out in the open to fight for his political survival through social media.
Just as Trump’s confrontation with the American establishment is causing unease in the domestic and European political arena, Trump’s fight with the establishment is being equally fought in both domestic and European arenas. Whereas Trump has resorted to twitter to fight back a sustained media campaign, in the European arena he has hit back by re-casting doubts over the US’ commitment to NATO.
That is to say, while he no doubt has willy-nilly accepted NATO as the “bedrock” of American security, Mattis’ remarks at NATO defence ministers’ meeting show that the crisis is not yet over and that it will remain unsettled unless the dust of the tussle between Trump and American establishment remains in the air—something that may not happen overnight—and unless the all-powerful American establishment succeeds in modifying Trump into a typical Neo-Con hawk.
Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.