Will New National Security Adviser McMaster Clash with Donald Trump on Russia?

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:H.R._McMaster_ARCIC_2014.jpgLt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, appointed by Trump on Monday, is known for being strongly driven by integrity—a quality that critics felt Mike Flynn lacked , following a paid trip to Russia where he dined next to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the scandal involving conversations with Russia’s ambassador, which ultimately cost Flynn his job. How to approach Russia is likely to be one of the crucial areas where McMaster and Flynn differ….

McMaster has expressed concern about Russia’s advancements in constructing battle drones and its ability to deploy tanks and other vehicles in a close range fight. Both are areas where the U.S. needs to catch up, he says, as its long-range instruments are becoming a less effective deterrent.

Speaking at a Potomac Foundation event in May 2016, McMasters pointed to “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea” in 2014 as the end of the post-Cold War “holiday from history” that the West enjoyed. During the event he claimed that “we have awakened to this threat from Russia” that is aimed “not at defensive objective but at offensive objectives to collapse the post-WWII, certainly the post-Cold War security, economic and political order and replace that order with something that is more sympathetic to Russian interests….”

A month later, McMaster gave a similar speech at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia that warned of the dangers of “revisionist powers,” such as Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. He also commented on the political effect that the war in Syria had in strengthening “Russia’s subversive efforts in Europe” while straining America’s European allies allies, already under pressure from the increased inflow of migrants.

At the end of the speech, McMaster concluded that “allies are pretty darn important” to keeping Russia, China and other revisionist powers at bay. According to Jorge Benitez, NATO analyst at the Atlantic Council, McMaster’s early career was in the 2nd Cavalry Regiment stationed in Germany, which is one of only two remaining U.S. Army brigades combat teams permanently stationed in Europe, he says.

“McMaster has a positive view of NATO and considers allies important for U.S. national security,” Benitez says. “McMaster also believes that the forward positioning of US troops in Europe and Asia not only keep regional peace, but deter conflicts that would be directly damaging to U.S. national security. [He] is a general who sees the value of NATO as regional game changer that promotes our interests against a near competitor that lacks any comparable international support….”

McMaster’s ability to defy convention, however, is the key asset that could appeal to Trump’s desire to be viewed as a president with original and inventive solutions.

“For important matters, McMaster has been willing to recognize the weakness of the traditional rulebook and instead has rewritten the book to ask tougher questions and provide more creative answers,” Benitez says. “If he is listened to and supported by President Trump, McMaster is one of the few leaders who can make a decisively positive impact on this administration and provide Trump with success in foreign policy.”

Related Experts: Jorge Benitez

Image: National Security Advisor to President Trump, General H. R. McMaster, 2014 (photo: US Army)