Friday, December 2, 2016
General ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis and Ukraine
In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s presidential election victory and his perplexing uncritical support for Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin, American voters will be closely watching his every foreign policy step especially the one that pertains to Russia, Ukraine, the former captive nations and NATO.
The other day, President-elect Trump revealed his choice for Secretary of Defense – former four-star General James “Mad Dog” Mattis of the US Marine Corps. The Secretary of Defense and the Department that he heads are vital not only to the country’s defense but also the free world’s security. Traditionally, it has kept vigil over destabilizing developments in the Kremlin and publically or quietly supported Ukraine and the other former captive nations.
Mattis has earned a laudatory reputation as a tough Marine Corps officer, a battlefield hero and a military scholar. Many have equated him to General George Patton, who liberated Europe from Nazi Germany.
So what are his views about Russia and Ukraine? I checked the record today and found the following positive quotes about him or by him:
From The New York Times
In some important policy areas, General Mattis differs from Mr. Trump, who has been filling the top ranks of his national security team with hard-liners. General Mattis believes, for instance, that Mr. Trump’s conciliatory statements toward Russia are ill informed. General Mattis views with alarm Moscow’s expansionist or bellicose policies in Syria, Ukraine and the Baltics. And he has told the president-elect that torture does not work.
From the Daily Wire.com
Regarding Russia, Mattis asserted that Russia’s taking of Crimea and backing separatists in Ukraine was “much more severe, more serious” than Washington and the European Union treated it.
From the Vox.com
Mattis sees Putin very differently than the new president does,
Mattis is also a Russia hawk of sorts — a position that would potentially leave him at odds with the president-elect.
During the campaign, Trump repeatedly praised Russian strongman Vladimir Putin as a strong leader and took positions — including endorsing Moscow’s support for Assad in Syria and refusing to commit to defending NATO allies against a possible future Russian invasion — that are closely in line with the Russian leader’s long-held strategic goals. Putin, Trump said last December, is “highly respected within his own country and beyond.”
Mattis, echoing the assessments of most of the Pentagon’s top brass, has a sharply different assessment of Putin, whom he sees as a clear threat to both the US and many of Washington’s closest European allies.
According to an article by the US Naval Institute, Mattis used a speech to a conservative think tank last May to warn that Russia’s annexation of Crimea and continued meddling in eastern Ukraine was a “severe” and “serious” threat that was being underestimated by the Obama administration.
From Hotair. com
Here’s Mattis on Russia and the wider Pax Americana in May of last year:
Speaking in Washington, D.C., retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis said, “the perception is we’re pulling back” on America’s commitment to its allies and partners, leaving them adrift in a changing world. “We have strategic atrophy.”
He said Russia’s military moves against its neighbors—taking Crimea and backing separatists in Ukraine is “much more severe, more serious” than Washington and the European Union are treating it…
He said since World War II the United States helped create a world order—diplomatically [United Nations] , economically [World Bank and International Monetary Fund], culturally and militarily.
By renewing that combination of inspiration and intimidation, “I have no doubt we can turn this around.”
The Hoover Institute
General Mattis reviewed the military situation on the ground in Crimea, east Ukraine, and the periphery of NATO states. He described Putin’s hybrid warfare, which is not new but has been perfected by Russian military planners. Mattis emphasized the importance of the propaganda component of Russia’s hybrid war, which Russia is clearly winning over the West. Mattis also focused on the costs of the Ukrainian war on Russian forces, which have had to be drawn from all corners of Russian, leaving potential trouble spots, such as on the southern border, uncovered.
Mattis noted that Russia at first hoped that it could occupy East Ukraine without loss of life as it did in Crimea but was surprised by the Ukrainian forces fighting back with vigor. The Russian military had to increase its logistic and military support for its rebel forces and then, in August, had to use regular troops to save the encircled Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics” from defeat.
With regular Russian forces involved, Ukrainian forces have been outmatched, notably by deadly artillery weapons (such as dual-purpose missiles, banned by the United States) that explode multiple warheads overhead. So far, Russia has been able to fight a tank war owing to the lack of antitank weaponry on the Ukrainian side. Mattis elaborated the military equipment Ukraine needs to defend itself, most of which is available from various NATO states and from other countries. The U.S. supplying lethal defensive weapons would represent a major breakthrough, although Europe is now less inclined to follow US leadership.
Mattis estimated Russia’s nonmilitary to military effort in fighting the Ukraine war at approximately four to one, highlighting the importance of nonmilitary instruments, such as propaganda, in support of the military effort. Ukraine is stretched to its limits with no operational reserves, and its front-line units are depleted.
Mattis noted a nuclear context to this war, which he emphasized is a war. He believes that Putin desires “anarchy protection” (which others have called frozen conflicts) on its borders. NATO expansion did not persuasively demonstrate to Russia the value of having democratic neighbors under the rule of law. In fact, Russia under Putin likely considers neighboring rule-of-law countries a threat to Russia’s nondemocratic, anti-rule-of-law governance.
Change of Heart?
Does this mean that the new President has changed his personal views about Russia, Putin and Ukraine? Trump began appointing or considering men and women for administration and cabinet posts that on the surface satisfy some people while upsetting others. National security adviser Michael T. Flynn seems to regard Putin in the same light as does Trump. Mitt Romney, a possible secretary of state choice, and Mike Pompeo, the next CIA director, believe Putin is a tyrant and global threat. And now there’s General Mattis.
The difference of views about Russia, Putin and Ukraine between Trump and Romney, Pompeo and Mattis are certainly wide, actually they’re diametrically opposed. It would seem that the divergence is insurmountable.
Imagine a Cabinet meeting in the foreseeable future about a significant escalation of Russia’s war with Ukraine that threatens Poland. Don’t discount such a possibility because no one also believed that Putin would invade Crimea and eastern Ukraine in the first half of 2014.
President Trump expresses a wait and see attitude because he trusts his buddy Putin while the three or more anti-Russian hawks want to send in US troops to halt Moscow’s assault.
Whose point of view prevails? Based on Trump’s intolerable stubbornness, the hawks sadly will toe the line with their boss or else he’ll fire them.