White House Advisors on Russia: Who Are These People?

(Strategic Culture Foundation) – Matt Margolis и Mark Noonan are the authors of US bestseller 150 Reasons Why Barack Obama Is the Worst President in History.According to them, «the current occupant of the Oval Office is more incompetent, ill-intentioned and dangerous to America’s long-term interests than even the peanut farmer from Georgia».

Republican Senator John McCain made no bones about it putting it straight,«Obama is a fool, not knave».

«President Obama was the most liberal and most incompetent president in my lifetime ever since Jimmy Carter», noted Piyush «Bobby» Jindal, current Governor of Louisiana.

The Wall Street Journal published a piece called A Small President on the World Stage. It says, «A scorching assessment of the president as foreign-policy actor came from a former senior U.S. diplomat, a low-key and sophisticated man who spent the week at many U.N.-related functions. «World leaders are very negative about Obama», he said. They are «disappointed, feeling he’s not really in charge… The Western Europeans don’t pay that much attention to him anymore».

 Peter Wehner is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Previously he worked in the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, in the last of which he served as Deputy Assistant to the President. According to him, Barack Obama «is, in fact, unusually dogmatic, blind to counter-evidence, and mostly unable to adjust his views to the way things are. So when his worldview collides with reality, he often can’t adjust. He instead creates his own make believe world».

The number of disgruntled Americans is growing, politicians and common people, scholars and journalists, Democrats and Republicans, Conservatives and Liberals, whites and blacks. Half a year ago theWashington Times wrote about Obama’s incompetence, «So the government of the United States has put its foreign policy in the steady hands of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the KGB». Getting the readers eyebrows raised, the newspaper went on, «That runs the danger of putting other countries in charge of our foreign policy, as we now have done».

It all goes to show the United States lacks competent experts on Russia and the countries of post-Soviet space… As Russia has been getting more in focus of US foreign policy deliberations recently, the fact has come to the fore. With the Soviet Union vanished, the US rushed to reorient the training of personnel on the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific. As a result, the Russia policy hit the snag lacking experts to do the job. It becomes clear if you try to typecast those who influence the policy in the capacity of experts and advisors:

1) American immigrants who came from the USSR a long time ago. They were «caught unawares by the Soviet Union’s collapse» being sure «it would remain intact as it was in 1978» as long as they lived. Leon Aron left in 1978. Today he is the director of Russian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, where he also produces Russia Outlook, a quarterly publication devoted to Russia’s post-Soviet transition. Ariel Cohen left the Soviet Union in the middle 1980s for Israel. He then moved to the United States. Now he is a Senior Research Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Policy in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at the Heritage Foundation.

2) Retired state employees with Russian experience of the 1990s.

 A friend of Bill Clinton who belonged to the Skull & Bones Society in student years, Strobe Talbott is an American foreign policy analyst associated with Yale University and the Brookings Institute, a former journalist associated with Time magazine and diplomat who served as the Deputy Secretary of State from 1994 to 2001 responsible for the relations with the USSR. Steven Pifer, is a prominent diplomat holding important positions as government employee during the President Clinton’s tenure. Robert Gates left government service in 1993 with rich experience as an operative and high standing official within the structure of the Central Intelligence Agency. He has been many times rebuked for failure to predict the collapse of the USSR.

3) Scholars with academic experience with no experience of being involved in practical policy making. Born in London, Angela Stent is a foreign policy expert specializing in U.S. and European relations with Russia and Russian foreign policy. She is Professor of Government at Georgetown University and director of its Center for Eurasian, Russian, and East European Studies. She is also a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. She has served in the Office of Policy Planning in the US State Department and as National Intelligence Officer for Russia and Eurasia. Michael McFaul is the former United States Ambassador to the Russian Federation. He resigned in February 2014. Prior to his nomination to the ambassadorial position, McFaul worked for the US National Security Council as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of Russian and Eurasian Affairs. After his tenure as ambassador in Moscow, McFaul returned to Stanford University as a Professor of political science. He used Internet to inform about his resignation from the position of Ambassador on February 4, 2014. According to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he made incompetent comments during a lecture at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow which «went far beyond the boundaries of diplomatic etiquette and amounted to a deliberate distortion of several aspects of the Russian-American dialogue».

4) Female employees of US National Security Council without serious authority. Celeste A. Wall Ander is a researcher with a focus on Russia. She is currently Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russia and Eurasia on the National Security Council. According to the Department of Defense, she is an expert on Russian and Eurasian foreign and security policy and served from May 2009 – July 2012 as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia/Ukraine/Eurasia at the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. Wallander was an adviser to Barack Obama during the 2008 Democratic primary campaign. Alice Wells is Senior Director for Russia and Eurasia at the National Security Council. Until March 2012, Ms. Wells served as Executive Assistant to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Prior to this role, she was Chief of Staff for Under Secretary of State William J. Burns from 2009 to 2011.

5) White House and Congress employees without proper training in information processing and analysis. Denis McDonough is an old friend and close advisor to President Obama with Latin American experience. After President Obama’s election he joined the administration as the National Security Council’s head of Strategic Communication. He also served as National Security Council’s Chief of Staff. On October 22, 2010, President Barack Obama announced that McDonough would be replacing Thomas Donilon as Deputy National Security Advisor. On January 25, 2013, Obama appointed Denis McDonough as his Chief of Staff. Susan Rice was a senior fellow in Foreign Policy at Brookings from 2002 to 2009. At Brookings, she focused on U.S. foreign policy, weak and failing states, the implications of global poverty, and transnational threats to security.

In January 2009, the U.S. Senate confirmed her nomination by U.S. President Barack Obama as permanent representative to the United Nations. Before her time at Brookings, Rice served on the staff of the National Security Council and as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs during President Bill Clinton’s second term. According to media, Susan Rice is a personal friend of the President reported to have great influence on decision making process. (According to the Washington Post, she is the one responsible for convincing President Obama to bomb Libya no matter the Secretary of Defense recommended otherwise. The US participation in the operation led to the assassination of US Ambassador in that country).

Talking about the State Department, it’s first of all Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland with a reputation of not being mindful of what she is saying. As usual, Washington sends her instead of John Kerry to forward edges of battle areas in emergencies when failure is looming. She’s got her own team. Paul Jones is Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. He has served in a variety of challenging assignments in Europe and Asia. As U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia, 2010-2013, he led significant growth in the U.S.-Malaysian relationship. David Kostelancik, Director, Office of Russian Affairs, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. US journalists launch barbs on his account saying «his residence in Virginia is located in a convenient 4-mile distance from Langley – much closer than to State Department».

William Joseph Burns is the current Deputy Secretary of State. He appears to be the only one who knows Russia well. Mr. Burns holds the highest rank in the Foreign Service, Career Ambassador, and became Deputy Secretary of State in July 2011. He is only the second serving career diplomat in history to become Deputy Secretary. Ambassador Burns served from 2008 until 2011 as Under Secretary for Political Affairs. He was Ambassador to the Russian Federation from 2005 until 2008. In 1981 Burns was awarded a D.Phil. degree in International Relations from Oxford University. He is the recipient of three honorary doctoral degrees. He has been decorated many times including has two Meritorious Service Medals. The Deputy State Secretary has served under Republican as well as Democratic administrations. But one man no man. As they say «not to know is bad, not to wish to know is worse». Or as George Orwell noted «political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind».

Source: Strategic Culture Foundation  |  Author: Nikolai Malishevski

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