What seems to be the likelihood that US National Security Advisor Michael Flynn is on the verge of losing his job could be the second bloodied nose for hard-charging insiders of the Donald Trump administration.
Flynn and his possible demise was the hot topic on the US Sunday talk-show circuit after reports surfaced that conversations he had with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kisilyak included US sanctions on Russia. Beside the sensitivity of such issues, it seems Flynn lied about it to US Vice President Mike Pence.
According to officials at the US National Security Council the Flynn affair ranks as the second bloodying after what was handed out to White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and Trade Chief Peter Navarro.
They questioned US security policy toward Europe and economic policy toward the EU and Germany, in particular.
That was until their boss, President Donald Trump, said on February 6 at US Central Command HQ in Florida: “We strongly support NATO. We only ask that all of the NATO members make their full and proper financial contributions.” A far cry from the “NATO is obsolete” campaign rhetoric.
Meanwhile, Navarro, after his statements on alleged undervaluation of the euro to German advantage — widely derided as “hogwash” in the financial community — has not been heard from at all.
Donald Trump is know to be sensitive to being embarrassed by his underlings and Navarro’s larger agenda of declaring China a currency manipulator has not even been aired.
What’s played out on the European front with those two Trump insiders could well about to be replayed on a global scale with Flynn.
Adam Schiff, Democratic ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, has called for Flynn’s dismissal over the Russia conversations. Meantime, the lack of any effort from the White House to defend Flynn suggests his days may be numbered.
So, if Flynn goes, who steps up?
Officials at the National Security Council, who declined to be named to discuss the issue, said the most likely Flynn successor would be K T McFarland, the current Deputy National Security Advisor.
She started her career as an aide to Henry Kissinger during the Nixon administration, then served under Ronald Reagan (as deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs) and more recently was a Fox News national security analyst.
McFarland, known as K T, remains close to Kissinger and could be assumed to be his “eyes and ears” in the Trump administration and a conduit for Kissinger’s ideas and policy proposals.
There can be little doubt that a McFarland appointment to the top foreign and security policy job in the White House would have significant global US policy consequences.
Even if Flynn survives in the top job, he would be wounded by the Russian business and the influence of K T — and by extension, Kissinger can only grow.
Harvard historian Niall Ferguson in a November post-election piece on Trump foreign policy options and choices wrote about what some of those Kissinger influences might look like:
China, don’t get into an all-out confrontation on trade or the South China Sea. Seek comprehensive discussion to avoid a 1914 in the Pacific.
On Russia, deal-making comes into play and the biggest deal would be making Ukraine a bridge between NATO and Russia rather than a source of conflict.
Brexit is an opportunity to steer the Europeans back to facing up to their strategic responsibilities.
For peace in Syria look to the model in the former Yugoslavia nearly twenty years ago. Kissinger suggests a “cantonization” of Syria similar to the federalization of Bosnia. Give Assad an off-ramp with a time stamp on it.
Kissinger’s views of foreign affairs could probably do the world right now quite a bit of good, at least according to K T McFarland in some of her commentary as a Fox News analyst.
On China policy, the Kissinger effect would be most pronounced. Kissinger met on China (and Russia) with Trump shortly after the election. He then went to meet with President Xi Jinping in Beijing.
Kissinger is the architect of the one-China policy. His advice on sticking with it appears to have won out over the Navarro/Bannon confrontationist predilections. His further advice on engaging with China, not as an adversary, but as a challenger with whom one can make a deal, could put US-China policy on a sounder footing.
On Russia, Kissinger would favor engaging Putin as an equal as he desires and making a mutually beneficial deal on Eastern Europe rather than continuing the Obama policy slide into a new Cold War. A report in the German-language BILD newspaper summed it up with the headline: “Kissinger tasked to prevent new Cold War.”
On the Middle East, Kissinger is advising Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, who has been tasked with “Mission Impossible” by Trump. The outcome, of course, is uncertain in that part of the world, but under Kissinger’s guidance it’s not expected to produce false Obama-era Arab Springs nor neocon democratization illusions as the basis for peace.