Wilkerson: Putin is a Master Chess Player, Trump Can’t Even See The Board
In 2015, I interviewed Col. (rtd.) Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Sec. of State Colin Powell, for Salon. Wilkerson, a Republican, declared that the GOP has “scores of racists.” Turns out that comment was prescient. Now we have a president who has white supremacist advisors and refused to condemn neo-Nazis who marched in the streets of Charlottesville, N.C.
However, even though he was a career soldier, Wilkerson is a vocal critic of America’s foreign adventures and the military-industrial complex. Wilkerson says the foreign wars are bankrupting the nation and the current military structure is unsustainable. Here are his thoughts on the current occupant of the White House.
Why do you think President Donald Trump got elected? Was it voter apathy, Russian hacking, or the fact that Hillary was an unpopular candidate? Or all three?
(It was) the U.S. electoral college system, an anachronism par excellence.
Three years ago, you said the Republican party was full of racists. That statement was more accurate that I knew. What do you think of the emergence of the so-called alt-right and its ties to Trump and the GOP? And why doesn’t he openly condemn them?
Trump needs those on the extreme right, so he cannot openly condemn them. In fact, increasingly he has firmly only them. They constitute the very core of his base.
When I talked to you three years ago, you picked Jeb Bush to win the GOP nomination. Were you surprised at Trump’s victory?
Yes, I was. I knew that Hillary could not win — she is contaminated. But I did not think Trump would get the nomination. When he did, I got very, very worried because I still did not think Hillary could win. That meant Trump would win by default. He did.
What do you think of his performance so far?
On one or two major policy issues, he has been right in my view. For example, we do need to deal with immigration — just not the way he wants to. Likewise, we do need to deal with huge trade imbalances. Just not with trade wars. So, even where I might agree with his strategic objectives, I do not agree with his method of achieving them. More importantly, I disagree most powerfully with the manner in which he is conducting foreign, security, and domestic policy. He is losing allies, encouraging our enemies, and hastening the day of reckoning with regard to our perilous financial situation. He seems to be purely transactional, with no sense whatsoever of the bigger picture.
You must know people in national security and intelligence, what are they saying about Trump and his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin?
Putin is a master chess player; Trump cannot even see the board. Whether this situation is because Trump is highly leveraged to Russian oligarchs or because he just doesn’t know how to be strategic, doesn’t really matter a great deal. At the end of the day, Putin is beating him at every juncture.
What do you think about Trump’s animosity towards NATO? Does it make sense?
NATO is an anachronism, kept alive only by the U.S. and Western European leaders’ inability to kill it and move on to a better transatlantic relationship. It also greatly incentivizes Moscow and its allies to sustain their military-industrial complexes and thus keep military spending at historic highs.
Several other Republicans, such as Sen. Rand Paul, have got behind Trump on his views on NATO and his affinity to Russia. What is your opinion about this?
Moscow and Washington should be working together, but the lies and evasions that keep us apart mean more to their malefactors than to the more sensible policy people.
How do you see the Trump presidency ending? Will he get impeached, resign or survive to run again in 2020?
My guess is that he will, like Richard Nixon, resign from office.