President Donald Trump campaigned and was elected on a platform of improved relations with Russia. Yet, three years after his election, no real improvement has materialized and, if anything, they have deteriorated. Why?
One reason is that those who seek to repair the damage caused by a thirty-year deterioration in trust and cooperation face an uphill battle against what recently has been given the colloquial name, “the Blob.” The term, coined by Obama White House staffer Ben Rhodes, refers to the foreign-policy establishment, mostly located in Washington, DC and constantly focused on the putative decline of American influence abroad. It has been distinguished by its unwillingness, or inability, to reconsider or reprioritize national interests that were first defined after World War II, and then continued, by and large, on auto-pilot after the end of the Cold War. Now Trump is taking a wrecking ball to this world order. But a self-anointed mandarin class or, if you prefer, deep state, that has largely operated unmolested until the advent of Trump now appears to believe that it can foil, or even subvert, the policies of a president it deems unfit for office, a development that should worry Democrats and Republicans alike.
Another reason is that Trump himself has been largely indifferent to who assumes positions in his administration, calculating that by sheer force of will he, and he alone, can be the decider. In September, Trump referred to his search for a fresh national security adviser in the following terms: “It's great because it’s a lot of fun to work with Donald Trump, and it’s very easy, actually, to work with me. You know why it’s easy? Because I make all the decisions. They don't have to work.” This insouciant approach has now boomeranged on Trump.