April 4, 2018
Speaking at an Atlantic Council event celebrating the U.S.-Baltic partnership, outgoing national security adviser H.R. McMaster denounced Vladimir Putin over what he called Russia’s efforts to “undermine our open societies and the foundations of international peace and stability.“
Between the lines: McMaster’s was some of the most blistering rhetoric toward Putin thus far from the Trump administration, and included an acknowledgement that the West has “failed to impose sufficient costs” on the Kremlin. It came in his last speech before being replaced by John Bolton.
“For too long, some nations have looked the other way in the face of these threats. Russia brazenly, and implausibly denies its actions, and we have failed to impose sufficient costs. The Kremlin’s confidence is growing, as its agents conduct their sustained campaigns to undermine our confidence in ourselves and in one another.”
“Mr. Putin may believe that he is winning in this new form of warfare. He may believe that his aggressive actions in Salisbury, in cyberspace, in the air and on the high seas can undermine our confidence, our institutions and our values. Perhaps he believes that our free nations are weak and will not respond to his provocations. He is wrong.”
“We might all help Mr Putin understand his grave error. We might show him the beaches of Normandy, where lingering craters and bullet holes demonstrate the West’s will to sacrifice to preserve our freedom. We might bring him to our concert halls and theaters where the music and art of our people reveal our freedom to create, imagine, and to dream.”
Worth noting: McMaster made no criticism of President Trump during his speech. He praised the recent sanctions against Russia and the expulsions of Russian diplomats, and cited some of Trump’s speeches as examples of speaking the truth about authoritarianism.