In a break from the policies and positions advocated by the President-elect, incoming National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (Ret.) delivered a paean Tuesday to traditional American foreign policy, signaling a shift in the new Administration.
In his first major public remarks since being appointed to the role last year, the controversial and occasionally bombastic former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency touted American alliances abroad and the need for American leadership around the world.
“As we examine and potentially re-baseline our relationships around the globe, we will keep in mind the sacrifices and deep commitments that many of our allies have made on behalf of our security and our prosperity,” Flynn said. “Alliances are one of the great tools that we have and the strength of those alliances magnify our own strengths.”
It’s a clear divergence from the publicly stated views of President-elect Donald Trump, who has expressed skepticism about American alliances overseas and has said the U.S. must shift its focus inward. The President-elect has questioned the deployment of U.S. troops to protect allies in South Korea, Japan, Germany, and Saudi Arabia, while threatening to tear up or renegotiate trade, climate, and other international agreements. Trump has also worried Eastern European allies by failing to speak out against Russian aggression in Ukraine.
“Whether we like it or not the world needs us, and in fact, demands it,” Flynn said.
But Flynn echoed a frequent Trump campaign line, outlining that the incoming administration will approach the world through an “overarching policy of peace through strength.”
Flynn, who has made inflammatory remarks about Muslims and was a vocal critic of President Obama’s foreign policy on the campaign trail, was gracious in his praise of incumbent National Security Advisor Susan Rice, who spoke before him at a “Passing the Baton” panel at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
Rice pledged to work closely with Flynn during the remainder of the transition and thereafter as needed. “I intend to make myself available to him, just as my predecessors have for me,” she said.
Rice also touted the Obama administration’s foreign policy aims around the globe, including the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate agreement, both of which have drawn criticism from Trump.
Flynn pledged to continue the reforms of the National Security Council started under the Obama Administration, during which the size of the White House body has shrunk by 15 percent, Rice said. He added that under his leadership the NSC would “continue to serve as the fulcrum of national security and national security policy.”