Putin has given up on the White House — and that’s terrible news for Trump
Nothing was more clear-cut during Donald Trump’s presidential campaign than his fervent desire to have a fresh start in relations with Russia. Time and again through 2016, the Republican candidate effusively asked why America couldn’t “get along” with Vladimir Putin and his Kremlin.
Such simplistic statements, implying that relations between two nuclear powers and rivals are based on a personal friendship between leaders, made American foreign policy mavens wince across the political spectrum. Trump was content to ignore the wide range of issues where Washington and Moscow are at odds – above all, Putin’s war on Ukraine and his saber-rattling in Eastern Europe.
I was one of the wincers at Trump’s shocking naivete about the Russians, not least because I pronounced that we were in Cold War 2.0 with the Kremlin after Putin’s annexation of Crimea in the spring of 2014, whether we wanted to be or not. The Republican nominee’s desire to placate Moscow regardless of Russian conduct did not bode well for the Trump presidency and its foreign policy.
As it turned out, I was an optimist. In the half-year since Donald Trump became our 45th president, his policies toward Putin have proven an obsequious hash. Still unable to admit the consensus of our Intelligence Community that Moscow interfered in our 2016 election – his election – Trump has kowtowed to the Kremlin strongman, including in public, to no effect except making his White House appear ridiculous.
Trump’s obvious desire to appease Moscow by returning their two spy centers in New York and Maryland that were shuttered by President Obama in December in retaliation for Kremlin meddling in our election became an embarrassment among Republicans. Considering that those “dachas” functioned for decades as covert signals intelligence sites – the latter, located on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay, was a particularly important SIGINT base for Moscow — that Trump wanted to hand them back to Russian intelligence raised awkward questions in Washington. Therefore, the idea died, much to Kremlin chagrin.
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