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US Policy Remains Tough on Russia Despite Trump's Rhetoric

US Policy Remains Tough on Russia Despite Trump's Rhetoric
U.S. President Donald Trump talks about his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, during a meeting with House Republicans in the Cabinet Room of the White House on July 17, 2018, in Washington, D.C. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

By Thursday, 19 July 2018 11:12 AM Current | Bio | Archive

In the aftermath of Monday’s meeting between President Trump and Vladimir Putin, the relationship between the U.S. and Russia remains murky. The president has received backlash over his apparently friendly rhetoric toward Putin, and comments which intimated that it was America’s fault that tensions exist between the two nations. The inconsistency between Trump’s “America First” rallying cry and his rapport with Putin raises questions about the president’s intentions going forward.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle criticized Trump for being too soft on the historically deceptive Russian president. Trump accepted Putin’s denial of any Russian meddling in the 2016 election and blamed the Mueller probe and other “foolish” policies for ruining relations with Russia. Trump said, “all I can do is ask the question” about Russian meddling and preceded to take Putin’s response at face value. He also did not call for the extradition of the 12 Russian spies recently indicted by Robert Mueller. Democrats called Trump’s behavior “treasonous.”

Republicans traditionally take a tough stance on foreign relations, supporting diplomacy only as far as it puts the United States first. Considering Trump’s hardline rhetoric during his campaign, it’s a bit strange that he would be so soft on Putin. Congressional Republicans were dissatisfied with their president’s performance. House Speaker Paul Ryan stated, “There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues to undermine democracy” and said that Trump “must appreciate that Russia is not our ally.”

Trump is used to criticism from Democrats, and from a handful of his own party, but such widespread disapproval as he has received following his meeting with Putin has been few and far between. Perhaps feeling the heat from fellow Republicans and his own aides, yesterday the president backtracked on his remarks. Trump claimed that he misspoke when he said that he saw no reason Russia would have meddled, alleging that he meant to say he saw no reason it “wouldn’t” have interfered.

Though recently overshadowed by other issues, Russia remains a regional agitator and concern for the U.S. The West condemned Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and continues to oppose Russian separatists fighting in Eastern Ukraine. Trump acknowledged that he and Putin disagree on the Iran nuclear deal; the U.S. withdrew, while Russia still supports the agreement. The British government believes Russian intelligence agents poisoned a former Russian spy and his daughter in England in March. In Syria, Russia supports the Assad regime, while the U.S. supports the rebel faction.

Despite Trump’s friendliness with Putin, the U.S. military continues to be wary of Russia, especially with regard to Syria. U.S. and Russian generals maintain regular communications to make sure that their respective forces in Syria don’t cross paths. However, the Russian military has not been entirely up front with Americans in the region. The two sides established a hotline to prevent disasters in the air over Syria, after a Russian fighter jet flew dangerously close to American war planes last December. However, Russian planes have frequently broken the agreement. After the recent U.S. air strikes, Russia said that its forces were on the verge of fighting American troops. Additionally, there was an attack by Russian mercenaries on American troops in February. The U.S. military has good reason to be cautious of Russian intent.

Some speculate as to how Trump’s meeting with Putin may affect U.S. relations with China.

Russia and China are often discussed together in terms of their strained relationship with the U.S., but the two countries create different kinds of issues. While Russia is more of a military threat, China is a stressor on the economic side. Current tension with China centers on the proposed $200 billion in import tariffs on Chinese goods. However, China was no doubt watching Trump’s interaction with Putin. China’s geopolitical ambitions in the South China Sea and Taiwan are similar to Russia’s in Crimea and Ukraine, and according to some close to the president, Trump would like to be able to drive a wedge between Russia and China which would serve to be an effective check on both of our geopolitical adversaries. However, Trump’s press conference with Putin did not achieve that desired result.

Vladimir Putin is fully committed to weakening American interest and Trump’s press conference made the president look unprepared and ill-informed on a world stage. However, Trump has often used unusual approaches to achieve results that have ultimately benefited the United States and a botched press conference is not nearly as unfortunate as the eight years of botched military policy which was seen under President Obama.

Critics may be blowing out of proportion the effect that Trump’s meeting with Putin will have on the overall U.S.-Russia dynamic.

However, it will be interesting to see how Trump’s actions translate into future foreign policy. If Russia has any military missteps, will Trump hesitate to bring down the hammer on Putin? I very much doubt it. President Trump has his faults, but he listens to his military advisors when it comes to major policy issues regarding Russia and though Trumps rhetoric is soft on Putin, our military is consistently finding ways to weaken Russian influence all over the world. Teddy Roosevelt once said “speak soft but carry a big stick” and as long as American military actions continue to weaken Russian influence, then Trumps words can be overlooked.

Christopher Reid is an attorney out of Birmingham who owns his own general practice law firm, which handles Business, Family, and Probate Law and high-end litigation throughout the state of Alabama. Reid has held various policy positions, including working for the Alabama Policy Institute and the Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C., where he also worked for House Republican Whip Roy Blunt. In law school, he clerked for the Alabama Attorney General Office, and, after graduation, he became Health and Judiciary Policy Analyst for Alabama’s governor. His charitable work includes serving on the board of Sav-A-Life. Chris is a frequent co-host on The Scott Beason Show in Birmingham, writes political and legal commentary for publications including The Hill, The Washington Examiner, and has been quoted in The New Yorker. He regularly provides on-air expertise and political commentary for TV news shows on Fox, NBC, and Newsmax with JD Hayworth. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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In the aftermath of Monday’s meeting between President Trump and Vladimir Putin, the relationship between the U.S. and Russia remains murky.
trump, putin, helsinki
Thursday, 19 July 2018 11:12 AM
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