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The Myth of Trump's 'Soft' Russia Policy

August 23, 2018 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

There is little doubt that the Russian government tried to
influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election to boost
Donald Trump’s prospects. It was hardly surprising that Moscow
would pursue such an objective. During the campaign, Trump
repeatedly advocated
a more conciliatory U.S. policy toward
Russia, raising hopes in the Kremlin that the poisonous bilateral
relationship during the final years of Barack Obama’s
administration could be reversed. Hillary Clinton, on the other
hand,
favored a hardline policy
toward Russia and
openly compared
Russian President Vladimir Putin to Adolf
Hitler.

If Putin and his colleagues believed that with Trump’s election,
their exertions were rewarded, and that the new U.S. president
would adopt a much friendlier approach to Russia, they must be
extremely disappointed right now.

Washington’s policy
toward Russia remains as hardline and uncompromising as
ever.

Manifestations of a softer policy have been confined to
rhetoric. This verbal aspect was on display again at the July
Helsinki summit, where Trump was so effusive in his comments toward
his Russian counterpart that the president’s domestic critics
responded with
vitriolic accusations of treason
. In terms of actual policy,
though, the Trump administration is at least as uncompromising and
confrontational as its predecessor.

On two separate occasions, the president ordered large-scale
expulsions of Russian diplomats stationed in the United States. In
August 2017, the administration
closed three Russian diplomatic facilities
after Russia ousted
several hundred U.S. diplomats in response to Congress imposing new
economic sanctions. The following May, the White House
expelled 60 diplomats
and ordered the Seattle consulate closed
as punishment for the Kremlin’s alleged involvement in two
nerve-agent poisoning incidents in Britain.

Although the president expressed some criticism of the economic
sanctions, he has implemented them in spite of the grumbling.
Moreover, following the nerve agent accusations, the White House
slapped additional sanctions of its own on Moscow. Such actions are
hardly consistent with a soft or appeasement policy toward
Russia.

Trump’s behavior toward Moscow’s Syrian client, Bashar Assad,
also does not suggest excessive respect for Russia’s interests or
wishes. Not only has the White House twice ordered air and missile
strikes on Syrian government facilities for Assad’s alleged use of
chemical weapons, but the United States conducted air-support
operations to protect rebel forces seeking to overthrow the Syrian
government. At least one of those campaigns reportedly killed as
many as
200 Russian military personnel
.

The administration’s continuation of a less-than-friendly
approach is also evident in NATO policy. Trump did not scuttle the
membership invitation to Montenegro, even though Russia expressed
strong objections not only to the <a target=_blank …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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