Foreign Policy

Trump Using Pompeo Pick to Leverage Putin

One can acknowledge that Putin is a strong leader while at the same time denouncing his actions.

Harold Hutchison · Apr. 13, 2018

The selection of Mike Pompeo to replace Rex Tillerson as secretary of state is a clear sign that President Donald Trump is taking Russian aggression seriously. Of course, Patriot Post readers will note that Trump has already been hitting Putin’s wallet by expanding oil and gas production, as well as through recent sanctions.

The real issue, though, is that the United States had long been ignoring Russia as a threat. Or, more accurately, trying to appease Moscow. Under Barack Obama’s leadership, we hung Eastern Europe out to dry on missile defense, and, with Hillary Clinton at State, we pursued a “reset” while prematurely halting F-22 production and taking a sucker’s bet on New START as Russia cheated on arms control.

The weakened state of the U.S. military has only encouraged Putin to back Syria’s butcher, Bashar al-Assad. Pompeo, who as an Army cavalry officer would have been in the line of fire had the Cold War gone hot, stated during his confirmation hearings this week that he and President Trump want to rely on diplomacy instead of military force to “reset” the Russian relationship and respond to its aggression. (We needn’t note that a war between two nuclear superpowers would be a bad thing.)

For diplomacy to work, however, Russia has to know we mean business. With the Assad regime apparently responsible for yet another chemical weapons attack on its people (a 2017 attack resulted in a Syrian airfield being blasted by U.S. Tomahawks) and Russia again blocking UN action via a Security Council veto, it’s clear that both are undeterred. Or maybe they’re watching too much Rachel Maddow and think Trump’s actually on their side.

Still, the president’s tough-talking tweets may be getting Putin’s attention. Russian ships in Tartus are bugging out. Meanwhile, as Trump notes that relations with Russia are worse than they were during the Cold War, Moscow is now suggesting that any retaliation against Assad be coordinated.

Remember all the Democrats who chuckled when Obama mocked Mitt Romney for having called Russia our greatest “geopolitical foe”?

One can acknowledge the obvious fact that Putin is a strong leader while at the same time denouncing his actions. At the same time, one can work to improve relations with Russia while taking tough action against its aggression. It’s a lesson that the MSNBC crowd can’t seem to grasp.

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