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Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.
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Caricature by DonkeyHotey flic.kr/p/Ct4G4K https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

As we speak, President Trump is beginning his summit with Russian despot Vladimir Putin in Finland.

The smart thing to do here, given the perceptions about Trump and Russia, would be to stay quiet on Twitter, make some key demands of Putin, and head home with your head held high. The “stay quiet” part of that is especially important.

Trump’s administration has, in reality, been extremely tough on Russia. Sanctions continue to pile up, we’ve directly engaged Russian forces in Syria, and we are arming the Ukrainians to fight Putin, something the former President refused to do. He’s pushing NATO to up defense spending to counter Russian aggression while criticizing Germany’s pipeline with Putin that shovels tens of billions of dollars into his pockets. We’ve also pulled out of the Iran deal, much to the detriment of Russia’s influence.

Yet, the President’s language often undermines those realities when he speaks of Russia. This leads to fair criticisms of his tact toward them.

Trump stepped in it again today with this tweet…

I get that this is Trump. He speaks in extremely binary language. If he wants to criticize Obama, he’s going to do so in such a way that places all the blame on one side. He sees these binary notions as politically advantageous. This is especially true when he criticizes the Mueller investigation, which I agree is rife with issues.

At the same time, I can’t just brush this off. It’s dumb, it’s harmful, and it undermines the real progress we’ve made in standing up to Russia when you look at actual policy actions we’ve taken.

The major issue here is saying that our bad relationship with Russia is purely a result of “U.S. foolishness and stupidity.”

While the U.S. did make some large blunders under Obama in regards to Russia, the idea that Russia shares no blame in our deteriorating relationship is asinine. Russia invaded Ukraine, not us. The Russians decided to play cowboy in Syria, helping to prolong an already bloody civil war. It’s the Russians who have committed multiple cyber attacks against Americans and attempted to sow discord from multiple sides via misinformation campaigns.

Even if you want to dismiss the idea that Russia helped Trump in the election (no doubt a complicated issue with multiple questions of motivation, depth, and degree), to not blame Russia for much of our mangled relationship is the antithesis of Trump’s commitment to “America First.” When liberals and #nevertrumpers spend the rest of the day asking what team Trump actually plays for, I won’t be able to say that they aren’t justified in their reactions.

When you shoot yourself in the foot, you can’t complain when someone calls you stupid.

Do I think Trump is a Russian sleeper agent? No. I think his administration’s actions toward Russia pretty well demolish that conspiracy theory. If Trump’s goal was to make Putin happy, doing things that actually benefit Putin would be a requirement. I haven’t seen that and have in fact seen the opposite in our policies. Yet, Trump appears to buy into the naive idea that he can tame Putin and build a mutually beneficial relationship. That’s likely fool’s gold.

Regardless, even if you think that’s viable and that we can build better relations, seeing a US President solely blame his own country for Russia’s transgressions is just obscene.

Despite all the good things Trump has accomplished via a largely conservative governance, his mouth on Twitter continues to be the most frustrating thing about him. He should do better but I doubt he will.