Tag Archives: Russia

Toughest POTUS ever on Russia? Aww, c’mon!

Donald J. Trump has no shortage of hyperbole. The president trots it out whenever he damn well feels like it.

Such as this: “I have been the toughest president on Russia … ever!”

Really? Hmm. Let’s review that bit of bluster, shall we?

October 1962: President Kennedy gets intelligence that the Soviet Union was building offensive missile sites in Cuba. He consults with his national security team. They debate whether to attack the sites, invade Cuba, do nothing, or impose a blockade on the island nation. JFK chooses to blockade Cuba. He then speaks to the world on national TV and warns the communists that an attack on any nation in the Western Hemisphere would result in a “full retaliatory response” from the United States.

The Soviets backed off. They took down the missile sites. World War III was, thus, averted.

June 1987: President Reagan ventures to West Germany. He already has described the communist regime in Moscow as the Evil Empire. The president goes to the Brandenburg Gate separating East and West Berlin and bellows, “Mr. (Mikhail) Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

There have been other instances of U.S. presidents acting sternly in response to Russian (or Soviet) aggression. President Carter ordered a U.S. boycott of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow after the USSR invaded Afghanistan in the previous year. President Bush 41 oversaw the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the eventual dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Clinton, Bush 43 and Obama all had their instances of spine-stiffening resolve as they involve the Russians. I include the Soviet Union era in this discussion because, well, the Soviets were Russians, too.

And yet the current president of the United States, Donald Trump, keeps insisting — without any demonstrable evidence — that he’s the toughest president of all time against the Russians.

Give me a break.

Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of history knows better.

Let’s be friends, but first …

Donald J. Trump wants to be “friends” with Russia.

The president wants his country to get along well with another country that has demonstrated its willingness — and ability — to wreak havoc on the United States political system.

At one level I understand and appreciate the president’s desire to make nice with Russia and with its president, Vladimir Putin.

But first things first.

True bilateral “friendship” ought to mirror interpersonal friendships in this manner: The nations must be able to clear the air over differences that exist between them. There exists a tremendous wall between the United States and Russia. To wit:

Ukraine, Crimea, Syria, Iran, Middle East peace, the Baltic States and, oh yeah, that attack on our democratic process in 2016!

OK, where do we start?

If the president is intent on forging a true “friendship” between the United States and Russia, he needs to lay down the law on all those issues. There cannot be any misunderstanding about U.S. intentions if we are to craft a new kind of relationship with this rival state.

And I want to clear the air on one point. Russia is our “rival” only militarily. The Russians possess a lot of nuclear weapons, held over from the Soviet Union era. The nation is a third-rate economic power; I heard this week that Russia ranks as the world’s 30th-largest economic power. Thirtieth!

Texas ranks at No. 11 worldwide; California is No. 5!

Russia is huge geographically, and it covers 11 time zones, but it is losing population. It is a nation in decline!

Thus, Russia is not a major “trading partner” with the United States. It can barely sustain itself economically.

It is from that position of strength that the president has allowed this nation to sink to the Russians’ level while he grovels at Putin’s feet over the 2016 election attack.

If we’re going to make friends with Russia — and Trump is correct to assert that a friendship with Russia is better for us and the world than an adversarial relationship — then we need to set the record straight on a whole array of issues and differences.

That has to come first. The “friendship” then can follow suit.

NATO remains our most important alliance

On one hand, Donald Trump is right to insist that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization member nations pay more for their defense.

The president, though, is talking way past the sale with his relentless attacks on our nation’s alliance in Europe, the one created after World War II as a defense against potential aggression by the Soviet Union.

He is insulting the heads of state and government of virtually all those nations. He suggests Russia controls Germany because it sells the Germans oil and natural gas. Holy crap, man! Does the president have any clue as to what Europeans are thinking and saying out loud about his own relationships with the Russia and the former chief KGB spook who runs that country?

NATO remains as credible, viable and important today as it was at its founding. For the president of the United States to undermine an alliance full of nations that came to our defense after 9/11 plays directly into the hands of Vladimir Putin, whose mission as Russian president has been to, um, undermine NATO.

I wonder if Putin is going to thank Trump when they meet in Helsinki for doing his job for him.

Obama didn’t ‘allow’ annexation of Crimea

This won’t surprise regular readers of this blog, but I agree with former Obama administration national security adviser Susan Rice’s assertion that Donald Trump has taken an outrageous position with regard to Russia and its former membership in the Group of Eight nations.

Trump wants the now G-7 nations to bring Russia back into its fold. Susan Rice said the following, according to The Hill: Rice said Trump made “a disgraceful statement” when he said Obama “allowed Russia to take Crimea.”

“Rather than understand Russia is our adversary, Russia had taken on behavior that is absolutely reprehensible… for the president of the United States to suggest all that is forgotten, that we are together, that we are fine with one country annexing another country’s sovereign territory is outrageous,” Rice said.

Russia took another nation’s territory by force. It has done not a damn thing to rectify its aggression against Ukraine. It has continued to prop up a dictatorial regime in Syria. Oh, and it meddled in our 2016 election.

Rice is suggesting that Trump is divorced from any semblance of reality by asking for Russia’s re-inclusion into the G-7 nations comprising the world’s greatest economic powers.

The president’s desire to bring Russia back after the nations kicked it out after annexing Crimea has been met with almost unanimous scorn by the rest of the G-7; only Italy has backed the president’s request.

Moreover, Trump’s continual harping on actions taken by his immediate predecessor, Barack Obama, seem to suggest some sort of sick fixation with the 44th president. He keeps singling him out specifically, making preposterous assertions that he “allowed” Russia to take Crimea. It begs the question: What would Donald Trump had done if he had been in the Oval Office, making the tough call? Does anyone actually believe he would have put “boots on the ground” to prevent a Russian takeover? Give me a break, man!

I have stayed away from asserting in this blog that Russia might have the goods on Trump, that it might be holding some deep, dark secrets about the president’s business dealings in Russia.

These continuing assertions from Trump that all is forgiven with regard to Russia are making me wonder about those reports about Russia and possible business connections with the Trump Organization.

Disgraceful.

‘Speaking truth to power’

When historians start chronicling the events surrounding Donald J. Trump’s time as president of the United States, they will face an enormous challenge in trying to find an answer to this question: How in the world did this man manage to get elected to the nation’s highest office?

An article about a former director national intelligence reminds me of what has perplexed, angered and outraged millions of Americans since the November 2016 presidential election.

James Clapper has written a memoir that tells of how his post public service life took a dramatic turn when Trump won that election. Clapper wanted to retire quietly and “clean out my basement.” He has remained in the public eye while becoming a ferocious critic of the president.

He considers Trump a threat to national security. The president has embraced Russia, the nation that — in Clapper’s view — meddled in our electoral process and well might have produced a Trump victory. As Clapper told Wired: As Clapper writes, in explaining his decision to write a memoir, Trump’s embrace of Russia “made me fear for our nation.”

Trump doesn’t speak the truth. He cannot tell the truth. His aim is to twist facts to enrich his own standing. He thinks first of himself and then, if he thinks at all about the nation, he gives a cursory nod to the well-being of others. That’s according to Clapper.

Is the former DNI perfect? Has he always been totally truthful himself? He acknowledges misspeaking during a Senate hearing in 2013. Wired reports: He duly addresses his much-criticized and picked-over comment in a 2013 hearing where he appeared to mislead Senator Ron Wyden about whether the NSA gathered call details on American citizens. He later said that he misunderstood which program Wyden was asking about and that he couldn’t later correct the record because of the demands for secrecy.

No one is perfect, right?

Still, I give a retired Air Force general — and a veteran of intelligence work at the highest levels — a fair amount of credence when he speaks of the shortcomings he sees in the president of the United States.

Again, from Wired: The truth, Clapper argues time and again, is critical. “I don’t believe our democracy can long function on lies,” he writes. “I believe we have to continue speaking truth to power, even—or especially—if the person in power doesn’t want to hear the truth we have to tell him.”

Read the Wired piece here.

Presidential historians will have their hands full, indeed.

Call a halt to media war, Mr. POTUS

It’s getting tiresome.

With actual foes and enemies of this country looking to do us harm, our head of state is concentrating his fire on the media. Russians have attacked our electoral system; North Koreans want to build nuclear bombs; Syrians are getting gassed by their government.

Donald Trump is fixated over reporting on his presidential administration.

He calls any negative press coverage “fake news.”

What’s more, it’s been revealed that he told CBS News’s Leslie Stahl that he continues the anti-media barrage to sow distrust among the public. If the media report negatively on the administration, Trump told Stahl, the public won’t believe them.

See? It’s part of the Trump strategy!

Those of us who toiled in the media are sickened by it. They are ashamed of the president who is assailing men and women who pledge to report the truth and do that very thing to the best of their ability.

Previous presidents of both parties have endured their share of media negativity. Do they declare war against the media? Do they accuse the media of being the “enemy of the American people”? Do they insist that “most” members of the media are “dishonest people”?

No. They recognize the media has a role to play, which is to hold public officials accountable.

Trump doesn’t get it. He doesn’t understand the media’s role in protecting this country.

He lies. He embellishes. He condemns the media. Constantly!

Frightening.

‘Mission accomplished’? Not just yet, Mr. President

Donald Trump did what he needed to do when he ordered “precision strikes” against Syrian chemical weapons facilities.

The White House has declared “mission accomplished” with regard to the strikes launched by U.S., French and British air power. It was an impressive allied effort to retaliate against Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians, including children.

The sight of those victims convulsing and heaving in the wake of the gas attack sickens the heart. It also points out that we are dealing in Syria with an animal disguised as a strongman.

To hear the Russians, Syrians and the Iranians deny that Assad gassed civilians is to defy credulity. Of course he did it. Assad has shown such propensity in the past.

The air strikes, though, have accomplished their mission, which was to destroy Syria’s ability to deliver chemical attacks. Reports from the field indicate that the air strikes — as deadly as they were — did not prevent a future gas attack.

Which brings me to a critical point. To claim “mission accomplished” requires proof that Assad has been rendered impotent militarily. That hasn’t happened.

We once heard a president of the United States, George W. Bush, issue a similar “mission accomplished” statement after our forces invaded Iraq in 2003. We captured the late Saddam Hussein, resulting in President Bush making that landing aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier, where he stood under the banner proclaiming that we had accomplished our mission. The war dragged on for years after Saddam’s capture and execution.

Trump cannot make such a declaration yet. The Joint Chiefs of Staff — at the president’s direction — have executed, in conjunction with our French and British allies, a strong response to Syria’s dictator.

Let us hope it doesn’t lead to a broader conflict or — and this is the worst case — open conflict with Russia and Iran.

A mission that is accomplished fully will render Bashar al Assad incapable of inflicting such misery ever again on helpless victims.

Trump tweets us toward warfare?

Donald J. Trump’s use of Twitter to make policy proclamations has become more or less something of a new normal in Washington, D.C.

However, Trump’s tweeting of potential military action takes it to a new level of incredulity.

The president has alerted Russia that via Twitter that he might fire missiles at Syrian military installations. He put the Russians on notice. Indeed, he has alerted them to the point that the Russians say they might retaliate against any military strike against their allies, the Syrians.

Is this how the commander in chief is supposed to manage our strategic military operation?

Is this how we keep our secrets to ourselves? Is this how we now prepare for a military strike, by telling one of our major geopolitical adversaries what we intend to do?

Memo to The Donald: The Russians have nukes, too. A lot of them.

Twitter taunts ain’t the way to conduct matters of high statecraft.

Russia remains off Trump’s danger-zone radar

I want to join the chorus of Donald J. Trump’s critics who cannot fathom why the president of the United States cannot bring himself to say anything critical about Vladimir Putin, the strongman who runs Russia.

Putin this past week announced the unveiling of weapons systems he said would neutralize the U.S. missile defense systems. His aim seems to be able to strike the United States of America whenever he felt like it.

The response from Trump? Nothing. Not a frigging sound! He isn’t challenging Putin’s assertion of military superiority the way he has done, say, with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

What the hell is the matter with this guy, the president of the United States?

I endorse the view put forward late this past week from a retired U.S. Army general, Barry McCaffrey, who contends that Russia in reality is nothing more than a developing Third World country. It economy is smaller than California’s economy, McCaffrey said; Russia’s standing army is inferior; it has a population that is less than half of that of the United States; its submarine and surface-missile weapons systems essentially are a joke, he said.

In no way, according to McCaffrey — a Vietnam War combat veteran who had a major command during the Persian Gulf War — would Russia dare launch a first strike against the United States.

Where is the “Little Rocket Man” epithet that the president could use against Putin? Why doesn’t he tweet some idiotic rejoinder about how his “button is bigger” than the one at Putin’s fingertips?

Good grief, man! Has the Russian strongman cast some sort of spell over the president of the United States?

Or … is there validity to reports of something fishy involving Trump’s business dealings in Russia?

Oh, I forgot. Trump said he has “no business activity” in Russia. No deals have been struck.

And we are supposed to believe him? Sure thing.

No ‘fishing expeditions’? Sure thing, Sen. Cruz

Ted Cruz doesn’t want special counsel Robert Mueller to go on a “fishing expedition” in his search for answers relating to Donald J. Trump’s relationship with Russian government officials.

I now shall remind the junior U.S. Republican senator from Texas about another fishing expedition that once suited GOP members of Congress just fine. It involved Kenneth Starr’s probe into an Arkansas real estate matter; they called it Whitewater.

Starr, the special counsel appointed to look into that deal, then went on a fishing expedition of his own. He wandered far afield and then discovered that President Bill Clinton was involved in a tawdry relationship with a young White House intern.

A federal grand jury summoned the president to talk about that relationship. The president didn’t tell the panel the truth.

Boom! Congressional Republicans then had their grounds for impeaching the president. The House did it. The Senate then acquitted him.

So, you see? Fishing expeditions can turn into something consequential.

Mueller is a pro and deserves latitude in his search for the truth.

I just find it laughable that Cruz would issue a warning against Mueller, a former FBI director and a man fairly universally respected as a thorough and meticulous investigator. Indeed, Cruz called Mueller a “good and honorable man.”

One can imagine if a Democratic president faced the kind of scrutiny that is being leveled against Donald Trump. What do you suppose the Cruz Missile would say then?

I get how political consideration — and leanings — are driving the analyses of the Mueller investigation.

My own take on Robert Mueller’s probe is that if he uncovers something that is, um, illegal, he is bound by his oath to pursue it to the very end.