Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Just Who Was in Thrall to Putin?

It still amazes me that Democrats insist Putin is "playing" Trump as if Trump isn't pushing back against Russia in contrast to Obama's flexibility and retreat.

Obama began his administration ignoring Russia's late 2008 invasion of Georgia in order to begin the famous "reset" with Russia, complete with abandoning the Bush missile defense plan on the day the USSR invaded Poland in 1939. Early in his administration Obama formally declared a "medium term rule" scarily reminiscent of Britain's "ten year rule" in the 1930s that said America faced no conventional military threats. Obama famously promised Putin "flexibility" after his reelection, remember?

Obama mocked the very idea that Russia was our main geopolitical foe as Romney said in a 2012 debate (to the delight of Democrats):

Does any of this ring a bell?

Obama ignored Russia's violation of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty, accepted the Russian proposal for a chemical weapons agreement with Syria that did not eliminate Assad's chemical weapons or prevent Assad from using them and which helped Assad survive the rebellion, did nothing to stop election interference in 2016, refused to enable energy production in America to reduce Russia's oil sale income, pulled our last tanks out of Europe, and allowed American military readiness and war reserve stocks of ammunition to drop to dangerous levels.

Yes, Obama made late and small additions to American forces in Europe while imposing some sanctions on Russia for Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2014. But the overall message was one of not provoking Russia rather than helping Ukraine fight.

Trump encourages energy production which expanded under Obama only in areas away from Obama's prior obstruction, Trump is reinforcing American forces in Poland and Germany, including adding more tanks, reestablished Second Fleet to fight for control of the sea lines of communication between North America and Europe, reestablished a logistics command in Europe to supply forces in eastern NATO, pushed missile defenses at home and in Europe, brought non-NATO Sweden and Finland into defense preparations in the Baltic region, reinforced NATO in Romania while pushing back against Russian claims to dominate the Black Sea, rebuked the INF treaty that only America was obeying, began rebuilding American readiness and war reserve stocks, bombed Syrian chemical weapons facilities despite Russia's presence in Syria, began selling lethal weapons to Ukraine to fight Russia in the Donbas, restored our military focus on conventional warfare and our focus on great power competition that includes Russia, loudly insisted that NATO members make good on their 2014 pledge to spend more on defense, strengthened our defenses against potential Russian meddling in the 2018 election, tightened sanctions on Russia, and warned Russia to stay away from Venezuela.

These contrasting positions in regard to Russia are simply off the top of my head and I assume more could be added to each category of actions with some research and thought.

And of course, the sudden Democratic rage against Russia is truly astounding on top of their amazing ability to ignore the very real change in policy toward Russia from Obama to Trump. Seriously, the way Democrats claim Trump is being played by Putin should mean that they'd insist on treason* charges being leveled at Obama if they looked at my back-of-envelope list of his enabling policies.

The only real issue Democrats have is the optics of Trump's relations with Putin. And while I sometimes cringe, the policies are harsh.

And in fairness to Trump, we do have an interest in getting Russia to come to its senses and make peace with America and Europe. It is insane for America to have to bolster forces in Europe to block a paranoid Russia creating a threat in the West where none existed notwithstanding the expansion of NATO into former Soviet vassal states who fear Russia might return.

We need every swinging **** (or every flapping **** as the female drill sergeants would say to the female trainees) in the Indo-Pacific region to face a rising China and bolster our allies and friends. So of course we'd like peace with Russia given we have zero interest in conquering Russia which could weaken us and preclude a Russia-China split any time soon. If we can stop the Russians from being paranoid a-holes long enough to make peace with us, that would be great.

And Russia should want peace with NATO to make European Russia a safe rear area to protect their Far East conquests from China in the 19th century from an increasingly powerful China.

So I can forgive soft words from Trump to Putin in public (despite grimacing at some of them) even as we deploy a big stick to Europe because in the short run we are acting to block Russia now; and in the long run we want Russia to stop their pointless hostility toward us so we can split Russia from China. I'd rather have China looking inland at India and Russia rather than having more interest and resources to point out to sea at America.

*And of course, "treason" is off the table despite its common usage these days because we are not actually at war with Russia--which is a necessary component of the crime of treason. But if you want to level the silly charge at Trump, there is more reason to level the silly charge at Obama.

UPDATE: Related, on style versus substance (tip to Instapundit). Sure, I'd like a president with "dignity, manners, grace and orderliness"--and sharply creased pants if you insist. But I'd rather have economic growth, liberty, and strong defenses. And the former clearly aren't a requirement for the latter.

What will Americans decide is more important in 2020?