On July 16, 2018, President Donald Trump met with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin in Finland, with the eyes of the world set on two of its most powerful leaders. The meeting started later than expected due to Putin showing up late to the grand summit.
Once the meeting finally began, Trump and Putin spent nearly two hours in a one-on-one meeting, adjourning to a joint press conference between the two leaders. It was during this press conference that Trump dropped a few bombshells on the world concerning his views on Russian influence during the 2016 election.
Let us begin by looking at the report from the United States intelligence community, which ultimately led to 12 Russian officials being indicted last week for direct meddling in the election. This meddling has been accepted as the truth within the US Legislative, Judicial, and law enforcement departments, leading to many calling this incident a direct attack upon the United States. Granted, these charges are mostly symbolic, as there will likely be no further legal action taken upon the Russian individuals. It is a diplomatic issue that was to be taken up by the President and his national security team. The Senate bipartisan report on the incident incited many on both sides of the political spectrum to call for President Trump to directly confront the Russians about the issue at their meeting.
The meeting in Helsinki caps off President Trump’s European trip that began with a meeting of NATO in Brussels, Belgium last week, where the President called for members to increase defense spending to at least 2% of their overall Gross Domestic Product. Wedged between the two meetings was President Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom, where he made headlines by discussing Brexit and giving an interview to the Sun that criticized the Prime Minister Theresa May.
Finally, the Putin meeting was supposed to be the key moment for President Trump, as he could use the stage to finish his speaking tour of “strength” in Europe. That moment did not come. During the press conference with the two leaders, the U.S. leader was quick to dismiss the findings of the intelligence community, headed by his own appointee Dan Coats, by saying, “I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be.” He continued by saying, “I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish.”
This is a new level of public display from President Trump. For Americans, Trump’s habit of ever-changing rhetoric on issues where he only has slight knowledge is now widely accepted, but this is different. He is blaming his own country while directly acting against an intelligence report from his own appointee and a bipartisan Senate committee.
This is not a John F. Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs fiasco. President Trump was not persuaded by the CIA and former administration officials to make a foreign policy decision. There is clear evidence to be distrustful of Putin and Russia and clear evidence that they want to have influence in this nation. By all means, this was a cyber attack, falling just short of a cyber coup on the United States. Trump preached a policy agenda of strength in world affairs throughout the election and even into last week, but this rhetoric is hollow if it is not followed up with strong words and action against Putin. Every U.S. President since Woodrow Wilson has understood that Russia cannot be trusted to faithfully comply with the West on ideological and Human Rights issues. This absolutely cannot change under Trump.
By cozying up to Putin, Trump is doing nothing more than making Russia an ethical equal on the world’s stage. For a man whose regime has overseen the use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians, the murder of dozens of journalists, and the annexation of foreign territories on the basis of nothing more than a show of force, this cannot be tolerated. This undermines Trump and the Republican foreign policy ideal of strength through peace. It is not a show of strength to align with Putin and rip on long-term allies, nor will this bring peace to the world. What this style of diplomacy towards Putin will do, however, is provide incentive for the regime to continue their reign of power, allowing the Russian leader to slowly force himself into the affairs of the rest of Europe— not just Crimea and Georgia.
Yes, this is just one meeting, and yes, these are just a series of words without action (so far), but setting this precedent through both rhetoric and policy will prove be detrimental for the Trump Administration, the nation, and the rest of the free world.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.