Republicans Are Complicit In Trump’s Capitulation To Russia

Republicans have always enabled and actively participated in Trump's capitulation to Russia. Now, Russia has targeted American troops and they do nothing.
President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and Former Sergey Kislyak (AP)

President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and Former Sergey Kislyak (AP)

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Donald Trump has pandered to authoritarian leaders from the moment he declared his intention to run for office. If there has been one consistent position that he has held throughout the campaign and his presidency, it has been to distance America from its traditional allies and move closer to political figures like Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman.

Trump’s deference to these individuals has been reflected in his close contact with them, even going so far as to speak to Erdogan more than any other head of state, sometimes at least twice a week. This, alongside Trump’s failure to be sufficiently prepared for such conversations, has resulted in him being vulnerable to manipulation in these calls, thereby weakening America’s stance on the world stage by appearing in desperate need of admiration, instead of being a strong, serious world leader.

Throughout all of this, Republicans have attempted to defend Trump’s actions as seeking to build alliances with nations where the US has previously had an adversarial relationship. Whilst such assertions regularly rang hollow and many could see through them, it was, to some extent, expected that Republicans would leap to their partisan positions to protect their leader and, through him, their own positions in Congress. However, the recent story regarding Russia’s actions in Afghanistan means that Republicans should no longer ignore or dismiss Trump’s behavior.

The reports, that reveal a Russian military intelligence agency put a bounty on the heads of US and UK troops in Afghanistan, has exposed Trump’s weakness when it comes to dealing with the Kremlin. US intelligence officials discovered an ongoing anti-American plot that threatened the lives of soldiers, with the information being included in the President’s Daily Briefing, a document the President is expected to read, in late February 2020. Some reports indicate he was briefed in early 2019.

Did Trump privately condemn this plot in a call to Putin? No. Did Trump publicly lay out the threat and criticize Russia? No. The White House has, instead, claimed that Donald Trump was not “personally briefed” on the plot and was not aware of it until it was reported recently by the media. The assertion seems to be that, whilst the information had been included in a written report to the President, it was not mentioned in discussions between him and intelligence officials.

Leaving aside the President’s responsibility to read, on a timely basis, the important documents that are presented to him by his own officials, Trump has still not publicly condemned Russia’s reported actions several days after the information has become widely available. Instead, we have been subjected to Trump going on a Twitter storm (when, presumably, he could be spending his time usefully reading his briefings), where he has questioned the intelligence, called the stories a “hoax,” and criticized the Democrats. Trump is so intent on pandering to Russia, and cozying up to Putin, that he called for Russia to be re-admitted to the G7 group of countries even after US intelligence officials became aware of the plot to kill US soldiers. In fact, just this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused to rule out Putin’s attendance at an extended G7 summit.

Republicans, while recognizing Trump’s close relationship with Russia isn’t ideal, have thus far mostly ignored addressing it, as they believed that it didn’t have a negative impact on them fulfilling their political agenda. In their view, it only created some awkward moments during media appearances, where they’d have to take positions with which they weren’t wholly comfortable. At times they participated in Trump’s capitulation to Russia, like when Republican lawmakers pushed Russia’s propaganda about Ukraine during the impeachment hearings or celebrated July 4 in Moscow in 2018.

However, Republicans can’t do this anymore when Trump’s actions, or more specifically his lack of actions, are endangering serving members of the US military and their allies. Trump’s failure to stand up to Russia over their actions in Ukraine and Syria has been wrong: Republicans know that, but they dismissed it as someone else’s problem. That isn’t an option here. This issue could not be more important to America. Surely, the first duty of any governing politician is to protect the lives of their fellow citizens.

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The Republican Party has prided itself over the years on being a pro-military party, doing what it can to support serving troops and veterans alike. If there is one ounce of truth in that, Republicans should be outraged by Trump’s failure to act and should now be publicly demanding that he take serious steps to show strong condemnation of Russia. Don’t take my word for it. These are the words of former Navy SEAL Dr Dan Barkhuff in the Lincoln Project’s recent ad: “Any Commander-in-Chief with a spine would be stomping the living s**t out of some Russians right now, diplomatically, economically, or if necessary with the sort of asymmetric warfare they’re using to send our kids home in body bags.”.

Why is Trump so afraid to challenge Russia? Does it have anything to do with what we learned went on before the 2016 presidential election, when Trump’s associates welcomed their election help and were in talks with the Russian government over plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow? Is it that Trump expects their election help again? Is Trump looking at the polls and starting to make post-election plans for his business career? Is it that Trump so admires those who lead authoritarian regimes, due to his desire to model himself on them, that he’s scared to offend them? Is it Trump’s alleged history of Russian money laundering?

Is it that, as some have claimed, Russia has devastating dirt on the President, which he is afraid they will release? Is it that he has been won over by their complimentary words, designed to exploit his vulnerability of craving praise, and now won’t criticize them for fear of losing their affection? Whatever the reason behind his behavior, it is clear that Trump is failing to fulfill his duty as Commander-in-Chief, which is to protect those individuals who’ve dedicated their life to serving their country in the US military.

When an attack on the US mission in Benghazi left four Americans dead, Republicans forced the Obama administration to endure numerous investigations and sit through hours of congressional hearings. When Russia puts bounties on the heads of US soldiers in Afghanistan, Republicans rush to find excuses to cover Donald Trump’s failure to take action. It’s beyond hypocritical. It’s beyond partisan politics. It is a betrayal of their party’s principles, a betrayal of their oath of office, and a betrayal of their duty to protect those serving in American uniforms.

If Republicans don’t want to support a Democrat in 2020, that’s understandable and completely acceptable in a democracy. But there is no excuse for them to continue to publicly defend Donald Trump and support his candidacy in 2020, given the dangerous impact his pandering to the Kremlin has had and the risk it has posed, and continues to pose, to America’s national security. The GOP should listen to those who have had the experience and access to see how Trump handles foreign policy issues; those who are not just raising the red warning flag about Trump’s behavior, but are frantically waving it.

Trump’s former National Security Advisors H.R. McMaster and John Bolton, Defence Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Chief of Staff John Kelly have all expressed concerns about Trump’s actions and claimed those actions pose a danger to the security of the United States of America. These people aren’t Democratic operatives. These are former Generals and long-standing Republicans who have no reason to lie. If they are willing to put country above party, to put the security of the American people above their own careers, why isn’t the GOP? It’s time for Republicans to face the truth: they can no longer ignore Trump’s willingness to pander to Russia.

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Opinion // Donald Trump / Military / National Security / Republican Party / Russia / Vladimir Putin / World