by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
“I have been much tougher on Russia than Obama,” President Trump tweeted this week. “Just look at the facts,” he went on in his characteristic manner. “Total Fake News!”
Trump’s assertion is debatable, to say the least. Even assuming that their fevered theories of illegal Trump-Russia election conspiracies come to naught, his critics have a point when they note Trump’s creepily friendly attitude toward would-be dictator Vladimir Putin.
If Trump wants to prove himself tougher on Putin than former President Barack Obama was, he needs to begin by reversing his decision last month on Russian sanctions. His actions, setting aside Congress’s new sanctions, hearken back to the same disturbing Russophilia that suffused his 2016 campaign — an odious and naive attitude that we criticized repeatedly.
But we would be remiss in administering this just criticism without pointing out that Trump is not completely wrong in his tweet. For even if Trump’s failures are more immediate and give the lie to his boasting, it must also be admitted that Obama’s abject and inexcusable weakness toward Russia has been far more consequential than anything Trump has had time to do in office so far.
Trump’s critics are not all wrong, but they should probably examine their own motives before lecturing anyone on Putin, after they spent so many years backing a policy of appeasement toward him.