“I have been much tougher on Russia than Obama, just look at the facts,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning. “Total Fake News!”
To many observers – even some who support the president – this message didn’t really seem right. When has he ever been “tough on Russia?” Say what you will about it, but you have to admit that Trump has never been one to criticize Russia or its leader, President Vladimir Putin. The reasons for this seem simple enough: One, he appears to think that the U.S. has gotten as much mileage as we can out of treating Moscow like a hostile power and that we can make better headway against terrorist organizations like ISIS and North Korea if we start playing a different set of cards. Two, he is outraged by the myth that he colluded with the Kremlin to win the election, so it’s second nature for him to defend Russia when critics bring up their interference in the 2016 race.
None of this is too troubling. We get where he’s coming from, even if we don’t always think that buddying up to Putin is the best idea in the world. One of the things that made Trump an attractive candidate was that he was willing to deviate from the standard U.S. playbook, even on things that are near and dear to the Republican Party’s heart. There’s nothing wrong with a fresh perspective from time to time, and this goes double for our foreign policy efforts. If he wants to tread lightly with Russia, we can see the merits of that approach.
But to say that he’s been “much tougher on Russia than Obama?” Hmm, that can’t be right.
Or is it?
As Jonah Goldberg (no Trump fan himself) pointed out this week, the claim isn’t that outrageous. Not because Trump is necessarily bringing the hammer down on Moscow, but because Obama was literally THAT bad:
Barack Obama sold out our Eastern European allies on missile defense. He slow-walked aid to Ukraine and did little more than shrug when Crimea was annexed. He said “never mind” on his own “red line” in Syria and turned a blind eye to Putin’s intervention there, in large part because of his obsessions with getting the Iran deal. The Russian meddling in our elections started on Obama’s watch — and not just our elections but those of many of our allies. When Mitt Romney famously said Russia was our No. 1 geopolitical foe, Obama mocked him for it as did countless liberal journalists who are now converts to anti-Russia hawkery.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has made life harder for Russia diplomatically and economically thanks to revving up our oil and gas production. It hasn’t been as tough as some — including me — would like, but it’s been tougher than the Obama administration. Or at least it’s not unreasonable.
What’s interesting here is not necessarily how much Obama gave up to Putin or how lenient Trump has or hasn’t been with Russia – it’s the complete 180 that the liberal media has taken on the subject. Suddenly we have Democrats – DEMOCRATS – pretending like Russia is the threat in our own backyard, whereas before they thought Obama’s soft touch was exactly the right approach.
Hmm. Must just be a coincidence.