The Putin regime demonizes the United States, heaps abuse on its officials, derides its democratic values, and treats the humanitarian motives of its people as somehow suspect—and the White House says virtually nothing in response. The Obama administration meekly accepted Putin’s decision to expel USAID without ever pushing back or thinking through the precedent such a move would create. The very fact that it was the U.S. State Department that announced Russia’s decision to end USAID’s 20-year presence sent the wrong message. It should have been no surprise when Putin quickly followed up by ejecting the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), ending the Nunn-Lugar nuclear nonproliferation program with the United States, and banning American adoptions of Russian children. At the end of January, Russia ended a bilateral counternarcotics agreement. Absent any pushback from Washington or indications that such steps would damage the relationship, Putin feels free to ratchet up his authoritarian, xenophobic campaign. Democratic forces expect and look to the American president to stand with them, and to stand up to Putin.
December 20, 2016 at 2:00 PM EST