President Trump, in yet another outlandish, ignorant statement declared last week that we really should thank Russian President Vladimir Putin for kicking 755 people out of our Moscow embassy. He later claimed it was a joke. We don’t buy that, but in any event to make light of the work of dedicated public servants and once again let Putin off the hook says much about the president. In Trump’s eyes, everyone, including executive branch employees, are fair game for his potshots, insults and boasts. Only Putin can do no wrong.
Ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Relations Committee Elliot Engels (N.Y.) hit the nail on the head with a blunt written statement:
After weeks of silence regarding Vladimir Putin’s outrageous expulsion of hundreds of U.S. embassy personnel, President Trump once again let Russia off the hook and instead insulted America’s diplomats. No doubt, the President’s staff will eventually try to clean up after the parade by claiming it was a joke, but there’s nothing funny about this.
The President clearly has no understating of the vital and often dangerous jobs our diplomats do, shown through his budget, which slashes embassy security among other important investments in diplomacy; his failure to nominate senior State Department officials; and now through this snide and dismissive comment.
Former ambassador to Russia Mike McFaul slammed the president. “Our diplomats, professional staff, and military serving in Russia provide Washington with invaluable information about Russia,” he wrote. “Imagine wanting to know less about Russia’s military modernization! That’s what Trump praised today. Imagine wanting to know less about Russian foreign policy intentions and plans!” McFaul continued. “That’s what embassy personnel reductions will do. Imagine dissing Americans — patriots serving our country under difficult conditions in Russia –to praise Putin. Our president did today.”
Current and former diplomats were stunned by Trump’s remarks welcoming Moscow’s massive cut in U.S. diplomatic staff.
“If he was joking, he should know better,” Nicholas Burns, the State Department’s third-ranking official under Republican President George W. Bush, told Reuters.
“If he wasn’t, it’s unprecedented. A president has never defended the expulsion of our diplomats,” Burns said.
Reuters cited a current diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, as saying that State Department staffers were “horrified and rattled” by Trump’s remarks.
A number of readers wrote in to express their dismay over the president’s words and their appreciation for the men and women who serve overseas. One pointed out the lost contribution of those we’ve hired in Russia. “I deeply resent President Trump’s comments on the drawdown in Embassy Moscow staff,” one former official wrote. “One thing that should be underlined in all of this is the institutional memory that is going to be destroyed once our Locally Engaged Staff are let go. This loss, for me, is incalculable.”
In sum, men and women who serve the United States in Russia and elsewhere make a personal sacrifice and at times risk their safety and lives to serve the country with distinction. Unlike Trump, who used “bone spurs” to get our of serving his country in Vietnam, these people volunteer to represent the United States all over the world. Shame on the president, and shame on the secretary of state for not defending his people. To those who do serve overseas, we offer our appreciation and admiration. Well done, ladies and gentlemen.