President Trump’s eagerness for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin — and worse, his desire for a one-on-one meeting with not even note-takers present — has rattled members of Congress, foreign-policy experts and allies. What’s he going to give up now? Is he just going to wipe the slate clean on Putin’s election interference and on Russian aggression in Syria and Ukraine?
The United States and Britain received a painful reminder this week of Moscow’s malevolent intentions — and the degree to which Putin acts without fear of reprisal. The Post reports:
The British government on Thursday called on Russia to explain “exactly what has gone on” after a British couple fell into a coma following exposure to the same type of Soviet-era nerve agent used in March to poison a former spy and his daughter.
The latest health crisis involving the chemical Novichok came about eight miles from the site where former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his adult daughter, Yulia, were stricken four months ago.
The couple was exposed to the nerve agent after “handling a contaminated item,” the Metropolitan Police said in an evening statement.
Investigators are now left trying to determine if this was residual contamination from the March attack — which British authorities linked to the Russian government. Moscow has categorically denied any involvement.
Russia has denied any involvement in the attack on the Skripals, but let’s not put much stock in Putin’s latest response. And don’t hold your breath that the United States will condemn this before Trump’s scheduled meeting with Putin on July 16, let alone threaten to postpone the summit until Russia comes clean on its use of chemical weapons in another sovereign country.
There are two possible explanations for the latest incident: “If remnants of the March attack are proven, it could raise wider concerns that health officials failed to eliminate exposure risks after an extensive clean up. But another, more troubling, scenario would be that it was a different batch of Novichok that sickened the British couple on Saturday in the small town of Amesbury.” So in denying responsibility for the first attack, Russia may have exposed more Britons to danger. Or worse, Putin could feel free to strike whenever it pleases him.
Trump is so desperate to meet with Putin — for reasons not altogether clear — and barely addresses Russia’s election interference. He continues to join with the Russian president in shedding doubt on U.S. intelligence findings. Trump’s servility is proving precisely what Putin wants to show, namely that that he’s in a position to dominate the U.S.-Russia relationship. There really aren’t any consequences for his aggression and, for whatever reason, Trump is utterly docile.
In either case, the incident forces us to ask again: Why is this summit even happening? Russia continues to interfere with our elections, partially occupies Ukraine, maintains a presence in Syria (where it commits war crimes and props up Bashar al-Assad’s genocidal regime) and supports Iran. In his eagerness to meet with Putin while all this is going on, Trump has already signaled that Putin can enjoy good PR and the pretense that Russia is a normal country while acting as a rogue state out to disrupt the international world order.
And really, how could Trump be any more helpful? He’s feuding with NATO allies and about to unleash a trade war that weakens our economy and those of our principal trading partners. (“Businesses are bracing for disruptions in sales and supply chains as the U.S. and China hurtle toward levying tit-for-tat tariffs on billions of dollars in automotive products, farm crops and other goods,” the Wall Street Journal reports.) Trump’s claim of “America First” is a farce, a thinly disguised effort to achieve praise from brutal dictators and, if need be, give up American interests to achieve it.