Forget talking to Vladimir Putin. During the second Republican presidential debate, the candidates swept from one extreme to another to address how to deal with the Russian leader, his growing involvement in the Syrian war and his backing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Front runner Donald Trump offered virtually no substance, saying only — as he’s said many times before — that Putin would respect him and treat him differently than he does President Obama.
On the other extreme was Carly Fiorina, who seemed to practically take us back to the 1950s and 1960s calling for what amounts to a new Cold War — with the U.S. Sixth Fleet confronting the Russians, and U.S. troops headed back to Germany. It’s fair to say that if a Republican becomes the next president, relations with Moscow could be much rockier.
The Republican stance was starkly different than the approach taken by Obama, who is reportedly contemplating speaking with Putin later this month about the Syrian crisis, especially the recent deployment of weapons to Damascus. If so, that would end more than a year of diplomatic chill between the two leaders over Putin’s intervention in Ukraine’s conflict.