Monday, July 17, 2017

How Has Supporting Trump Worked Out for Russia?

As a piece in New York Magazine states, "We now know with more certainty than we did a couple weeks ago that the Russian government tried to tip the scales in last year’s presidential election toward Donald Trump and that central figures in the Trump campaign were apparently only too happy to accept the assistance."  One goal was to obviously weaken America and discredit the electoral process and on that, Trump seems to be delivering for Putin.  On climate change, China may step into America's former role and come to dominate renewable energy over time as Trump tries to breath life into the almost dead coal industry.  In terms of respect for America, Putin hit a home run as positive views of America plummet to new lows.  There are, of course, other things Putin hoped to achieve which the piece reviews.  Here are some article highlights:
[W]hat did Russian president Vladimir Putin get for his efforts? Has he received a decent return on his investment, or is Trump backfiring on him?
Here’s a look at some of the policy areas in which Putin likely hoped a Trump victory would advance Russian interests and how well Trump has delivered (whether knowingly or unknowingly). Remember, it’s Putin giving the grades here, so high marks don’t necessarily mean a job well-done.
In backing Trump, perhaps no objective was a bigger motivator for Putin and his oligarchic comrades than the easing of U.S. sanctions on Russia. While the impact of the sanctions on Russia’s ruling class has not been as sharp as it’s been for the underclass, a lot of wealthy Russians (including people who are personally friendly with Putin and Trump) would like to be able to travel, spend money, and do business in the U.S. and Europe more freely again. Trump’s people were signaling to Russia that he was willing to give ground on sanctions before he took office — and possibly before he was elected.
So far, no such luck. The Senate imposed new sanctions on Russia in June to punish the Kremlin for its election interference and, being well aware of Trump’s excessive coziness with Putin, took steps to limit his ability to lift them.
Grade: B-
If Putin has his way, 2016 won’t be the last U.S. election marred by Russian intelligence interference. It would be a shame if the president he helped us elect turned around and made it harder for him to “participate” in the future. Fortunately, Trump can’t admit that our elections are vulnerable to foreign interference without admitting that it helped him win, which his ego won’t allow, so he’s doing nothing to prevent Russia or other hostile actors from taking further cracks at our political parties’ communications or our election infrastructure. Instead, he’s channeling his energy into hunting down the millions of fraudulent U.S. voters that exist only in the fevered minds of some on the right.
Grade: A+
Trump’s campaign-trail diatribes against our NATO allies for not paying their fair share of defense costs was music to Putin’s ears, as a NATO weakened by wavering American support would give him a freer hand to reassert Russia’s sphere of influence in Eastern Europe and particularly in the Baltic countries. Trump alarmed allies, blindsided his own national-security team, and surely set Putin’s heart aflutter when he declined to commit to the Article 5 mutual-defense provision in a speech at NATO headquarters in May — only to backtrack and say he would indeed uphold it in a press conference in Romania early last month. Clearly, his military and national-security staff set him straight in the interim. Meanwhile, other NATO countries are boosting their defense spending this year, for which Trump is taking too much credit. This is looking more and more like one campaign pledge the president won’t be able to fulfill.
Grade: F
If Putin can’t have a weaker NATO, a fractured European Union might be the next best thing — hence Russia’s (unsuccessful) efforts to help the Euroskeptical rightist Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential election in the same way he helped Trump in ours. On the whole, Trump does not instill much confidence in European leaders: Alienating Europe appears to be among his policy goals, and he now has Germany worried that he will start a trade war. On the other hand, Trump’s hostility to transatlantic cooperation has Europe seeking other partners, such as Japan, and it may be unwittingly making Europe stronger by helping Europeans appreciate the value of their union and the need for self-reliance. He’s also not abandoning the U.S. commitment to European security vis-à-vis Russia, as evinced by his agreement to sell Patriot air-defense missiles to Poland earlier this month.
Grade: C
Russia’s objectives in Syria remain as they have always been: to keep Bashar Al-Assad in power, Islamists out of power, and the Russian naval facility in Tartus open. Trump’s frustration with the Syrian stalemate and hesitation to oust Assad suited Putin much better than Clinton’s plans for more direct engagement.
After their G20 meeting, Trump and Putin announced that the U.S., Russia, Israel, and Jordan had brokered a cease-fire in southwest Syria, which took effect last Sunday. While Secretary of State Rex Tillerson maintains that the U.S.’s long-term goal for Syria is for Assad to step down, the new Syria strategy that emerged from the meeting would leave him in power, at least for the time being. . . . Critics have called the cease-fire plan unenforceable, have said it ignores Iran’s role in the conflict, and have alleged the plan entails a capitulation to Russia’s agenda from which Iran will emerge the winner. In short, it looks like the shots in Syria are now being called from Moscow, not Washington.
Grade: A

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