Lazy Saturday Reads: G20 DisasterPosted: July 8, 2017
Yesterday Trump finally got to meet with the big boss, the man who put him in the White House. As we expected, he was thrilled and overwhelmed with joy when the big moment finally came.
But what does Putin really think of Trump? His facial expression in this photo is revealing.
From what I can tell, Trump brought up the Russian interference in our election by indicating that “the American people” (according to Tillerson) are concerned about it, not that Trump himself cares a whit. Then when Putin denied any involvement, Trump basically said okay, let’s just pretend it never happened and make sure Putin gets everything he’s been wishing for.
A couple of reactions, the first from a foreign policy and Russia expert and the second from an ultra-conservative journalist.
Molly McKew at Politico: Trump Handed Putin a Stunning Victory. “From his speech in Poland to his two-hour summit in Hamburg, the president seemed determined to promote Russia’s dark and illiberal view of the world.”
President Donald Trump needed to accomplish two things this week during his visits to Poland and the G-20 Summit in Hamburg. First, he needed to reassure America’s allies that he was committed to collective defense and the core set of values and principles that bind us together. Second, he needed to demonstrate that he understands that the greatest threat to that alliance, those values, and our security is the Kremlin.
Trump delivered neither of these. In very concrete terms, through speech and action, the president signaled a willingness to align the United States with Vladimir Putin’s worldview, and took steps to advance this realignment. He endorsed, nearly in its totality, the narrative the Russian leader has worked so meticulously to construct.
The readout of Trump’s lengthy meeting with Putin included several key points. First, the United States will “move on” from election hacking issues with no accountability or consequences for Russia; in fact, the U.S. will form a “framework” with Russia to cooperate on cybersecurity issues, evaluating weaknesses and assessing potential responses jointly. Second, the two presidents agreed not to meddle in “each other’s” domestic affairs—equating American activities to promote democracy with Russian aggression aimed at undermining it, in an incalculable PR victory for the Kremlin. Third, the announced, limited cease-fire in Syria will be a new basis for cooperation between the U.S. and Russia; Secretary of State Rex Tillerson went so far as to say that the Russian approach in Syria—yielding mass civilian casualties, catastrophic displacement, untold destruction and erased borders—may be “more right” than that of the United States.
Each of these points represents a significant victory for Putin. Each of them will weaken U.S. tools for defending its interests and security from the country that defines itself as America’s “primary adversary.” Trump has ceded the battle space—physical, virtual, moral—to the Kremlin. And the president is going to tell us this is a “win.”
About Trump’s awful speech in Poland McKew writes:
Trump’s unusual speech in Warsaw earlier in the week foreshadowed this catastrophic outcome, despite some analysts’ wishful thinking to the contrary. The initial reaction to the speech was far more positive than to his previous attempt at NATO. After all, the president seemed to challenge Russia, acknowledge the importance of the alliance’s commitment to mutual defense, and mount a defense of Western democracies and values.
But this assessment missed the forest for the trees—and the fact that its intended audience was Russia, not Europe. In reality, Trump attacked NATO and the EU, the twin pillars of the post-World War II transatlantic architecture, again demonstrating he has no interest in being the leader of the free world, but rather its critic in chief.
Then there’s this piece from The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes: Trump Caves to Putin. What president Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin tells us about the future of Russian-American affairs.
If Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s readout of Donald Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin is a preview of the Trump administration’s approach to Russia, it’s going to be a rough three and a half years. In a diplomatic depantsing that will have repercussions far beyond Russia, Tillerson’s comments did more to further Russia’s interests than Russian propaganda outlets could have possibly hoped to accomplish themselves.
Tillerson told reporters that Trump and Putin “acknowledged the challenges of cyber threats and interference in the democratic processes of the United States and other countries.” Well then.
Vladimir Putin acknowledged generic “challenges” of unspecified “cyber threats” related to U.S. elections and those in other countries? Who cares? What Putin wouldn’t acknowledge was far more important: The Russians were the source of the cyber threats.
Tillerson reported that after the two men had a “robust and lengthy exchange on the subject,” Putin “denied such involvement, as I think he has in the past.” Putin’s denials are false, of course, and the offenses are grave. Russia’s election meddling is part of a longer pattern of provocation largely ignored by the Obama administration and now tolerated by Trump. But the president apparently didn’t want to let reality intrude on his desire for better relations (he began his meeting by telling Putin that he was “honored” to meet him) and Tillerson didn’t seem to care. “So, more work to be done on that regard,” Tillerson said, dismissively.
Set aside as yet unproven allegations of Trump-Russia collusion. The available facts are deeply troubling. Russia waged a persistent, hostile campaign against the United States in an effort to affect the outcome of the election – or at least influence perceptions of it. And the current administration doesn’t seem to care.
Let’s face it. Trump is a traitor. This is getting really dangerous for our country and the world. There has to be some way we can get rid of him before he completely hands our government over to Russian oligarchs.
Breaking just now from the Washington Post: Putin says he thinks Trump ‘agreed’ with assurances that Russia did not interfere in U.S. elections.
HAMBURG — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday said that he assured President Trump that Moscow had not interfered in the 2016 presidential election, and that it appeared to him that Trump had agreed with his assurances.
“It seemed to me that he took it into account, and agreed” Putin told reporters on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg. The Russian president added “you should ask him.
Russia’s foreign minister’s on Friday had said that Trump had “accepted” Putin’s assurances that Moscow did not run a hacking and disinformation campaign to help Trump’s campaign.
Putin Saturday said that Trump “asked many questions” about Russian interference in the 2016 elections. The Russian leader said he had repeated Moscow’s stance that “there was no basis to believe that Russia” interfered in the elections.
“I feel as though my answers satisfied him,” Putin said.
Unbelievable! How can the Republicans continue to go along with this?
But let’s get back to that speech Trump gave in Warsaw. The entire thing was a dog whistle to white supremacists, painting the fight against terrorism as a war of “civilizations.”
The speech on Thursday centered on extended praise for what Trump described as the unique virtues of Western civilization, which he said faced “dire threats to our security and to our way of life.”
Those threats, he said, emanate from the “south or the east” — a thinly veiled reference to the Islamic world — and could “erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are.”
“The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive,” he said, one of nearly a dozen times that he invoked the idea of “will” during the course of the approximately 40-minute speech.
Trump had expressed similar ethnocentric ideas during his presidential campaign, but had never before described them at such length.
“If we are looking for a Trump doctrine, this is as close as we are going to get,” said Michal Baranowski, the director of the German Marshall Fund office in Warsaw and an expert on Polish and European politics. “It is not a foreign policy doctrine — it is almost a manifesto.”
Two more to check out on this topic:
Jonathan Capehart at the Washington Post: Trump’s white-nationalist dog whistles in Warsaw.
And the latest humiliation involves Trump nepotism. Bloomberg reports this morning: Ivanka Trump Sat In for Her Father at the G-20 Leaders’ Table.
Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, took his seat at a Group of 20 meeting table in Hamburg, sitting in for the president when he stepped away for one-on-one meetings with world leaders.
A photo on Twitter shows Ivanka Trump sitting at her father’s place, between Chinese President Xi Jinping and British Prime Minister Theresa May. One official who was watching the session said she has taken her father’s place at the table on at least two occasions today and did not speak.
A spokesman for Ivanka Trump said she had been sitting in the back of the room and then briefly joined the main table when the president stepped out. The president of the World Bank addressed the meeting, which was about African migration and health — areas that would benefit from a facility that Ivanka Trump and the World Bank had announced shortly before the meeting, the spokesman said.
G-20 leaders are allowed to bring staff into the room for some of the meetings, and when other leaders stepped out during today’s session, their seats were briefly filled by others. Ivanka Trump serves as an unpaid adviser to her father, as an assistant to the president.
But her presence at the table is the sort of blurring of lines — between family and official business — that Donald Trump is often criticized for, and it would be unusual for world leaders to have family members take their place at their table. Later in the meeting, Trump’s wife, Melania, joined the U.S. delegation in the room while the president was in the chair.
Seated at other seats nearby Ivanka Trump were German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkey’s Recip Tayyip Erdogan.
That’s about all the Trump news I can stomach for the moment. What stories are you following today?