President Trump is Losing His Patience With Vladimir Putin
Critics who have accused President Trump of being soft on Russia were forced to (quietly) eat their words over the last couple of weeks as the president signed off on several measures to punish Moscow for both their interference in the 2016 election and their role in poisoning a former spy in the UK. Last week, Trump authorized the ejection of 60 Russian diplomats in response to the nerve agent attack. Two weeks prior, he implemented the harshest round of sanctions yet in response to the election meddling. And yet amidst all of this, the media continues to portray Trump as Vladimir Putin’s lapdog.
To be sure, some of this is on the president. Wary of “rewarding” his critics or appearing to shift policies simply because the media doesn’t like them, he has remained all but silent about the steps he’s taking to push the Kremlin back in line. A new story at NBC says that while Trump is losing his patience with his Russian counterpart, he’s also reluctant to begin speaking out publicly against Putin. Officials at the White House say he has directed aides not to elaborate on the measures against Russia as Trump remains hopeful – if increasingly skeptical – about improving relations between our countries.
That became even more difficult this week when Russia responded predictably to the ousting of their diplomats by closing a consulate in St. Petersburg and expelling 60 American diplomats in kind. This drew condemnation from White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders who called it a “further deterioration in the United States-Russia relationship.”
“Russia’s response was not unanticipated,” she said in a statement, “and the United States will deal with it.”
These moves, and Sanders’ statement about them, signal that Trump’s backstage position on Putin may soon be emerging into his public rhetoric. According to that NBC story, regardless of what Trump has been saying – or not saying – about Moscow in public, he has grown extremely irritated with Putin’s continued aggression.
“Behind the scenes,” NBC reported, “Trump has recently taken a sharper tone on Putin, administration officials said, but the shift seems more a reaction to the Russian leader challenging the president’s strength than a new belief that he’s an adversary. Putin’s claim earlier this month that Russia has new nuclear-capable weapons that could hit the U.S., a threat he underscored with video simulating an attack, ‘really got under the president’s skin,’ one official said.”
Take NBC’s “it’s all about Trump’s ego” commentary out of the piece (liberal media is going to liberal media), and you have a president who is beginning to realize that Putin is only going to respond to strength. The idea that we could extend the hand of friendship to Moscow and get results was an admirable one, but it’s becoming clear that Putin is not particularly interested in being “friends.” His aggression is a slap in the face of a president who has done EVERYTHING possible to mend fences with the Kremlin.
That’s something the Russian leader may come to regret.