Trump Cannot Be Convinced to Confront Russia

He would rather pull the U.S. military out of Germany than stop Putin from killing our troops.

The Group of Eight (G8) has been the Group of Seven (G7) ever since Russia was suspended for invading and annexing Crimea in 2014. Since that time, the Russian Federation has done nothing to restore its good standing. From America’s perspective, they’ve added insult to injury by messing with our presidential election and putting a bounty on our soldiers in Afghanistan.

Of course, some in Europe have suggested that Russia be reinstated, but that idea was firmly rejected in 2018 when the other members were more inclined to increase sanctions. When Donald Trump recently stated that he might invite Russia to the upcoming G7 conference, the idea was not well-received. In retrospect, people are wondering why Trump floated the offer at all, since he should have been informed about the bounties in his Daily Intelligence Brief in February 2020.

If Trump were to rescind his tentative intention to offer an invitation, it would hardly amount to a punishment, but it would seem like the bare minimum he could do in response. Yet, the Daily Beast reports that his advisers can’t get him to agree on this step. In fact, they can’t even get him to focus on it as an option.

When government officials have briefed the president in the past week on the bounty intel and the G7, as well as the way forward on messaging and possible policy moves, they have encountered a familiar problem: holding Trump’s attention. In at least two instances in recent days when officials or aides have discussed the option of rescinding his offer to Putin, Trump responded by not committing one way or the other. According to two sources familiar with the matter, he instead quickly pivoted to bashing the media, particularly The New York Times, which broke the news of the bounties.

To be honest, this isn’t an example of Trump’s team trying to come up with an appropriate reprisal. They’re talking to a crazy person who doesn’t understand the political damage he’s taking over the issue. He’s getting killed for making the G7 offer in the first place, and now they can’t convince him to take the offer off the table.

Backing away from offering Putin an invitation to the G7 could be a way for the president to take a public stand against Russia while at the same time preserving the goodwill between the two countries, an official familiar with the administration’s G7 conversations said. And maybe, if worded right, it might not piss off Trump.

The president isn’t apprising his political fortunes in any rational way. There’s internal polling that has him behind in Kansas, and he thinks he can still invite Russia to the G7.

In addition to public surveys showing him losing decisively to Joseph R. Biden Jr. in a number of battleground states, private Republican polls in recent weeks show the president struggling even in conservative states, leading Mr. Biden by less than five points in Montana and trailing him in Georgia and even Kansas, according to G.O.P. officials who have seen the data.

Trump is more interested in unilaterally pulling our troops out of Germany than he is in asking Putin to stop killing our troops, and his advisers don’t seem to know what to do about it. My suggestion is that they resign and announce their support for Biden, but I guess they’re trying to muddle through.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com