'Trust But Verify' -- Why Trump Is Right on Russia
In the midst of the quondam Russia Investigation that seems to have been going on since the Peloponnesian War, our president tweeted out the following.
Shortly thereafter, Andrew McCarthy, a man I respect immensely and who only the day before had posted a brilliant article virtually eviscerating the aforementioned investigation, tweeted thusly:
Though Andy may have employed the word "galactically" to accrue Twitter attention -- something of which we are all frequently guilty -- I think he is in error anyway. Leaving aside the Trumpian bravura and clumsy language, the president's basic approach is correct.
It was also the approach employed by George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Barack Obama before him, all of whom, it is well known, sought outreach to Putin (pathetically in Obama's case) and largely failed. Before the politically charged current investigation, which impelled the Democratic Party and most of the media to have the ideological equivalent of an impromptu sex change operation re: Russia, Trump was apparently going to make an attempt of his own.
Would he have succeeded? Hard to say, though Donald's mercurial negotiating style is arguably more effective than his predecessors' utterly conventional one. As an example, when the president said the U.S. had been paying too much for NATO and questioned whether the organization had outlived its usefulness, our partners suddenly coughed up.
Notably, another American president made an outreach to Russia, then the Soviet Union, and did succeed. As we all know, his name was Ronald Reagan and his catch phrase in dealing with the Russians was "trust but verify." It got a lot accomplished, including, at least in part, the demise of the Soviet Union.
Now it was a different time, obviously, and Reagan was dealing with Mikhail Gorbachev, a different personality from Vladimir Putin, but the strategy remains. It's not so distant, really, from "keep your friends close and your enemies closer" -- a tactic some attribute to Sun Tzu and Machiavelli and more recently to Michael Corleone. (The two phrases are, in essence, corollaries. Keep you enemies close to verify them.)
I would wager that Trump -- who immediately sent in the missiles when Assad acted out -- is more equipped to deal with Putin than any of the previous presidents, other than Reagan. Obama clearly floundered disastrously, making a hash of Syria (and Libya) and helping to cement the alliance between Russia and Iran.