In Helsinki, President Trump’s tone-deaf press conference was reminiscent of the unfortunate “apology-tour/Cairo-speech–like” performance given by his predecessor. In light of the mountains of criticism Trump is facing, it’s easy to overlook past disastrous meetings with or assessments of Russian leaders by American presidents, Victor Davis Hanson notes in NRO.
- FDR on Stalin: “I just have a hunch that Stalin is not that kind of man. Harry [Hopkins] says he’s not and that he doesn’t want anything but security for his country, and I think if I give him everything I possibly can and ask for nothing in return, noblesse oblige, he won’t try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace.”
- John F. Kennedy on Khrushchev at the blown summit in Geneva: “He beat the hell out of me. It was the worst thing in my life. He savaged me.”
- Ronald Reagan’s weird offer to share American SDI technology and research with Gorbachev or, without much consultation with his advisers, to eliminate all ballistic missiles at Reykjavik.
Putin predated the Trump presidency, VDH reminds readers. Trump did not create an empowered Putin. In fact, Trump has done more than any other president so far to check Putin’s ambitions.
Putin in 2016 continued longstanding Russian cyberattacks and election interference because of past impunity (Obama belatedly told Putin to “cut it out” only in September 2016). He swallowed Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine after the famous Hillary-managed “reset” — a surreal Chamberlain-like policy in which we simultaneously appeased Putin in fact while in rhetoric lecturing him about his classroom cut-up antics and macho style.
Had Trump been overheard on a hot mic in Helsinki promising more flexibility with Putin on missile defense after our midterm elections, in expectation for electorally advantageous election-cycle quid pro quo good behavior from the Russians, we’d probably see articles of impeachment introduced on charges of Russian collusion. And yet the comparison would be even worse than that. After all, America kept Obama’s 2011 promise “to Vladimir,” in that we really did give up on creating credible missile defenses in Eastern Europe, breaking pledges made by a previous administration — music to Vladimir Putin’s ears.
Trump, VDH points out invited Putin into the Middle East “after a Russian hiatus of nearly 40 years to prove to the world that Bashar al-Assad had eliminated his WMD trove — which Assad subsequently continued to use at his pleasure. There is currently no scandal over uranium sales to Russia, and the secretary of state’s spouse has not been discovered to have recently pocketed $500,000 to speak in Moscow.”
Accused by a progressive commentator of flipping on an “Against Trump” agenda, VDH defends himself from the mistaken rant.
I never participated in the “Against Trump” NR issue and never counted myself “out” during the November 2016 election, so how could I beg to be let back in?
Rather, like about half the country and 90 percent of the Republican Party, I (as a deplorable) saw the choice in 2016 as a rather easy one between the latest iteration of Hillary Clinton and her known progressive agenda and Trump’s proposed antithesis to the ongoing Obama project of fundamental transformation.
And so far, nothing since November 2016 has convinced me otherwise.
Read much more from Mr. Hanson on his views of the Paris Climate Accord, NATO, NAFTA, and the Iran deal here.