President Donald Trump’s openness to Putin has been the foreign policy thing that most separated him from the rest of Republicans.
But Russia and the US are on opposite sides of so many issues that the White House would certainly have to come to terms with it.
The vocal dispute between Russia and the US over Syria complicates what has been a feature event; US political drama for months has been about Russian meddling in US elections and the blowback from Trump.
Which Trump campaign staffers met with Russian officials? Which ones have financial ties to Russia? Who is investigating the allegations from the US intelligence community that the Russians were trying to help Trump and hurt Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton?
That narrative isn’t going anywhere. The FBI has an ongoing investigation, as does the Senate Intelligence Committee. The House Intelligence Committee is supposed to have an ongoing investigation, too, but that one has been, to put it mildly, troubled.
The ties between Trump staffers, past and present, to Russia, was aided by Trump’s willingness to start fresh with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he defended in the US media.
Remember when Bill O’Reilly pushed Trump on Putin, saying the Russian was a “killer?”
It’s a relationship both Putin and Trump found valuable during the presidential campaign, when both wanted to see Clinton defeated.
With the two finding their interests breaking, it will be interesting to see who gets the better end of the bargain.
It was seeing pictures of Syrian children devastated by what officials suspect is sarin gas that led Trump, as President, to do an unabashed about-face on Syria. He had opposed military action there when chemical weapons were used during the Obama administration and criticized former President Barack Obama for making that a “red line.”
On Thursday, before the air strikes, Trump said the pictures he saw crossed much more than a red line for him.
“When you kill innocent children, innocent babies — babies, little babies — with a chemical gas that is so lethal — people were shocked to hear what gas it was — that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line. Many, many lines.”
Putin was quick to condemn Trump’s missile strike response, calling it “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of the norms of international law.”
The US and Russia are squaring off on the issue in the UN Security Council, where Russia, which has veto power, has stood in the way of international action against Syria.
This episode in Syria, which has put new presidential pressures on Trump, could also make him understand the concerns others in his party have long had with Russia.