The massive expulsion of American diplomats from Russia is unprecedented in the history of U.S. foreign policy. Trump has not done, or even said, anything about it.
Russian President Vladimir Putin made good on his threats to retaliate against the United States for its entirely justified seizure of two Russian compounds used to commit acts of espionage and cyberwarfare on our soil, and expelled 755 American diplomats from the U.S. embassy in Moscow.
Lest there be any confusion of why he was doing this, Putin also ordered the seizure of two U.S. compounds in Russia.
It is hard to overstate how unprecedented Putin’s actions are. Even the former Soviet Union, at the height of the Cold War, never expelled U.S. diplomats on this big a scale.
But as of now, Donald Trump has done nothing in response to the aggression against our diplomats. In fact, he has not even made a public statement.
Mike Pence and the State Department have both condemned Putin’s actions, but Trump — who normally gets set off on Twitter by matters as trivial as an actress criticizing him at the Golden Globes — is totally silent as a significant diplomatic crisis unfolds.
Former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul criticized Trump for his silence in an interview on MSNBC with Joy Reid:
REID: So, Ambassador, how unusual is it for the president of the United States or the White House or the State Department to have made no statement about what Russia has done in terms of telling those 755 staff to stand down?
McFAUL: Well, first, I’ve been trading emails with other ambassadors today, and I think this is the largest expulsion in the history of American diplomacy. I’m glad you brought up 1986 in your set-up piece, but this, as you intimated, is much bigger, and nobody can think of another expulsion this size. And yet, the White House, the president of the United States, is silent. It’s extraordinary. I think it’s outrageous. When I worked at the White House — I worked there for three years — we made statements on all kinds of things, much lesser things, in the voice of the president. He needs to begin to push back on this because it looks like a very weak signal that he’s sending if he doesn’t say anything.
Meanwhile, the Russia sanctions bill, which passed with overwhelming, bipartisan, veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate, has been sitting on the Oval Office desk for four days. Trump reluctantly said he would sign the sanctions after it became clear Congress would enact them with or without him, but he has so far done nothing. On Tuesday, Pence had to step in and assure everyone Trump would get to it “very soon.”
According to CNBC reporter Kayla Tausche, the White House is claiming Trump has not signed the bill yet because he has not received the legislation from Congress. However, the White House’s website lists the bill under “pending legislation.”
Promptly signing this bill would have been the absolute, bare minimum Trump could do to show he is even nominally on America’s side rather than Russia’s. He cannot even do that.
Trump’s squeamish behavior, and his apparent reluctance to do anything that would upset Putin, further supports Shareblue Executive Editor Jess McIntosh’s observation that Trump has an “obsession with making Putin like him.”
It is time for Trump to stop dithering, and admit that Putin will only ever “like” him insofar as he can use Trump against our own national interests. Until he does, he can never truly be our leader.