Making peace appears to trump accountability for the Trump Administration when it comes to leaders who share the domineering personality traits Donald Trump admires most about himself. Trump seems compelled to appease those who he cannot dominate in order to court favor. The US President has demonstrated this through his willingness to embrace North Korea’s totalitarian leader Kim Jong-Un in an overly cordial manner. Through Trump’s ever tightening relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the US President has also shown how his personal feelings shape his public policy stances. While meeting with Putin at the so-called Helsinki Summit, Trump solidified his embrace of Putin by making renewed bilateral relations a top foreign policy priority and offering his complete faith in Putin’s honestly. The ability of the US to establish a working relationship with Russia was, however, never the problem. Ignoring the wrongs of governments out of convenience has also been easy, and detrimental, for the US government. Soured bilateral relations with Russia were the consequence of the US government doing the right thing and actually holding a world power accountable for its wrongdoing.
Despite then-improving diplomatic ties, US-Russian relations soured under the George W. Bush Administration as Vladimir Putin dismantled democratic institutions across Russia then chose to mount a heavy-handed and weakly-justified preemptive invasion of Georgia that it provoked. Through then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a literal “reset” button, the Obama Administration initially attempted to reset US relations with Russia, which garnered the legitimate criticism of Donald Trump’s Republican Party. This “reset” was then abandoned when the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine lead to Russia’s seizure and eventual annexation of Crimea. Russia claims the Euromaidan protests were solely the product of Western interference and the US provoked Russia while most in the West believe they were the result of Ukrainians rejecting ever-intensifying Russian dominance of the Ukrainian political system. Soured US-Russian relations were actually the consequence of the Putin government stealing a part of a country and supporting insurgencies that threatened US interests and international norms.
Even if the US and/or any of its European allies were responsible for initiating the Euromaidan protests, it does not justify Putin’s theft of Crimea nor his subsequent effort to paralyze Ukraine with insurgencies. The fact Russia has legitimate grievances against the West dating back to the Cold War does not justify Putin’s actions nor does the reality that the US has used insurgencies against other countries make a difference. The simple fact is that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his cronies became a threat to the West when they decided to take military action against the Ukrainian People for seizing control of their own political system and attempting to improve relations with Europe, which is something Russia was also trying to do. The US, in turn, responded by refusing to cooperate with or support Russia. The US isolated Russia for the misdeeds the Putin government had and is still committing.
The Obama Administration reluctantly and weakly waded into the Ukraine Crisis, because the Putin government made Russia into a threat to nations too weak to defend themselves, including America’s European allies, and a threat to the legitimacy of the US-led International Community. Many countries and many people have legitimate grievances against the US, but the Ukraine Crisis is an example of the United States standing up for its ideals and defending the democratic freedoms of a nation that could not defend itself against a major military power. It is an example of the US leading other nations against the wrongdoings of an authoritarian leader whose goal was to seize power over the Peoples and governments of other nations. Although the Ukraine Crisis, which has yet to be resolved, and the renewed military threat to Europe Putin’s Russia poses was the catalyst for soured US-Russian relations, Russian efforts to continually dominate the politics of other nations were and are the central issue.
Despite Trump’s self-serving refusal to confront Putin for his government’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 US Presidential Elect, peace with Russia hinges on the resolution of the Ukraine Crisis and the end of Russia’s ongoing interference in the elections of other nations. Russian must return Crimea to Ukraine and offer repatriations. Russia must also abandon its efforts to dominate the International Community. Trump’s overly friendly stance toward Putin could be the result of his “anti-everything Obama” views, his defiant, controversial personality, and/or personal leverage Putin might have against the US President. It could also be the result of a distorted political and geopolitical view that prioritizes lower oil prices over the numerous issues at play. Low gas prices would, after all, be politically advantageous to the US President and renewed US relations with Russia would help ease oil prices, even though Trump ignores that very factor when dealing with Iran. No matter what Trump’s motivation is, Russia is an adversary until the Ukraine Crisis is resolved, the Putin government is no longer in power, and/or Russia stops trying to dominate the world.
Read old posts