The freakout over Donald Trump’s alleged love affair with Vladimir Putin may or may not have a firm basis in reality. But to the extent that it’s Democrats who are freaking out, I can’t help but note their hypocrisy.
It was President Obama and then-Secretary of State Clinton who gave us the Russian reset, one consequence of which was to deny Poland and the Czech Republic a missile shield. It is Obama whose response to Putin’s aggression against Ukraine has been so tepid.
Moreover, it is Obama whose policy, as opposed to his rhetoric, mirrors Trump’s statements regarding Syria that have many analysts freaking out. U.S. policy under Obama has been to (1) stand by and watch the Assad regime, now a puppet of Russia and Iran, destroy the Syrian opposition and (2) hope to enlist Russia in the fight against ISIS. This is basically the policy that Trump has taken so much abuse for advocating.
But Obama’s foreign policy isn’t just congenial to Russia in the Age of Putin. Fidel Castro’s death reminds us that under Obama, the U.S. has replaced the old Soviet Union as a leading benefactor of totalitarian anti-American regimes.
The Soviet Union propped up Casto’s Cuba. Obama has helped do the same by normalizing relations with Cuba in exchange, essentially, for nothing.
These days, Iran is America’s main enemy among nations. It has also become an ally of Russia.
Obama’s Iran deal has enriched the Iranian regime to a degree that neither Khrushchev, Brezhnev, nor Putin could have dreamed of approaching.
It’s possible that Trump’s policy towards Putin will mirror or even be marginally worse than Obama’s. The president-elect seems to indulge in the same fantasy that caused Obama and Clinton to be so misguided during the “reset” era — the belief that Putin’s bad behavior is America’s fault, i.e., the product of bad U.S. policy rather than of Putin’s soul.
We can be reasonably confident, however, that Trump won’t ape Obama when it comes to enriching America’s enemies gratuitously. Thus, provided that Trump doesn’t undermine NATO — something I very much doubt he will do — better days are very likely ahead when it comes to U.S. foreign policy.