Monday, August 28, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He dragged Finland into his unwillingness to ever say anything remotely negative about the Putin regime.

Trump appeared with visiting Finnish president Sauli Niinist√∂ today and briefly took questions. A Finnish reporter detailed recent incursions by Russian planes into Finnish airspace, and asked Trump whether he considered Russia a security threat. Trump responded, "Well, I consider many countries as a security threat, unfortunately, when you look at what’s going on in the world today." He refused to be drawn back, in a follow-up question, to the specific concerns about Russia.

When another Finnish reporter asked about the role Trump saw Finland playing in US-Russia relations, Trump said, "Finland is respected by Russia. Finland has been free of Russia, reallyjust about one of the few countries in the region that has beenfor 100 years." Finland and Russia (as part of the Soviet Union) have fought four wars in the last 100 years. The Soviet "respect" for Finland's "freedom" during the Cold War took the form of forcing Finland into a humiliating policy of de facto support for the Soviet bloc in exchange for nominal independence. It's not clear if Trump knew any of this.

Trump, who otherwise never lets diplomacy or wisdom rein in his penchant for insults, has yet to say a single even mildly reproachful word about Vladimir Putin or his government. Today's instance of weirdly specific politeness came amidst revelations that he was actively courting the Putin government's help in building a second Trump Tower in Moscow during his presidential campaign, despite many categorical denials that he had any business in Russia.

Why is this a bad thing?

  • A president who cannot bring himself to offer even mild criticism of an adversarial foreign power is a president who cannot do his job.
  • Getting the basic facts of a country's history wrong during a five-minute appearance with the leader of that nation is too simple a mistake for a president to make.