President Donald Trump may not be a Russian agent per se, but it's difficult to see how Russia could be any more pleased with a U.S. president who does the Kremlin's bidding and refuses to stand up for U.S. interests.
At the Group of Seven meeting, which closed on Monday, Trump was even more eager to carry Russian President Vladimir Putin's water behind closed doors. CNN reports: "As the leaders discussed issues like Iran and fires in the Amazon rainforest, Trump interjected and asked why Russia should not be included in the talks, given its size and role in global affairs. That met sharp resistance from some of the leaders, principally German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson." Not surprisingly, they argued that Russia got kicked out of the Group of Eight for invading Ukraine. "The dispute amounted to one of the most heated moments of this weekend's G7," CNN reports.
Trump's crackpot theory that President Barack Obama being "outsmarted" was the precipitating factor of the Russian invasion in 2014 was rejected by the G-7's reality-based members. ("The summit's host, French President Emmanuel Macron, conceded it was important to maintain ties with Putin. But he didn't go as far as the US leader, who grew more combative in his stance as the dinner wore on," CNN reported.)
Why would an American president press so strongly on behalf of an adversary of the United States, and to the detriment of our relations with allies? Everyone has a theory, but, whatever the cause, we have a president who repeatedly puts other countries first.
Trump took the extraordinary step of prevailing on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to exclude two U.S. congresswomen, Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., from Israel. In effect, he opened the door to other countries excluding U.S. lawmakers who don't meet with the foreign government's approval.
Sure enough, we learned this week that the Kremlin has denied visas to Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn. Ironically, during a previous visit, Johnson was criticized back home for sounding too conciliatory. Now, he's discovered his inner hawk. The Washington Post reports:
"Johnson's office noted Monday that Johnson supported several pieces of legislation aiming 'to hold Russia accountable for its aggression in Ukraine and its targeting of dissidents.' Among those measures was a bill that would have renamed the street outside of the Russian Embassy after slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.
"In his statement, Johnson chided Russian President Vladimir Putin for having chosen a path for Russia that is 'a tragedy of historic proportions.' He listed a number of criticisms, but notably did not mention Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election -- an issue on which President Trump has been hesitant to criticize Putin."
Murphy has been a consistent Putin critic on everything from human rights to election interference. In a written statement, he declared, "With the collapse of recent arms control agreements and significant domestic opposition to Vladimir Putin's authoritarian rule, this is potentially a perilous moment for our two nations' fragile relationship, and it's a shame that Russia isn't interested in dialogue."
So to recap: You have Trump imploring one ally to exclude American lawmakers and raising a fuss with other allies to invite Putin back into the G-7 while Russia still occupies portions of Ukraine; however, Putin feels no need to allow American lawmakers into his country. Of course he doesn't; Trump is his patsy (for whatever reason) and, therefore, can insult America with impunity.
Congress needs to take back the reins in foreign policy, conditioning Russian visits on its willingness to allow in U.S. lawmakers. At the same time, Congress should rebuke Trump for impairing its work to conduct oversight and for doing Putin's bidding on the G-7. They might even call up Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to ask why Trump keeps putting U.S. and Western interests last.
As for the presidential candidates, it might be a good idea to start calling out Trump as a weakling for dictators. The Democrats should be able to recapture the national security issue with minimal effort.