A Summary of US-Russia Relations

Senator Corker provided a pretty damning run-down last week.

The following is from the opening statement of by Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in hearing held with Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo:

Last week, President Trump held a summit with Vladimir Putin, someone who has violated the most fundamental international norms through his efforts to annex Crimea, has interfered with elections, including our own, has supported the brutal Assad regime in Syria, has used chemical weapons to poison a former Russian agent and his daughter in the United Kingdom, has occupied portions of Georgia, continues to violate the INF Treaty, has reportedly hacked U.S. utilities, the list goes on and on, and you know the list.

In the face of these hostilities, in the summit’s aftermath, we saw an American president who appeared submissive and deferential.

I will stress:  this is a Republican leading a majority-Republican committee. Yes, Corker has often been a critic of the President, but he remains in the President’s party and he remains in a position of authority in the Republican-controlled Senate.   This is not  some wacky liberal with Trump Derangement Syndrome or whatever else defenders of the President might like to use to dismiss criticisms.

This dovetails with my recent post about lack of action in the face of Russian attacks and raises real questions about US foreign policy.

This list does underscore why the lack of criticism by Trump, who criticized everyone, of Putin is so strange if not damning.

Pompeo’s responses during the hearing, which were often of the genre, “look at what the US government is doing, not what the President is saying” were quite remarkable in their own way.

For a great run-down, I would recommend this edition of the The Daily from last week:  Which to Believe: Trump’s Words, or His Acts?

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Europe, US Politics, World Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    I’ve come across commentary, both in message boards and online publications, stressing both that Russia is not the USSR, and that its economy is tiny for such a large country.

    They tend to omit the facts listed by Dr. Taylor right here, as well as the very real fact that Russia still possesses a very large number of nuclear weapons mounted on ICBMs, SLBMs, and carried by long range bombers.

    The implication is that a country that’s not the Soviet Union which also has a small economy cannot possibly be a threat to anyone, least of all America.

    So, there’s this country with an even smaller economy, that was also not the Soviet Union, and which couldn’t possibly be a threat to anyone, right? least of all to America.

    The funny thing is US troops have been fighting there since 2001, when that inoffensive country helped stage the 9/11 attacks.

    Russia is not the Soviet Union, agreed. Russia’s economy is small, agreed. Therefore it’s waging asymmetrical warfare against the US and the West, like other terrorist states have done in the past. Only this terrorist state also has nukes, and the means to deliver them on top of every major US and Western city.

    I don’t know about Trump’s sycophants on the GOP, but I think that’s a cause for reasonable concern.

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  2. @Kathy: Indeed. Not the USSR and not a new Cold War. Nor do I even think Russia is the most significant foreign policy issue for the US.

    But, there is no doubt that Russia has undertaken adversarial actions in Europe. The poisoning in the UK alone is serious breach of sovereignty (as are the hacking of US politics).

  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    Iran GDP: 390 billion
    Russia GDP: 1.3 trillion.
    Iran Nuclear Arsenal: 0
    Russia Nuclear Arsenal: ~7000 deliverable warheads.

    So, according to the current Hannity/Trump line we should be TERRIFIED of Iran. But Russia is too small to worry about.

    Got it.

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  4. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I have a hypothesis on that.

    Iran was a client state of the US, until the revolution in the late 70s overthrew the Shah. Then it became not only an independent actor, but a destabilizing one in a important region of the world (all that oil and natural gas). And perhaps more important than that, it became hostile to america, and dealt it a humiliating blow by holding on to American hostages for over a year.

    So there is much visceral resentment of Iran, above and beyond its myriad bad acts in the region.

    Those bad acts are real. So there is a need to contain Iran, and in particular to keep it from acquiring nukes. I seem to recall a deal to that effect.

  5. charon says:

    @Kathy:

    The funny thing is US troops have been fighting there since 2001, when that inoffensive country helped stage the 9/11 attacks.

    Clarification please. Here I had been thinking Osama’s support was out of KSA, with an assist from Afghanistan. Not so?

  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Kathy:
    I blame Jimmy Carter. The Iranians had legitimate beef with us over the overthrow of Mossadegh and subsequent support for the Shah. But the seizure of an embassy requires a serious response, regardless of the moral balance of the underlying situation. And Jimmy dithered. He dithered and then he fired off a pitiful popgun of a failed raid.

    The response to the seizure of the embassy should have been: 1) A statement of regret over their potential sacrifice, 2) Followed by a bombing campaign that drastically degraded Iran as a military power followed by an arms embargo. And we should have held out the threat of seizing Iran’s oil-rich islands if they had any further interest in harming American citizens. Then, we should have reached out to any regime that followed the Ayatollahs.

    Carter’s weakness gave us a potential nuclear threat from Iran, and invited the middle east to see us as weak. It also elected Reagan who did a great deal of damage to this country with his dogwhistle racism, his indifference to reality and of course Iran-Contra.

    You have to be willing to lose the hostages or you’ve handed an opponent a potent weapon in asymmetrical warfare. The essential difference in asymmetrical warfare, the thing that makes it work, is not just the imbalance in raw power, but the ruthless commitment to win.

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  7. Gustopher says:

    As much as I respect Corker’s words, I think we need to look at his actions. He has a position of authority, in a Senate balanced on a knifes edge — he can gum up the works, if he chooses to.

    I’m not expecting him to caucus with Democrats, or vote against a Supreme Court nominee, but I would expect someone this critical of the administration to do something. Perhaps something small, and tightly focused on Russia.

    Hold up funding on X until the Trump administration fully implements the sanctions that were passed earlier this congress.

    Something.

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  8. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @charon: KSA is an *important ally* (with oil that it uses as an economic weapon at our behest from time to time); consequently, Afghanistan was left holding the bag for the 911 attacks (because of ObL’s whereabouts), so I’m not sure what clarification you are wondering about/needing.

  9. gVOR08 says:

    What @Gustopher: said. Corker seems to understand the situation nicely. He should understand. He is Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee. A position that gives him access to information. And a level of responsibility. What’s he done about it?

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The response to the seizure of the embassy should have been: 1) A statement of regret over their potential sacrifice, 2) Followed by a bombing campaign that drastically degraded Iran as a military power followed by an arms embargo. And we should have held out the threat of seizing Iran’s oil-rich islands if they had any further interest in harming American citizens. Then, we should have reached out to any regime that followed the Ayatollahs.

    And then… VICTORY!!!

    Sorry Michael, in the real world there are no simple solutions to complex problems leading to clean results. Your proposal above sounds as fantastical as anything I heard from the GWBush administration in 2001 and again in 2003.

    I have no counter proposal because I think anything we did would have been wholly ineffectual quite likely counterproductive, and risking a quagmire. Just glad it wasn’t my problem.

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  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @gVOR08:

    What’s he done about it?

    Retire.

  12. Michael Reynolds says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    I didn’t say it’d be clean or cost-free, just better than what we did.

    Rule #1 of power: don’t let the other guy have it. Never let them write the narrative.

  13. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I like and admire you, Michael, but I am very glad you are not our president. Or our king.

    Although compared to what we’ve got now…

  14. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I respectfully disagree. Had we taken your course of action, all we’d have gotten would’ve been the equivalent of Russia’s disastrous intervention in Afghanistan <3.

  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    @SC_Birdflyte:
    Russia invaded and occupied Afghanistan. I did not then, nor now, think we should invade or occupy Iran. The better analogy would be the Libya intervention. And yes, I’m aware that hasn’t gone well. But that is a comparable action.

  16. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Michael Reynolds: What you’re now speaking of is a punitive strike, which does have benefits in certain situations. But unless carefully controlled, it can quickly morph into a full-fledged war. Our use of Saddam Hussein as a (tacit) surrogate from 1980 to 1988 didn’t have good results.

  17. MarkedMan says:

    Tangential: It appears Rudy Giuliani just added a choice morsel to the Russian collusion case: there was a planning meeting on June 7th two days before the infamous Trump Tower meeting, and Cohen attended that. For those who follow closely, later that evening Trump spoke at a rally and bragged about how he would soon have all kinds of dirt on Clinton.

    Rudy revealed this in the course of stating that Trump did not attend the meeting. As far as I know there was never discussion of a planning meeting before today, but it certainly once again shows up the ridiculous story that the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians somehow just happened and three (4? 5?) senior members of the Trump campaign just happened to drop in. So is that what Cohen is offering the Feds? That Trump knew about the meeting all along and in fact participated in a planning session?

    Rudy also has moved the goal posts to outside the stadium. Trump the Liar has been stating over and over and over again: “No Collusion!” But out of the blue Rudy piped up with his new legal theory that “Collusion is not a crime”. It looks like he knows that proof of Trump’s collusion is about to come out. Of course, this will have no affect on the Trumpoids as they don’t base their faith on reality. But to anyone that sits in the vague middle ground the sudden switch form “No Collusion!!!” to “Collusion is not a Crime!!!” may break through the wall.

  18. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Giuliani just spilled the beans, on CNN, that there was a June 7th strategy meeting regarding the June 9th Dennison Tower meeting between the Russian agents and the Dennison campaign…and that meeting included Cohen and Rick Gates, who is now a cooperating witness. It’s possible Mueller now has a collaborating witness for the Cohen claims in Gates.
    This previously undisclosed meeting was the very same day on which Dennison said in a campaign speech that he’d be giving a big speech with new dirt on Clinton.
    Occums Razor, my friends.
    This is a really big fvcking deal.
    Rudy has jumped up and down on a hornets nest with both feet.

  19. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    Also…Rudy said Kushner was at that meeting. Kushner testified to Congress that he did not know what the June 9th meeting was about. So now he AND Donnie Jr. appear to be guilty of perjury.
    Wasn’t Clinton impeached over perjury? Is perjury only important if committed by a Democrat?

  20. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    Also…Rudy said Dennison was not “physically present” at the June 9th meeting, implying he may have attended via speakerphone. Apparently using the speakerphone is a regular habit for Dennison.

    In the meantime Rudy also moved the goalposts a la our friend J-E-N-O-S…going from “no collusion” to Dennison did not personally hack Democratic emails with his own tiny little hands.

    Rudy really stepped in it with this interview.

  21. charon says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Rudy revealed this in the course of stating that Trump did not attend the meeting.

    Yes, that’s carefully parsed, as Trump is notorious for his use of speakerphone to listen in on meetings. (It appears there are people who think Trump was on speakerphone for this one).

  22. charon says:
  23. MarkedMan says:

    I’m going to (slightly) defend Rudy Giuliani here. Everyone assumes Rudy is being an idiot in his various revelations. But all the criticism boils down to “Doesn’t he know he just revealed X?! What a maroon!” But that presupposes that “X” wasn’t true, or that it wasn’t going to come out absent Giuliani’s revelations. But reverse that. Assume that these things are true and Rudy knows they are going to come out. What is the best strategy for someone crafting Trump’s defense? Rudy has expressed himself pretty clearly. A sitting president cannot be charged with a crime so impeachment is the only thing he has to defend against. Therefore his audience is around 15-20 Republican Senators and a handful on either side in the House.

    He absolutely does not want major revelations if impeachment becomes a real debate. He can’t have House Members getting up there and stating unequivocally that Trump didn’t know anything about, say, the Trump tower meeting and then a few days later have Trump himself admit that he did, but it didn’t matter, and Benghazi and Obama and Witchhunt. The Republicans are leprous quislings but even a quisling will develop a “backbone” if they start to believe they are getting thrown out of the lifeboat.

  24. dazedandconfused says:

    @Kathy:

    I have a hypothesis on that.

    Iran was a client state of the US, until the revolution in the late 70s overthrew the Shah. Then it became not only an independent actor, but a destabilizing one in a important region of the world (all that oil and natural gas). And perhaps more important than that, it became hostile to america, and dealt it a humiliating blow by holding on to American hostages for over a year.

    So there is much visceral resentment of Iran, above and beyond its myriad bad acts in the region.

    Those bad acts are real. So there is a need to contain Iran, and in particular to keep it from acquiring nukes. I seem to recall a deal to that effect.

    There is some truth in that but the main reason is Israel and AIPAC have been lobbying for it ever since Iraq fell. Before Gulf War II it was Iraq who was the greatest threat to civilization.