Comes the dawn. Relentless critics are blasting U.S. President Donald J. Trump, no matter what he does, the same way that some people mindlessly opposed Barack Obama, no matter what he did.
But we welcome Trump’s awakening on the menace of Russia and his move towards a rational and tougher policy against the Kremlin’s global threat, a policy that should include heavier economic sanctions on the Kremlin and greater support for Ukraine -- including the generous supply of lethal defensive weapons to help bring an end to Russia’s three-year war that has killed 10,000 people and dismembered Ukraine.
Trump in the last week has admitted that the 28-nation NATO military alliance is not “obsolete” as he campaigned to win the presidency on Nov. 8. And he admitted, in an April 12 White House press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, what’s happening in Ukraine is “crazy.”
It’s “crazy” because Russia is an outlaw nation led by a war criminal who backs dictators like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, who kills his own civilians with banned chemical weapons. Vladimir Putin knows a thing or two about killing his own citizens, by the thousands. Current leaders, including Trump, may have finally woken up to the fact that Russia will do anything to undermine civilized values of democracy, rule of law and transparency.
“Right now, we’re not getting along with Russia at all. We may be at an all-time low in terms of a relationship with Russia,” Trump said. Stoltenberg, the former Norwegian prime minister, assessed the West’s policy correctly: “The only way to deter Russia is to be strong.”
Meanwhile, in Moscow, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson showed only a partial awakening on Russia after his meetings with his counterpart, the habitual liar Sergei Lavrov, and Putin.
On the up side, Tillerson said: “Russia can make progress in implementation by de-escalating violence (in Ukraine) and taking steps to withdraw separatist armed forces and heavy weapons so that OSCE observers can fulfill their role. Until full progress is made under the Minsk Accords, the situation in Ukraine will remain an obstacle to improvement in relations between the U.S. and Russia.”
On the down side, the secretary of state said: “We discussed no change in the status of sanctions that have been in place with Russia as a result of certain actions taken in Ukraine, as you know.”
Russia’s war, interference with Western elections, support of Syria’s dictator and its heinous record on human rights, including the murders of Kremlin critics, are reason enough to ostracize Russia’s leaders.
The West should put an economic vise grip on Russia that bankrupts the Putin regime by cutting energy purchases, denying visas to its elite and enacting Iran-strength sanctions, including a SWIFT code ban on financial transactions. Ukraine must also follow suit and endure the short-term economic pain.
When Russia returns Crimea, withdraws from the Donbas and is prepared to live in peace, respect human rights and adhere to international law, it can be readmitted to the family of civilized nations.