WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s perseverance in the pursuit of friendly relations with Vladimir Putin has highlighted a growing disconnect within the administration on Russia policy. Trump speaks lovingly of Putin and a desire for better relations with Moscow, but the rest of his executive power remains very critical and deeply suspicious of the Russian president and the Kremlin’s intentions.
The strong contrast in the approach has been thrown into sharp relief as Trump and Putin prepare for their summit in Finland on Monday, amid heavy criticism of Russia from Trump’s of the State Department, the Ministry of Justice, Department of Treasury and the Ministry of Defence.
That could be interpreted as a good cop-bad cop ” strategy with Russia. But the mixed messaging has left America’s friends and allies in the war, especially after a controversial NATO summit where Trump questioned the value of the alliance that Putin has long denounced, and sought to weaken.
Just three days before the Helsinki summit, the Ministry of Justice announced the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Muller’s investigation of Moscow meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. That brings to 25 the number of Russians charged in the investigation. Trump has denied any cooperation with Russia and has repeatedly cited Putin’s denials of a Russian intervention in the campaign, which suggests that there is little or nothing he can do to demand accountability. The Kremlin has denied that the Russian state interfered in the election.
The indictments were unsealed just a few hours after Trump again referred to Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt” and after the president told reporters during a press conference with the British Prime Minister Theresa May, “I think I would have a very good relationship with Putin as we spend time together.”
A day earlier in Brussels, Trump said that he would raise the election issue with Putin, but also said: “I do not think that you have a ‘Gosh, I knew it, I knew it. You have me!” There will not be Perry Mason here, I don’t think so. But I will definitely firmly demand.”
Trump has also expressed little interest in the continuation of the harsh AMERICAN criticism of the Russian activities in Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere, and from Russia the human rights. In fact, he has doubts about the U.S. requirements for Russia to return to Ukraine the territory of the Crimea, adopted in 2014, and has proposed that a bargain may be in the works for the Russian ally Bashar Assad to remain in force for an indefinite period of time in Syria.
Compare that with the messages of the State Department.
Under Trump, the department has issued ordinary stinging criticism of Russia, including on human rights and press freedom. Which have been incurred since former CIA Director Mike Pompeo was installed as the top U.S. diplomat in April, and despite the chairman of the increasing need for friendship with Putin.
With a lead of Russia’s national day on June 12, Pompeo said that the United States honors “the citizens of the Russian Federation and their aspirations for the democratic principles of universal freedom, civil liberties, and the rule of law.” On July 6, the department spokeswoman Heather Nauert condemned the “selective targeting” by Russia of AMERICAN-funded news organisations. And on Thursday, the department criticized a “pattern of harassment and violence against people who express a difference of opinion about Russia.”
Pompeo is also steadfast in his support of the NATO.
While Trump was questioning the commitment of the NATO allies on this past week’s summit in Brussels, where the leaders agreed on modest steps to improve the military preparedness in Europe, mainly against Russia, Pompeo was praising the 29-nation group as “the most successful alliance in history.”
Pompeo also warned in a tweet: “Weakness is caused; the strength and the coherence to protect it”.
Secretary of defense Jim Mattis is no less critical of Russia and its attempts to weaken or completely undermine the trans-Atlantic alliance.
“Putin wants to break NATO,” he told graduated at the U. S. Naval War College in the last month. “He is committed to reducing the attraction of the Western democratic model, and attempts to undermine America’s moral authority. His actions are not designed to meet the challenge of our arms at this point, but to undercut and at the expense of our faith in our ideals.”
Measure that against Trump’s suggestion for a rancorous summit of the Group of Seven last month in Canada that the leading industrialized countries and Russia in the elite group of democracies — a suggestion that was short shrift of the other nations.
And if Trump has spoken about bringing Putin back into the international fold, the Ministry of finance has continued to impose sanctions on various Russian officials, companies and entrepreneurs.
Days after the G-7, the Treasure chest on the black list of five Russian companies and three persons, some of whom are accused of direct support of the Russian intelligence service in his efforts for the execution of cyber attacks, including penetration in the America’s energy grid, and threats to the underwater cables that transmit much of the world is communication of data.