In recent days, media attention has been turned to what appears to be an increasingly cozy relationship between the president-elect, Donald Trump, and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin sent PEOTUS a warm Christmas note that concluded with him referring to Mr. Trump as “his excellency.”
Putin, a former KGB agent, a murderer, and the dangerous leader of a hostile foreign power, is most recently the man behind air strikes in Aleppo, Syria that have taken out hospitals and other civilian targets. Putin, the world’s most powerful person of 2016 according to Forbes Magazine, is also confirmed to have been responsible for cyber attacks against the United States, something Mr. Trump actively encouraged in July 2016 during the presidential campaign.
Clinton, who famously referred to Mr. Trump has a Putin’s “puppet” during the third and final presidential debate in October, has been tough on Putin for many years, so much so that the Kremlin actively fretted a Clinton presidency and actively work to ensure it did not come to pass.
In light of that, here’s your BRIEF on the score between Clinton and Trump on Russia. It’s clear that Clinton, forever a bad-ass, and a woman, was the champion America needed to stand up to our enemies abroad.
From “The Briefing,” here’s the score:
Trump Courts the Kremlin, While Clinton Stands Up to Russia
Hillary Clinton has a proven record of being tough with Russia and getting results. She’s made clear that she knows that “strength and resolve are the only language Putin understands.” Donald Trump: not so much – he’s more interested in making Putin his best friend. The contrast couldn’t be more stark.
US Ambassador to Russia, Mike McFaul: “The person that was always the toughest vis a vis Russia was Secretary Clinton in our interagency debates. There should be no confusion about that. She took on all the tough pieces in the portfolio. There should be no illusions about where she stands on these issues.”
Vladimir Putin: “[Donald Trump is] a really brilliant and talented person, without any doubt… It’s not our job to judge his qualities, that’s a job for American voters, but he’s the absolute leader in the presidential race…. He says he wants to move on to a new, more substantial relationship, a deeper relationship with Russia, how can we not welcome that?
Clinton helped secure Russia’s buy-in on crucial agreements to make the world safer. Under Clinton’s stewardship as Secretary of State, the United States:
Convinced Russia to put into place crippling new sanctions on Iran that forced them to the negotiating table, as well as nuclear sanctions on North Korea.
Oversaw negotiations to pass the New START Treaty to further limit the number of deployed strategic warheads for Russia and the US.
Secured Russia’s agreement to allow the United States air and ground transit through their territory for troops and equipment, giving a major boost to our efforts in Afghanistan.
And at the same time, again and again, Hillary Clinton has stood up to Russia in the face of unacceptable behavior:
With Vladimir Putin’s reelection on the horizon in late 2011, Clinton took a strong stance in calling for a full investigation of electoral fraud and manipulation. Putin was so upset by her forcefulness that he blamed her for protests against him in Moscow.
Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili credited Hillary Clinton with convincing the Russians to stop bombing, saying she was “very insistent and very tough” in meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Clinton has repeatedly condemned Putin’s reprehensible actions, from denouncing his attempts to “re-Sovietize” border nations, to blasting his “despicable” opposition to UN action in Syria and speaking out against his efforts to curtail human rights.
Clinton called for the United States to do more to aid the Ukrainians in Crimea in their efforts to beat back Putin’s annexation.
While Clinton has stood up to Russia, Trump panders to Putin, and he and his advisers’ far-reaching ties to the Kremlin cast serious doubt over his ability and desire to prioritize American national security interests as president.
Washington Post: Inside Trump’s financial ties to Russia and his unusual flattery of Vladimir Putin: “The overwhelming consensus among American political and national security leaders has held that Putin is a pariah who disregards human rights and has violated international norms in seeking to regain influence and territory in the former Soviet bloc…. Trump has conveyed a different view, informed in part through his business ambitions.
ABC News: From Russia With Trump: A Political Conflict Zone: “But an ABC News investigation found he has numerous connections to Russian interests both in the U.S. and abroad. ‘The level of business amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars — what he received as a result of interaction with Russian businessmen,’ said Sergei Millian, who heads a U.S.-Russia business group and who says he once helped market Trump’s U.S. condos in Russia and the former Soviet states. ‘They were happy to invest with him, and they were happy to work with Donald Trump. And they were happy to associate—[and] be associated with Donald Trump.’”
New York Times: Letter From Former Officials Urges Donald Trump to Detail Foreign Dealings:“On the campaign trail, Mr. Trump has repeatedly praised Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian leadership, while outlining policies that read like a Kremlin wish list,” the letter reads, referring to the president of Russia. He has claimed that Putin would never invade Ukraine, suggested permanently ceding Crimea to Russia and placed conditions on upholding our obligation to protect our NATO allies. He has floated lifting sanctions against Russia, which would benefit both Putin and the Trump Organization.”
Washington Post: ‘Donald Trump is not a patriot,’ says former acting CIA chief Michael Morell: “‘I am worried that Donald Trump, were he to win, would be the first president to have personal interests that could interfere with our country’s interest,’ [former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright] said. ‘Putin could not have dreamed up a better candidate than Donald Trump.’ According to Albright, Trump’s affinity for Russia helps explain why he denies that Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014 and also why he did not meet with Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko this week during the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York.”
Yahoo: U.S. intel officials probe ties between Trump adviser and Kremlin: “The activities of Trump adviser Carter Page, who has extensive business interests in Russia, have been discussed with senior members of Congress during recent briefings about suspected efforts by Moscow to influence the presidential election, the sources said. After one of those briefings, Senate minority leader Harry Reid wrote FBI Director James Comey, citing reports of meetings between a Trump adviser (a reference to Page) and ‘high ranking sanctioned individuals’ in Moscow over the summer as evidence of ‘significant and disturbing ties’ between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin that needed to be investigated by the bureau.”
Newsweek: How the Trump Organization’s Foreign Business Ties Could Upend U.S. National Security: “The [Trump Organization] is connected to a controversial Russian figure, Vladimir Potanin, a billionaire with interests in mining, metals, banking and real estate. He was a host of the Russian version of The Apprentice (called Candidate), and Trump, through the Trump Organization, served as the show’s executive producer. Potanin is deeply tied to the Russian government and obtained much of his wealth in the 1990s through what was called the loans-for-shares program, part of an effort by Moscow to privatize state properties through auction. Those sales were rigged: Insiders with political connections were the biggest beneficiaries.”
Slate: Putin’s Puppet: “The destruction of Europe is a grandiose objective; so is the weakening of the United States. Until recently, Putin has only focused glancing attention on American elections. Then along came the presumptive Republican nominee. Donald Trump is like the Kremlin’s favored candidates, only more so. He celebrated the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU. He denounces NATO with feeling. He is also a great admirer of Vladimir Putin.”
Talking Points Memo: Trump & Putin. Yes, It’s Really a Thing: “At a minimum, Trump appears to have a deep financial dependence on Russian money from persons close to Putin. And this is matched to a conspicuous solicitousness to Russian foreign policy interests where they come into conflict with US policies which go back decades through administrations of both parties. There is also something between a non-trivial and a substantial amount of evidence suggesting Putin-backed financial support for Trump or a non-tacit alliance between the two men.”
Op-ed by former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul: Why Putin wants a Trump victory (so much he might even be trying to help him): “Putin has rational motives for wanting Trump to win: Trump champions many foreign policies that Putin supports. Trump’s most shocking, pro-Kremlin proposal is to ‘look into’ recognition of Crimea as a part of Russia…. Trump also has made clear his disdain for the United States’ alliances around the world. Demonstrating his misunderstanding of how NATO works, Trump has demanded that other NATO members essentially pay us for protection, making many of our allies, especially in the eastern part of Europe, nervous about his commitment to defend them…. On the whole, Trump advocates isolationist policies and an abdication of U.S. leadership in the world. He cares little about promoting democracy and human rights. A U.S. retreat from global affairs fits precisely with Putin’s international interests.”
Trump, September 2015: “In terms of leadership, [Putin’s] getting an ‘A,’ and our president is not doing so well.”
Trump, May 2016: “I respect Putin. He’s a strong leader, I can tell you that, unlike what we have. We have a pathetic leader. Pathetic.”