Sanctions on Putin’s Inner Circle

The day after my last posting, I was briefly buoyed by the announcement that sanctions were imposed on seven Russian oligarchs with close ties to President Vladimir Putin and the twelve companies they own or control, seventeen senior Russian government officials and the government owned weapons trading company, Rosoboronexport. Well, this is progress, I thought, as the Administration explained that these actions against Putin’s inner circle were punishment for Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and its continuing aggression in Crimea, Ukraine and Syria.

Response to Chemical Weapons

This was followed last Friday by American, British and French missile attacks against Syrian sites associated with chemical weapons production after the President blamed President Putin, Russia and Iran for the use of chemical weapons in a Syrian attack on its own citizens. Then on Sunday, UN Ambassador, Niki Haley, stated that additional sanctions against Russia would be announced the next day.

Could this actually be happening? Had the President finally come to the realization that he could no longer ignore the source of Russian aggression against the United States and place the blame where it squarely belonged—on the Russian President, Vladimir Putin? But then reality prevailed.

Rejecting New Sanctions

On Monday the President rejected the additional sanctions, contradicting Ambassador Haley, not only revealing again the lack of a coherent voice in foreign policy but the absence of a corresponding strategy to counter Russian aggression. Then, as if to rub her nose in what was apparently perceived as an attempt to upstage the President, Larry Kudlow, the new Director of the National Economic Council, blamed her statement on “momentary confusion.” To her credit, on Tuesday Ambassador Haley released the rather terse statement, “With all due respect, I don’t get confused,” extracting an apology from the eviscerated Kudlow.

It was also revealed on Monday that the President was very upset after learning that the number of Russian diplomats the United States expelled following the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy (double agent) and his daughter in London was considerably greater than any other country. Apparently, he believed that the U.S. was matching the numbers expelled individually by the U.K., France and Germany, rather than the European Union as a whole.

Vladimir’s Friend

So, we are once again back to the point where the leader of the Free World refuses to or is incapable of leading. Even with the sanctions already applied, one gets the impression that this President is embarrassed that he was essentially forced to apply them. He wants to be friends with Vladimir, to have a good relationship, but others seem to prevent that from happening.

History and the Response to Aggression

It is clear that this President is not a student of history. How could he be? He doesn’t read books. When asked, he said he didn’t need to read because he makes decisions “with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I had.” Consequently, unless he has seen it in the movies or on television, he has no knowledge of what is contained in books.

Perhaps if he read—even a little—he might learn something about the impact of appeasement of those inclined to commit aggression. He might learn that the failure to confront and respond to aggression only emboldens the aggressor. But then again, that theme has appeared in many films and television programs, so I will make a leap of faith and assume that he has, at some time in his life, seen a few of that genre. So, he should have accumulated the knowledge about emboldening the aggressor. Yet, he doesn’t act except when he is obliged to.

The Continuing Threat

Which leads to the same question asked many times before. Why doesn’t he take an assertive stance against the Russian President? Absent other information, one can only conclude that President Putin has some negative information that the President doesn’t want revealed—some leverage that prevents the President from acting responsibly. Until this situation is resolved, the greatest threat to our national security remains from within.



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