People Are Shocked, Confused That Trump Occasionally Agrees to Look Like He Cares About Russian Aggression

I keep seeing articles in which is expressed surprise and/or perplexity that Donald Trump occasionally agrees to a policy that makes him, ever so briefly, look as though he cares about Russian aggression.

This is a pretty good example, care of John Hudson, Shane Harris, and Josh Dawsey at the Washington Post:
In the days leading up to the largest expulsion of Russian spies in U.S. history, few people inside or outside the Trump administration knew exactly what the president would do.

U.S. intelligence officials, who had been pushing to dismantle Moscow's spy networks, believed that the president might decide against a recommendation to close the Russian Consulate in Seattle.

...But on Friday, the president's national security team presented him with three options, and Trump's final decision set in motion an exodus of 60 Russian spies — a surprising rebuke of Moscow that even caught U.S. allies off guard.

"We received signals that expulsions were coming, but the numbers surprised us," said a senior European diplomat based in Washington. "It was very high."

The uncertainty surrounding the president's decision reflected a phenomenon that has baffled the United States' closest allies for almost a year: Despite Trump's reliably warm rhetoric toward Moscow and his steadfast reluctance to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Trump administration has at multiple times taken aggressive action against Russia at the recommendation of the president's top aides.

...[Said John Herbst, a Russia scholar at the Atlantic Council]: "The president's heart doesn't seem to be in it, but for whatever reason, he's willing to go along with his advisers."
Let me just posit this wild theory as the reason Trump was willing to go along with advice designed to dismantle Moscow's spy networks (which, by the way, left "well over 40 Russian spies operating in the United States who were not included in the initial purge"): Because none of this matters while Trump is firmly ensconced in Putin's pocket.

Russia doesn't need spies in the United States when the United States president will share highly classified intel directly with Russian diplomats right in the Oval Office.

And when the United States president is deferential to Putin, to the point of being afraid to anger him:
Donald Trump's national security advisers spent months trying to convince him to sign off on a plan to supply new U.S. weapons to Ukraine to aid in the country's fight against Russian-backed separatists, according to multiple senior administration officials.

Yet when the president finally authorized the major policy shift, he told his aides not to publicly tout his decision, officials said. Doing so, Trump argued, might agitate Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the officials.

"He doesn't want us to bring it up," one White House official said. "It is not something he wants to talk about."

The White House declined to comment.
I'm sure they did. It might make Putin angry, after all.
Officials said the increasingly puzzling divide between Trump's policy decisions and public posture on Russia stems from his continued hope for warmer relations with Putin and stubborn refusal to be seen as appeasing the media or critics who question his silence or kind words for the Russian leader.

...Trump has recently taken a sharper tone on Putin, administration officials said, but the shift seems more a reaction to the Russian leader challenging the president's strength than a new belief that he's an adversary. Putin's claim earlier this month that Russia has new nuclear-capable weapons that could hit the U.S., a threat he underscored with video simulating an attack, "really got under the president's skin," one official said.
Trump may finally be waking up to the reality that he is not, as he has unaccountably believed, Putin's pal but instead has been Putin's mark. And now that Putin has Trump — and the nation he's now tasked with leading — right where he wants them, he has no use for the transparent buddy shtick anymore.

At this point, I don't believe Trump is truly committed to pushing back on the Kremlin, even if he's vexed by what he perceives as a shifting alliance. If that changes, Putin is going to push back — hard. And he's in a much stronger position, thanks to Trump's deeply disloyal and equally stupid behavior toward Russia for many, many years.

If Trump really does get tired of being owned by Putin, I suspect he will find in short order that he's more owned than he ever knew.

And the only way for the rest of us to get out from under that is to remove Trump from office, swiftly.

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