The U.S. relationship with Russia is in a deep Siberian freeze. After President Donald Trump’s inexplicable affection for Vladimir Putin, yesterday’s turnabout and surprising embrace of long-standing U.S. foreign policy positions is encouraging.
“We may be at an all-time low,” Trump said of the relationship yesterday, echoing the words of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who had earlier met with Putin in Moscow. Tillerson and the Russian foreign minister held a tense and hostile news conference about Syria that didn’t even bother with the usual facade of diplomacy.
Russia is refusing to work with the United States to remove Bashar Assad from power, not even acknowledging that the dictator used poison gas to kill his own people last week. Tillerson repeated the U.S. position that Russia was complicit in the horrific attack.
At his own news conference later in the day in Washington, Trump completed his reversal on Russia, while still holding out hope that Putin will work with him, but he also made a few other head-snapping U-turns. Standing with the NATO secretary-general, he warmly praised the organization he had repeatedly threatened to withdraw from during the campaign. “I said it was obsolete, it’s no longer obsolete,” Trump said. And while we’re keeping score on policy reversals, Trump is seizing an opening with China. He said China is not manipulating its currency, a concession in return for its crackdown on North Korea.
This administration revels in mixed messages, and the latest policies might get upended in a month. But Trump may be shedding his isolationist views and finally adopting a more centrist foreign policy that embraces American leadership in the world.
— The editorial board