For 18 months, the Trump administration has taken numerous firm actions against the Kremlin, and foreign policy analysts say President Trump’s charm offensive toward Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday shouldn’t overshadow that.
Hundreds of Russian businesses, power brokers and influential oligarchs remain under tough U.S. economic sanctions, and the administration is considering even harsher penalties against Russian officials if Moscow moves ahead with its controversial Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, which would funnel Russian natural gas through the Baltic Sea to Germany.
“Trump has done some really provocative things. He sent dozens of diplomats back. He’s attacked into Syria. He’s sent anti-tank missiles to eastern Ukraine, very much against [Russia‘s] interests,” said retired Army Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, a senior fellow at Defense Priorities, a Washington foreign policy think tank.
“We spend way too much time focusing on personality and style over substance and actual policy,” Mr. Davis said. “It’s fair game to criticize the president, like many of us did with [former President Barack] Obama. But you still have to focus on the policy.”
In addition to the host of economic sanctions and expulsion of diplomats, the Trump administration also has embraced direct military assistance to Russia’s adversaries in a way the Obama administration did not.
Earlier this year, for example, the U.S. confirmed it had completed its first delivery of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, which remains on edge and fearful of further Russian aggression after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and ongoing assistance to pro-Russia rebels in eastern Ukraine.
The Javelins went through after Mr. Trump had separately approved the sale of another batch of the anti-tank missiles to Georgia, another former Soviet republic that faced its own military showdown with Russia a decade ago.