UPDATED: (Denver, Colorado) — To his credit, President Trump took further steps today to toughen his approach towards Vladimir Putin in light of a growing series of reckless and dangerous actions taken by the Russian dictator, specifically using chemical weapons against civilian individuals on NATO soil.
Mr. Trump is expelling 60 Russian diplomats and spies — 48 from the embassy in Washington and 12 from the Russian mission to the U.N. He’s also closing the Russian consulate in Seattle.
It’s not enough to truly get Putin’s attention and affect his behavior. Indeed, according to an exclusive new poll conducted by John McLaughlin — one of President Trump’s pollsters — 52% of Americans believe the Trump administration must do “much more” to confront the Putin threat. And conservatives and Evangelical leaders should press Mr. Trump towards this end.
That said, in combination with other actions President Trump and his administration have taken in recent weeks, it’s movement in the right direction, and that’s encouraging.
- As of Monday morning, 17 countries have ordered the expulsion of Russian diplomats and intelligence agents: U.S. (60), U.K. (23), Ukraine (13), Canada (4), Germany (4), France (4), Poland (4), Czech Republic (3), Lithuania (3), Netherlands (2), Italy (2), Denmark (2), Estonia (1), Romania (1), Croatia (1), Latvia (1), and Finland (1) — this is an impressive act of a coordinated response by NATO.
- Russia Will Expel U.S. Diplomats in Response to Washington (The Moscow Times)
“President Donald Trump is ordering the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats and the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle, Washington, in the wake of the UK nerve agent attack,” reports CNN this morning.
“The President is taking the action in response to the poisonings of a former Russian double agent and his daughter in England, the administration announced,” the CNN report added. “Forty-eight of the diplomats work at the Russian embassy and a dozen at the United Nations in New York. They and their families will have seven days to leave the country.”
“With these steps, the United States and our allies and partners make clear to Russia that its actions have consequences,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, according to a Fox News report. “The United States stands ready to cooperate to build a better relationship with Russia, but this can only happen with a change in the Russian government’s behavior.”
“Today, the United States began the process of expelling 12 intelligence operatives from the Russian Mission to the United Nations who have abused their privilege of residence in the United States,” UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said Monday. “After a review, we have determined that the 12 intelligence operatives engaged in espionage activities that are adverse to our national security.”
The Associated Press noted that “Britain has already expelled 23 Russian diplomats, accusing them of being undeclared intelligence agents, which led Russia to expel the same number of British diplomats. The European Union has already recalled its ambassador to Russia.”
Let’s be clear, President Trump has been significantly tougher on Russia than President Obama was — and he’s taken additional measures in recent weeks against Russia that have been positive, as I’ve previously noted.
But much more is needed. Here are five steps the President and his team should take, and soon:
- IMPOSE MORE SANCTIONS: President Trump needs to impose far more — and far tougher — sanctions against Russian officials and oligarchs to punish them for their crimes and prevent new crimes. Follow their money. Freeze their assets. Make it difficult or even impossible for them to use or move their money from U.S. and European banks. Prevent these gangsters from having the freedom to travel into the U.S. and NATO countries. In short: hit the Russians where it really hurts, in their wallets.
- MAKE MUCH TOUGHER STATEMENTS: President Trump personally needs to speak out more clearly and more firmly against Putin’s aggressions in comments, speeches, interviews and Tweets. Don’t just leave this to surrogates. Right now, Mr. Trump seems unwilling or unable to directly criticize Putin and this is being perceived by many as weakness. He needs to show leadership.
- DELIVER A MAJOR SPEECH: The President needs to deliver a major address to the American people defining just how serious a threat Vladimir Putin and his regime pose to the U.S. and our allies, and laying out a comprehensive series of strategies to contain and counter the threat, including cyber attacks against our economy, energy and electoral system.
- DEPLOY MORE DETERRENT FORCES: The President needs to order the build up of many more U.S. and NATO deterrent forces in the three lightly-defended Baltic States — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, NATO allies each — to prevent Putin from being tempted to grab them.
- HOLD A SUMMIT WITH NATO LEADERS: The President also ought to host a summit meeting with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and other NATO leaders to discuss and implement additional unified strategies.
As I portray in my new thriller, The Kremlin Conspiracy, tremendous damage to the U.S. and our entire Western alliance could be done by a Russian dictator who feels he can continue to kill his opponents and invade neighboring countries without consequence. To misunderstand the nature and threat of evil is to risk being blindsided by it. True evil is rising in Moscow. It must be understood, confronted and contained with great urgency and great courage, before it’s too late.
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