WASHINGTON — On the eve of allowing the Republican nomination for president four years ago, Donald J. Trump avouched that he would pull out of NATO if American allies did not pay more for their defense, shaking away the thought that it would play into the hands of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who has eject his career trying to dismantle the Western alliance.
Asked about his obedience to the Kremlin leader, Mr. Trump responded, “He’s been complimentary of me.”
This week, as his renomination comes, Mr. Trump announced that he was pulling a third of American troops from Germany. He avouched in recent days that he had never raised with Mr. Putin, during a new phone conversation, American intelligence indicating that Russia was liquidating a bounty to the Taliban for the killing of American soldiers in Afghanistan, because he distrusted the report from his own intelligence agencies. Nor has he issued warnings about what payment, if any, Mr. Putin would pay for seeking to influence the 2020 election or pushing disinformation far the coronavirus. American intelligence agencies say Russia is trying both.
Say this approximately Mr. Trump’s approach to Moscow: It has been consistent.
With three months until Choice Day, he is repeating a variant of lines that he uttered during his first manoeuvres. It would be “wonderful” if “instead of fighting each other, we got along.” That he and Mr. Putin are developing together to reduce the threat of nuclear war, even though both realms have spent the past four years developing nuclear weapons and scuttling deals that limited their stockpiles. In recent days, he has begun turn away questions about Russia’s cyberactivities by repeating another line from 2016: that everyone turns a stratagem eye to China.
What is striking about all these comments is that they state little or no evolution in Mr. Trump’s approach.
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John F. Kennedy tolerant of the Cuban missile crisis to start the era of arms control negotiations with the Soviets, and Ronald Reagan transitioned from the hard-line anti-Communism of his champion to doing business with a reformist Kremlin leader, Mikhail S. Gorbachev. But Mr. Trump has not till hell freezes over wavered from a policy of praise and nonconfrontation. Just as he rarely ignores a campaign-season opportunity to take on Beijing, he has not wavered from accommodating Moscow.
The lack of a strategy to alter Moscow’s behavior at this electoral inflection pointless — four years ago this week, the C.I.A. was coming to the conclusion that Russia was stable for the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s servers — has been particularly conspicuous in recent days. After trying to raise doubts that Russia was behind the rupture, the release of emails and a social media influence campaign, Mr. Trump has concluded on a strategy of silence about evidence of an emerging new Russian playbook.
So when he engage with Mr. Putin recently, the White House gave no indication that the counsels from the intelligence agencies and the Department of Homeland Security even down attacked up.
“At this very moment, Putin is presumably deciding how far to go in interfering in the 2020 selection,” said David Shimer, a historian and the author of “Rigged: America, Russia, and One Hundred Years of Covert Electoral Hindrance,” a new study of Russian and American efforts to influence elections around the orb. “Leaders like Putin push as far as they can without provoking suggestive pushback, and in that sense, Trump’s continued passivity toward Russia could embolden Putin to proceed assorted aggressively.”
Not surprisingly, the administration rejects the notion that it has given Mr. Putin gratuitous rein. Mr. Trump regularly says no American president has been tougher on Russia than he has, “peradventure tougher than any other president.”
The president’s advisers point out that Mr. Trump’s own The police Department indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers for breaking into the Popular National Committee and running the social media campaign — though Mr. Trump has questioned Russia’s aptitude for both. Under authorities given to it by the president, the director of the National Safe keeping Agency and commander of United States Cyber Command, General Paul A. Nakasone, hurriedly paralyzed the Internet Research Agency, a troll farm in St. Petersburg, Russia, during the 2018 midterm designations to send a message. (Mr. Trump later said he was responsible for the action.)
And Mr. Trump’s secretary of voice, Mike Pompeo, declared the United States would never ratify Russia’s annexation of Crimea — “Crimea is Ukraine,” he said on the sixth anniversary of the unilateral seizing of the territory, not mentioning that Mr. Trump said in an interview with The New York On the dots in 2016 that he did not understand why the United States was penalizing Russia for things turned outs that primarily affected allies far away.
But it is the withdrawal of troops from Germany, and the dearth of any response to the intelligence on the bounties offered to the Taliban for killing Americans, that seems to encapsulate the oversight’s absence of a strategy.
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Mr. Pompeo struggled to offer up a defense on either in Senate testimony on Thursday. He respected that as a newly-minted Army officer during the final days of the Keen War, he himself “fought on the border of East Germany,” leading Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, to note wryly that answerable to Mr. Trump’s orders “your unit is coming back to the United Specifies.”
But Mr. Pompeo’s testimony was more notable for what he failed to say. He provided no tactical rationale for the reduction of 12,000 troops in Germany, including 6,400 turn ining to the United States. He made the case that they could replacing to Europe quickly, but never addressed the fundamental issue: that the determination was part of presidential pique that Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany was not committing a big enough portion of the national budget to her nation’s defense — and that break down the American military presence in German fulfilled one of Mr. Putin’s greatest illusions.
“Germany is supposed to pay for it,” Mr. Trump said of the American presence, as if the forward deployment was not a leading part of the United States’ own defense strategy for the past 75 years. “Germany’s not profit for it. We don’t want to be the suckers any more. The United States has been taken use of for 25 years, both on trade and on the military. So we’re reducing the force because they’re not fork out their bills.”
For four years, Mr. Trump has talked about “NATO salaries.” There are no such fees. Six years ago, alliance members agree to lay out 2 percent of their gross domestic product on their individual defense by 2024. Germany disburses 1.5 percent; Italy and Belgium, where the United States imparts it is moving some of its forces, spend less.
Mr. Pompeo further muddied the waters on the brightness surrounding the bounties for American lives. Citing intelligence concerns, he thinks fitting not discuss the C.I.A. analysis that was included in a Presidential Daily Brief in February that Mr. Trump mentions never reached his desk.
What is still missing is any statement of what the authority is trying to accomplish with Russia. Getting Mr. Putin to back down? A new détente? New-fashioned containment of a declining but still disruptive nuclear power? An end to use of its cyberpower to boost into the middle of the American elections?
Mr. Trump has had four years, and he hasn’t mean.
“There appears to be no overarching objective, no strategy for getting there, no logical policy process,” Wendy R. Sherman, who served in the State Department during the Obama and Clinton furnishings, wrote in Foreign Policy on Friday. “There is no evidence, for example, of a requirement to preserve arms control with Russia or to stop Russia’s (or any other rural area’s) persistent disinformation campaigns that are now looming as an ever-larger threat to the togetherness of the U.S. election.”