The Jury Talks Back

3/20/2018

President Trump Congratulates Putin On His Unsurprising Election Win

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 4:20 pm

[guest post by Dana]

As we learned earlier this week, Incumbent President Vladimir Putin was re-elected by a wide margin. In his post, our host said: I’m looking forward to Trump issuing his congratulations. Well, here you go:

President Trump on Tuesday congratulated President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on his recent re-election victory, but failed to ask him about either the fairness of the Russian vote, which Mr. Putin won with a lopsided margin, or about allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Mr. Trump also did not raise Russia’s apparent role in a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter on British soil — an act that prompted the United States to join with Britain, France and Germany in denouncing the Russian government for violating international law.

Instead, in his phone call with Mr. Putin, the president focused on what the White House called “shared interests,” including North Korea, Ukraine and the escalating arms race between the United States and Russia. He said he and Mr. Putin were likely to meet soon to discuss those issues.

Trump later said that he was pleased with the conversation he had with Putin:

[I]n his phone call with Mr. Putin, the president focused on what the White House called “shared interests,” including North Korea, Ukraine and the escalating arms race between the United States and Russia. He said he and Mr. Putin were likely to meet soon to discuss those issues.

“We had a very good call,” Mr. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, where he was meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. “We will probably be meeting in the not-too distant future to discuss the arms race, which is getting out of control.”

White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders defended the President’s call, and avoided making an assessment of whether the election was fair:

“We’re focused on our elections,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday when asked if Trump felt Russia’s election, which excluded several Putin critics and sparked accounts of potential vote tampering, was “free and fair.”

“We don’t get to dictate how other countries operate,” she said. “What we do know is that Putin has been elected in their country, and that’s not something that we can dictate to them, how they operate. We can only focus on the freeness and fairness of our elections.”

This is not how it has always been:

That attitude is a departure from decades of U.S. foreign policy, in which a succession of administrations have freely criticized anti-democratic events and elections in other nations.

As recently as March 2017, for example, the State Department issued a statement condemning Putin’s government for cracking down on peaceful anti-Putin protests, which the statement called “an affront to core democratic values.”

Gary Kasparov refused to play along:

kasparov

Some Capitol Hill reactions were less than enthusiastic. From John McCain:

An American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections. And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin’s regime.

McCain also tweeted:

That #Putin had to work so hard to drive voter turnout shows the Russian people know his claim to power is a sham. The US stands with all Russians yearning for freedom. #RussiaElections2018

From Mitch McConnell, who although agreed that a president can call whoever he wants, felt this was not something he’d have chosen to do:

“When I look at a Russian election, what I see is a lack of credibility in tallying the results. … Calling [Putin] wouldn’t have been high on my list.”

Ironically, the President’s call was made on the same day that the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report with recommendations on how to safeguard future U.S. elections from hackers and others attempting to manipulate elections. Including Russia:

“The Russians were relentless in attempting to meddle in the 2016 elections, and they will continue their efforts to undermine public confidence in Western democracies and in the legitimacy of our elections,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said at a news conference Tuesday.

To consider:

Trump is not alone in congratulating Putin — leaders in France, Germany and elsewhere have done so this week, as Barack Obama did in 2012. But past administrations certainly have seen it as America’s role to call balls and strikes when it comes to elections abroad, and weigh in when democratic institutions are being undermined. A departure from that approach would be welcomed not only by Putin, but other leaders of pseudo democracies around the world.

–Dana

1 Comment »

  1. Bush did not congratulate Medvedev.

    Comment by DRJ — 3/21/2018 @ 10:27 am

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