The Helsinki Hysteria
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
The hysteria greeting President Trump’s summit with Vladimir Putin is something to behold. “Trump, Treasonous Traitor” is the headline in the New York Times. “Treason Summit” is the phrase used in Bustle magazine. President Obama’s director of central intelligence, John Brennan, calls the Trump-Putin presser “nothing short of treasonous.” The Daily News cover cartoon this morning depicts Mr. Trump shooting Uncle Sam. There’s a #TreasonSummit hashtag.
Dare none not call it treason?
We don’t doubt that Russians attempted to suborn our election in 2016. Nor do we doubt that Russia’s election interference was set in motion by the Russian government. We’re not against prosecuting the Kremlin’s culprits in court. Such tactics, though, strike us as no more likely to be successful against Russia than they have been against Islamist organizations. We prefer counter-attacks by cyber, covert, or more conventional military means.
It’s hard, in any event, to credit the Democratic Party, or its intelligentsia, when they pose as hawks. The New York Times? Its chairman, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., was once asked by his own father: “If a young American soldier comes upon a North Vietnamese soldier, which do you want to see get shot?” Replied the younger Sulzberger: “I would want to see the American get shot.” That story is related in “The Trust,” a venerable biography of the Times.
Mr. Trump blundered in suggesting an equivalency between Mr. Putin and our own intelligence services. It was not, though, as bad as President Obama having his envoy to the United Nations vote for articles of appeasement with Iran that Mr. Obama knew were opposed by both houses of America’s own Congress. Nor has Mr. Trump shipped plane loads of cash for Mr. Putin’s covert military operations against our allies the way the Democrats did for the ayatollahs.
Mr. Trump may have made a hash of his first summit with Mr. Putin, but he can say one thing for himself: He put his program to the voters formally in a platform that warned of Russ belligerence but also spoke of “common imperatives,” among them defeating terrorism, combating nuclear proliferation, and promoting trade. The voters in 60% of the American states concluded that Mr. Trump was more fit than the candidate the Democrats put up for president.
It is hard to imagine that the Democrats would have been less the appeaser of Russia than Mr. Trump is. Secretary Clinton failed at her own Russian reset. The Democrats shrank from arms sales to Ukraine. Crimea was lost on their watch. Arms sales to Ukraine were finally approved only under Mr. Trump. It was the Democrats who, in the Kerry-Lavrov “framework,” waved the Russ into Syria. It was on the Democrats’ watch that Russia attempted to subvert our election.
Pointing out that the Democrats would be worse is no satisfying defense of Mr. Trump. The kind of diplomacy Mr. Trump tried in Helsinki is certain to embolden the Russians. All the more important is the most tangible thing Mr. Trump has done in foreign affairs, which is begin an American military buildup. President Reagan taught that Russia will have a harder time competing in an arms race. That is the focus we favor going forward. Let’s hope the Democrats will put their money where their mouths are — and stay with the fight.