Oh, Russia, be my dear friend, President Barack Obama once begged, with consequences that continue to this day.
But wait, it’s President Donald Trump who’s accused of playing footsie with those guys. Yes, in his campaign praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin, he was starry eyed, but in policies? No, no, a thousand times no, and policies are what count.
That’s where Obama bungled badly.
Russia is much in the news right now, as in Putin bragging about Russian nuclear missiles and saying there is no defense against them.
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Overshadowing all of that is special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016.
The assumption of many is that it happened and that Russia, as our worst enemy in the world, is trying to undermine our democracy.
Perhaps Obama will laugh the worry away, saying what he said in a 2012 campaign debate with Mitt Romney — namely, that the Cold War had been over for 20 years.
Romney, Obama continued dismissively, should therefore get over the idea that Russia was “the biggest geopolitical threat facing America,” something Romney had never said.
What he did say was that its influence with varied antagonists was pernicious, something Obama hated to hear while aiming for his famous “reset” bringing about palsy-walsy time.
To get along, Obama was ready to go along, as in betraying a promise to Poland and the Czech Republic that we would help supply them with missile defense against a Russian threat.
Russia didn’t like that, and Trump doesn’t care, seeing as how he is going to sell Poland the missiles it wants.
Obama was also in a mood to lead the world in denuclearization, meaning we’d trim down as Russia barged ahead.
Putin is right that we could not stop an all-out, devastating attack, but the Trump administration is considering modernization, maybe including ways in which defensive missiles become more defensive.
Even with its nuclear capacity, Russia is nowhere near what the Soviet Union was, but it does have lots of enriching oil. Obama gave that advantage a boost with his U.S. energy restrictions that are slithering away under Trump.
We are selling cheaper oil to nations that Russia used to sell to, diminishing its market to the degree that it is making a deal with Saudi Arabia to reduce oil production to increase prices. It may also pitch in to help protect the Saudis against Iran.
Here we had an Obama deal that said we’re returning billions of dollars, we will not inspect your military bases, and we'll let you experiment with ballistic missiles and wreak terror all over the Middle East while, in return, we’d like you not to make any nukes for a while.
Trump believes alterations are needed.
Trump is also helping Ukraine defend itself against Russia in ways that Obama did not.
But, of course, none of this means Russian interference with our elections is something to sniff at. Neither were other Russian hacking attacks that the Obama administration did little more than sniff at.
The Associated Press has reported, as one example, about Russians coming close to getting an inside look at our most important progress in defense technology. Have you heard a lot of concern about that?
Trump, by the way, never said Russia should hack Clinton’s emails. He said he hoped they had and that they would share what they found, but he said it in the context of also saying that a strong Obama administration would have prevented it. The implication was that it should not have happened.
He was at any rate talking about her 30,000 destroyed emails that she said were private and contained nothing more than thoughts about yoga and her grandchildren.
With the midterm elections coming up in November, we do need to safeguard against Russian hacking, and with something more than the threat of the milquetoast sanctions Obama came up with before.
Here’s betting Trump does something serious.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Reach him by email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.