June 29, 2020 – President Trump and his administration have sat for months on intelligence that Russia offered Afghan militants bounties to kill American troops, a conclusion that reportedly, and tragically, has been borne out. But Trump failed to take any action, again displaying a disregard for the lives of American troops serving in harm’s way. 

Instead, he and his advisors have rushed to try to save solely his own reputation, denying that Trump had been briefed on the bounties — suggesting that he is entirely disengaged from his Commander-in-Chief responsibilities, his advisors do not trust his motives with Russia, or both. Trump then took Putin’s side by calling the conclusions of the American intelligence community “not credible,” contradicting what American Special Forces reportedly saw with their own eyes. 

The fact is that Trump, once again, has betrayed our troopsHe has campaigned as a champion of America’s military, but Trump has consistently failed to live up to his most basic responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief. Whether impulsively sending service members into harm’s way, using the military as a political prop, or shamefully barring transgender Americans from serving, Trump has always put his own interests ahead of theirs. 

And, once again, that betrayal benefited Vladimir Putin. Whether betraying our troops, betraying our allies, or betraying our democracy, Trump has proven time and again that there is nothing he will not do to cater to Putin and his interests, no matter the cost to the American people.

Trump has betrayed America and our allies to Putin:

  • During his 2017 Oval Office meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak, Trump reportedly revealed highly classified information regarding efforts to confront ISIS, damaging Israeli counterterrorism sources and methods.
  • Later that month at a NATO summit, Trump refused to affirm America’s commitment to Article 5, NATO’s mutual defense pact and cornerstone, and he repeatedly discussed withdrawing from our largest military alliance.
  • Trump dragged the 2018 NATO summit into chaos by arriving lateinsulting allies, and distracting from the goal of countering Russian aggression. The event was characterized as “one of the most divisive summits in [NATO’s] 69-year history.”
  • Trump then berated NATO ally Montenegro and again cast doubt on America’s commitment to Article 5. In recent years, Russia has attempted to destabilize Montenegro.
  • In a call with former British Prime Minister Theresa May in the summer of 2018, Trump again sided with Putin over our allies by disputing British intelligence officials’ conclusion that Russia had attempted to carry out an extrajudicial killing on British soil.
  • Days before the G7 summit in August 2019, Trump expressed his desire to welcome Russia back into this group of industrialized nations — even though Moscow continues to illegally occupy Ukraine’s sovereign territory. In 2020, Trump postponed hosting the G7, in part to again invite Russia to attend, over the repeated rejections from our allies. 
  • Trump is set to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, freeing Russia from its obligations under the pact, much as he did by withdrawing from the INF Treaty. All the while, Trump has failed to commit to an extension of New START — the last treaty imposing limits on Russia’s nuclear arsenal.
  • This June, without consultation, Trump abruptly announced that he will remove thousands of U.S. troops from Germany, blindsiding NATO and even American officials and weakening NATO’s ability to deter Russia.

 Trump has repeatedly invited Putin to undermine American democracy:

  • In a July 2016 news conference, then-candidate Trump infamously invited Russia to interfere in the 2016 election, imploring: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
  • During a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office in May 2017, Trump reportedly told Lavrov and Kislyak that Russian interference in U.S. elections did not concern him. 
  • At a press conference during the July 2018 U.S.-Russia summit in Helsinki, Trump publicly sided with Putin over his own Intelligence Community when he rejected the American conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
  • By resurfacing a debunked conspiracy theory during his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky, Trump lent credence to the lie that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election — a conspiracy that benefits Russia, Trump, and no one else.
  • Trump and his allies have given an American megaphone to Putin’s propaganda, prompting the Republican former chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to warn his colleagues late last year that their sham investigation into Hunter Biden could serve Moscow’s ends by sowing additional doubt, chaos, and distrust here at home.

 All the while, Trump has gone out of his way to laud Putin and his authoritarian leadership, bestowing undue legitimacy in the process: 

  • As a candidate, Trump praised Putin — calling him “highly respected in his own country and beyond” — and defended him against credible allegations of murdering journalists by saying: “I think our country does plenty of killing also.” 
  • Shortly after assuming office, Trump reportedly fawned over Putin in a phone call, calling him a great leader and apologizing profusely for not calling him sooner.
  • At the June 2019 G20 summit, Trump told a Russian state-media reporter that Putin is a “great guy” and a “terrific person.” The network later aired the exchange, effectively turning Trump’s words into state propaganda.
  • Trump initially welcomed Putin’s invitation to attend Russia’s Victory Day festivities, which commemorate the Soviet Union’s triumph in World War II. 

Trump’s abdication of global leadership has left a void that Putin has rushed to fill. 

  • Before the 2016 election, a pro-Russia proxy predicted that if Trump won, Russia would “drink champagne” in anticipation of being able to advance its positions on Syria and Ukraine. Unfortunately, Trump delivered.
  • By conditioning military aid to Ukraine on investigating his domestic political rival, Trump betrayed American national security, corroded American power, and sent a signal to world leaders — and especially to Putin, who continues to illegally occupy Ukrainian territory and undermine its democracy — that America’s foreign policy is up for sale. 
  • Trump’s decision to impulsively withdraw U.S. troops from northeast Syria allowed Russia to assert itself more prominently in the conflict. Trump’s betrayal of our Kurdish partners created a glide path for Russia to continue its aggression in Syria and in the region. 
  • Trump’s empty approach to Venezuela has allowed Russia to deepen its influence over both the country’s economy and its strongman, Nicolás Maduro. 
  • Trump’s feckless policies in Libya have opened the door for Russia to send fighter jets in support of Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar, over U.S. objections — a consequence of Trump’s failure to develop a coherent Libya policy that has allowed Russia to expand its influence in Libya.

We are Americans—former senior officials and policy experts, academics and civil society leaders—who have seen first-hand how the United States is stronger, safer and more respected in the world when we stand strong with our allies, pursue principled diplomacy, and stay true to the values that have long defined America at home and abroad. www.nationalsecurityaction.org