The world will be watching closely when the Group of 20 meetings begin this week. President Trump, who is not regarded as the leader of the free world by most free nations, will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, the authoritarian dictator who is waging an aggressive cyberwar, infowar and war of espionage against American and Western democracy.
Will Trump make it clear to Putin that improved relations with Russia are desirable, but possible only if Putin backs off Russia’s attacks against democracy and aggression against Ukraine? Or will Trump continue to praise and appease Putin in the style of Neville Chamberlain in the 1930s, which would alienate most democratic leaders and be noted with interest by those investigating the Trump presidency for its ties to Russia?
Negotiate in good faith with Putin to pursue common interests? Absolutely. Appease Putin by denying or excusing Russian attacks against democratic nations? Absolutely not.
Count me as a super-hawk on the great question of whether a Russian dictator should be allowed to get away with trying to destroy one American presidential candidate and elect his favored candidate instead, while employing similar tactics in attempts to discredit democracy and elect Russia’s preferred leaders in France, Germany and other democracies.
Everyone interested in the future of Western security and democracy should study the views of Russian General Valery Gerasimov, Putin’s most important military commander, and what national security strategists call the “Gerasimov Doctrine,” which I have written about before.
The Gerasimov Doctrine is the operational blueprint for Putin’s attack designed to destroy Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSuper PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump I voted for Trump in 2020 — he proved to be the ultimate RINO in 2021 Neera Tanden tapped as White House staff secretary MORE and other democratic leaders such as President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, and to elect leaders he considers Russia-friendly, including Trump.
Putin’s attacks on democracy wage a different kind of warfare combining espionage, cyberwar, infowar, psychological warfare, cultural war, propaganda and financial weaponry that provides money to Russia-friendly politicians and parties that are often far right extremists.
Leaders of allied intelligence services believe Putin’s war against democracy continues today and will continue indefinitely unless Trump takes a decisive stand against it now.
Before, during and after Trump meets Putin, he must take an unequivocal stand against this war on democracy, and vow that sanctions against Russia will not be lifted and could be strengthened unless Putin ends it.
Many national security experts throughout the democratic world are alarmed by how often Trump’s actions have effectively helped or supported Putin’s war against democracy.
When Trump denied or equivocated about whether this war against democracy is even happening he hurt American patriots who are defending America from it, and helps Russian operatives who are aggressively waging it. When Trump compared American intelligence services to Nazi Germany and criticized American and British intelligence, he helped Russian intelligence undermine democratic nations.
When Trump criticized NATO, worked against European unity, criticized other democratic leaders, praised foreign dictators, attacked the free press, praised WikiLeaks, attacked a former FBI director in a closed meeting with the Russian foreign minister, criticized the FBI counter-intelligence investigation, failed to unequivocally restate America’s commitment under NATO to defend allies from outside attack, suggested a preference for far-right extremists such as Marine Le Pen in France, fomented bitter political divisions at home, repeatedly violated America’s tradition of supporting human rights and collapsed America’s global image, per a Pew Research poll, he helps Putin attack America while his administration is being investigated about ties to Russia.
Improved U.S.-Russian relations are desirable, but Trump must make this clear to Putin and the world: The alliances that defend democracy are inviolable and nonnegotiable.
I am not comparing Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler, but Trump must stop acting like Neville Chamberlain by failing to confront this threat to democracy today, as Chamberlain failed in his day.
When Trump meets Putin, he will either restore America’s role as leader of the free world, or continue a course that is perilous for his presidency and dangerous to our security.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), then-chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. in international financial law from the London School of Economics.
The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.