MESOP TODAY’S POINT OF VIEW – Don’t Forget Putin’s Pal in the White House

Obama administration policies have done plenty to help a more assertive Russia.

By Sohrab Ahmari – WALL STREET JOURNAL  – Then again, so have President Obama’s policies over the past eight years. –  The Trump campaign’s Putinist rhetoric has the liberal press corps alarmed, and rightly so. It wasn’t Mr. Trump, after all, who in 2014 announced deep cuts to the U.S. strategic arsenal, disabling 56 submarine-based nuclear-launch tubes, converting 30 B-52 bombers to conventional use, and removing 50 missiles from underground silos—all well ahead of the 2018 deadline set by the New Start Treaty with Moscow and without any reassurance that Mr. Putin would reciprocate. That was Mr. Obama.

Nor was it the New York developer who refused to supply the democratic government in Kiev with defensive weapons after Russian regulars and Kremlin-backed thugs illegally annexed Crimea and carved up territory in eastern Ukraine. The White House still refuses to sell Kiev the weapons it needs to defend itself, even as Mr. Putin threatens more aggression. The betrayal of Ukraine wasn’t Mr. Trump’s doing.

Nor, finally, was it Mr. Trump whose inaction in Syria created an opportunity for Moscow to outmaneuver Washington and downgrade U.S. prestige in the Middle East. The Syrian civil war has proved a humanitarian catastrophe, resulting in some half a million dead and millions displaced. It has flooded Europe with refugees, destabilized Turkey and added the phrase “barrel bomb” to the lexicon of human depravity.

But the war has also been a strategic boon to Moscow and its chief regional client, Iran. Mr. Putin and the mullahs have deepened their military ties, as most recently evidenced by Russia’s use of an Iranian air base to target Syrian-rebel positions on Tuesday. Mr. Putin’s goal is to edge out Washington as the principal outside power in the Middle East and he is succeeding. America’s long-term retreat from the region wasn’t conceived in Trump Tower.

If polls prove right, Donald Trump is headed for defeat in November—in part because of his apparent affinity for the Russian dictator. But that doesn’t excuse the historical amnesia and bad faith in the press over U.S.-Russian relations in the age of Barack Obama.

Mr. Ahmari is a Journal editorial writer based in London.