No, Trump Hasn’t Been Harder on Russia Than Obama

Jonah Goldberg says Donald Trump is right to say he’s been tougher on Russia than President Obama:

Barack Obama sold out our Eastern European allies on missile defense. He slow-walked aid to Ukraine and did little more than shrug when Crimea was annexed. He said “never mind” on his own “red line” in Syria and turned a blind eye to Putin’s intervention there, in large part because of his obsessions with getting the Iran deal. The Russian meddling in our elections started on Obama’s watch — and not just our elections but those of many of our allies. When Mitt Romney famously said Russia was our No. 1 geopolitical foe, Obama mocked him for it as did countless liberal journalists who are now converts to anti-Russia hawkery.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has made life harder for Russia diplomatically and economically thanks to revving up our oil and gas production. It hasn’t been as tough as some — including me — would like, but it’s been tougher than the Obama administration. Or at least it’s not unreasonable.

Well now. Obama did cancel George Bush’s missile defense plan, but he did it on the advice of the same guy who created the plan in the first place: Defense Secretary Robert Gates. It was designed as a shield against Iranian missiles, and it wouldn’t have worked very well. In 2016 Obama approved a new missile defense plan based in Romania—also part of Eastern Europe and also blasted by the Russians as “an attempt to destroy the strategic balance.”

When Russia annexed Crimea, Obama put in place deep and painful sanctions against Russia. This was no easy task, since our European allies were reluctant to go along. As for who’s our No. 1 geopolitical foe, I think Obama was right not to choose Russia, though I suppose your mileage might vary on that. Ditto for Syria. I think Obama did the right thing to stay out, but those more hawkish than me probably disagree.

Now let’s move on to Trump. He has, according to Goldberg himself

…literally done nothing except to “rev up” our oil and gas production. Really?

Production of oil and gas rose a bit in September, but it rose for the same reason as always: because fracking operations increased output in response to a rise in prices (partly due to Hurricane Harvey). Fracking operations always respond to price spikes. It had nothing to do with Trump and nothing to do with Russia, which has been producing crude at the same rate all year:

Russia benefited from the increase in crude oil prices just like everyone else. In terms of oil revenue, at least, their life has gotten easier over the past year, not harder.¹

This is American conservatism in a nutshell. Goldberg despises Trump, but he despises Obama even more. The end result is pretzel-bending arguments about things like this that ignore every scrap of evidence about Trump and Russia. It’s fair to say that Vladimir Putin hasn’t gotten the breather he hoped for when Trump beat Hillary Clinton, but that’s only because Congress and public opinion have forced Trump to back off. And in any case, surely the fact that Putin was so hellbent on defeating Hillary in the first place is evidence enough of how difficult the Obama administration made his life?

¹Although this has nothing to do with Trump either.