There has been a disturbing trend in the Republican Party over past few months. Donald Trump’s embrace of Vladimir Putin has correlated with Putin’s approval increasing by 39 percentage points since July 2014. Putin’s approval rating among Republicans has increased from -66% to -27% in that span.
The same Vladimir Putin who invaded Georgia, Ukraine, bombs American backed rebels in Syria, and whose political opponents tend to end up dying under mysterious circumstances is now looked at more favorably in the Party of Ronald Reagan than in the Party of Ted Kennedy.
This past weekend a US airstrike killed 62 Syrian soldiers. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova responded by saying that, “[A]fter today’s attack on the Syrian army, we come to the terrible conclusion that the White House is defending the Islamic State.” This is the same Russia that fights ISIS by intentionally bombing non-ISIS targets. Back in February, top US military spokesperson in Baghdad, Colonel Seven Warren, said 90% of Russian targets were non-ISIS targets.
On Monday, it was reported that a UN humanitarian aid convoy was struck by Syrian or Russian warplanes. By Tuesday, US intelligence agencies believed that it was the Russians that struck the aid convoy. For their part, the Russian military denied hitting the convoy. However, according to US officials, US surveillance tracked two Russian SU-24s from a base in the Latakia, Syria, directly to the location of the bombing. Top coalition commanders believe Russia hit the convoy as “revenge.”
Russia’s conduct throughout its air campaign is one of the reason why the Pentagon is skeptical of coordinating with Moscow, despite the State Department’s overtures.
This is not World War II, the United States and Russia have different goals in Syria. The United States, for the time being, is focused on ISIS, the Russians are focused on ensuring that Assad stays in power. This is why the strategy of “Let Russia fight ISIS” simply will not work.
Russia is not our friend. Vladimir Putin is not a man to be admired. This should not be have to said, but given the current state of the Republican Party, apparently it does.