Murphy makes the case U.S. policy serving Russia's interests

Is the downsizing and diminishing role for the State Department an indication that President Trump is doing the bidding of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose intelligence services clandestinely supported Trump’s candidacy in the 2016 election?

With a stunning observation, Sen. Chris Murphy came close to suggesting as much when he sat down for an hour-long interview Tuesday with our editorial board. You can view it on theday.com.

“If I was Russia, and I was running U.S. foreign policy, I would be dismantling the State Department. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I’m not alleging that’s happening. But if I were the Kremlin, and I had control of U.S. foreign policy, I would be gutting the State Department because it is the State Department that provides the most significant daily pushback against the Russian government,” Murphy said.

The fact that a senator sitting on the Committee on Foreign Relations feels it necessary to consider and share such thoughts shows what a strange and potentially dangerous period the nation has entered. Trump invites speculation by showing no interest in challenging Putin for his misbehaviors. Last month, Foreign Policy Magazine reported Tillerson had eliminated the office charged with coordinating sanctions, including against Russia.

Instead of making it clear to the Russian leader that there will be serious consequences should his operatives again try to use subterfuge to manipulate U.S. elections, Trump serves as an embarrassing apologist for the former leader of the KGB.

"I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it," said Trump during his Asian trip, speaking of Putin's denials of meddling in our election. Meanwhile the president dismissed as "political hacks" former U.S. intelligence officials who revealed the Russian meddling.

We share Murphy's consternation and frustration with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s moves to shrink the department charged with carrying out American foreign policy. It has been reported that Tillerson intends to slash the department’s staff by 8 percent, or roughly 2,000 people. The Trump administration proposes gutting its budget by 30 percent.

It appears, as the Connecticut Democrat put it during the interview, to be “open warfare against the State Department.”

This past spring, Murphy released a policy paper, "Rethinking the Battlefield," with a far different point of view. It called for beefing up the diplomatic corps and doubling the foreign affairs budget. While that would be a hard political sell, the logic is solid. An aggressive foreign service can prevent fewer countries from becoming unstable due to climate change, health problems, political and economic disruption and the like. That would mean fewer ungovernable places where threats to our national security can grow and where adversaries can find vacuums to fill.

It is a far better strategy than the isolationist tendencies and cognitive dissonance of Trump administration foreign policy, such that it is.

But as Murphy, notes, someone is benefiting from the administration's approach.

“(Trump) has delivered Putin much of what he wants. He’s given him a weakened State Department. He’s offered no substantive pushback on their interference in the 2016 election. He’s outsourced the problem of Syria to Moscow,” Murphy said. “Russia’s influence is expanding by the day in the Middle East, throughout the world.”

The question is, why? Simple incompetence? An America First philosophy that sees disengagement as a virture? Or something more sinister?

The country is beset with deep mistrust over what Trump is up to. He refuses to allow the public to see his tax returns. He seeks to discredit the Mueller probe and undermine critical reporting by rejecting it as "fake news."

Restoring trust rests on Special Counsel Robert Mueller getting to the bottom of the Russian interference and level of collusion. In other words, getting to the truth.

 

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.

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