Russian President Vladimir Putin seeks legitimacy and “appearing to be larger than he is on the world stage,” and President Donald Trump understands that the key forward to any success with improving relations with Moscow is to use that against Putin,” former CIA station chief and Navy officer Scott Uehlinger told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday.
Trump “is flattering Putin, to a certain degree, complimenting him diplomatically,” Uehlinger said. “He plays the good cop while his administration people play the bad cop, somewhat, and I think that’s appropriate.”
Uehlinger, who served 12 years in the Soviet Union for the CIA, says this is the correct way to work Russia.
“The way forward with Russians is not by publicly criticizing them, but instead privately criticizing them behind closed doors, which I hope will happen today, and that will allow us, possibly, to move forward,” he said. “But certainly overt criticism of Russian policy to the Nth degree is not really going to be the path to any success in improving our relations.”
However, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, serving on the same panel, disagreed, saying “If it led to results, concrete things that were good for America, I could understand it. But… I think that’s putting way more strategic coherence on what I think is a lot of incoherence within the Trump administration.”
McFaul, who served as ambassador while Barack Obama was president, said “The Trump administration as a whole has a pretty good policy towards Russia, pushing back on a lot of things. The president just doesn’t agree with it.”
He emphasized that “I don’t think improving relations with Russia should be the goal of American foreign policy. The goal should be concrete things, getting Russia out of Ukraine, getting Russia to agree to a new arms control agreement, getting Russia to stop interfering in our elections.”
McFaul said that “Improving relations, happy talk, we’re friendly now, those are means to other outcomes, and so far I can’t think of one tangible outcome that the Trump administration, after a year and a half, has achieved with their policy towards Russia.”
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