Buried in a new Washington Post report published a short time ago is an interesting piece of information: When United States Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman Jr. wanted to publicly condemn Moscow last week, the Trump administration apparently didn’t let him.
According to the Post, the reasons “remain unclear” as to why Trump wouldn’t allow Huntsman Jr. to publicly speak out against Russia’s expulsion of U.S. diplomats.
More from the report:
Last Friday, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman Jr., told administration officials that he wanted to hold a news conference in Moscow about Russia’s expulsion of U.S. diplomats from the country, according to officials familiar with the matter.
Ultimately, the administration chose not to hold the news conference for reasons that remain unclear, but Huntsman did appear in a YouTube video explaining Washington’s decision.
This interesting piece of information comes as the Trump administration is reportedly preparing to level new sanctions against Russia in response to their interference in the 2016 presidential election.
According to the report, “The sanctions are economic and designed to target oligarchs with ties to President Vladimir Putin, the officials said. The final number of Russians facing punitive action remains fluid, the U.S. officials said, but is expected to include at least a half-dozen people under sanction powers given to the president by Congress.”
Mixed messages from the Trump administration
The sanctions are the latest example of how the Trump administration is sending mixed messages on Russia.
Punishments against Moscow for their 2016 attack on U.S. democracy are a step in the right direction, but they should have been imposed much sooner. They would also carry more weight if Trump’s own behavior didn’t repeatedly undercut them.
After all, for much of his presidency – and certainly the campaign – Trump heaped praise on Vladimir Putin and refused to definitively state that Russia was behind the 2016 election interference.
Recently, following a Russian gas attack in the U.K., Trump ignored his closest advisers and still personally congratulated Putin on his sham election victory. During the congratulatory call, the U.S. president didn’t mention the U.K. attack or 2016 election interference.
Ultimately, it’s appropriate that the U.S. government seems to finally recognize that Russia is not an ally and needs to be treated accordingly. But it would be much more credible if the President of the United States didn’t constantly undermine that position with pro-Putin rhetoric and behavior.