A year later, Putin intervened militarily in Syria, where U.S. forces were already operating, resulting in the most dangerous escalation of tensions between the two nuclear powers since the end of the Cold War. Putin’s move in Syria should not have come as a surprise; Barack Obama outsourced the resolution of the Syrian conflict to Moscow in 2013, if only to avoid making good on his self-set “red line” for intervention in that conflict despite the norm-shattering use of WMDs on civilians. Even Rice’s chief complaint about Trump, his failure to condemn Putin’s brazen intervention in the 2016 election, didn’t elicit a reaction from Barack Obama until the final month of his presidency.
By contrast, and to the surprise of just about everyone, the Trump administration has been tough on Russia. Trump has ordered harsh sanctions on Moscow’s Iranian allies for violating United Nations resolutions—a course the Obama administration declined to take even if it allowed Hezbollah terrorists with direct links to Putin to operate with impunity. He ordered long overdue airstrikes on Putin’s vassal regime in Syria, halting any further use of chemical weapons in the process. Trump not only declined to lift Obama-era sanctions on Moscow, as many feared he would, but expanded them. This administration closed Russian consulates and annexes in the United States. It has targeted Putin allies like Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov under the Magnitsky Act—the same act that Kremlin cutout Natalia Veselnitskaya lobbied the Trump campaign to scuttle. Trump has even gone so far as to open U.S. arms sales to Ukraine, representing a significant blow to Putin’s ambitions in Europe. It is without a doubt that Trump now has a stronger record on Russia than Barack Obama ever did. No wonder Susan Rice is so angry.