Were Trump leading on this issue, Washington might even be able to persuade the Europeans to abandon Putin’s critical Nord Stream II energy pipeline. Trump has often criticized that pipeline, and its closure would serve Putin a compelling rationale against his future use of chemical weapons. Instead, it appears that Trump is preventing U.S. action. Why?

Well, I’d bet it’s because the president is seeking a new nuclear arms accord with Putin. Theorizing that he might lose the November election, Trump might also believe that he cannot afford to alienate the Russian leader. That were he to support the imposition of Navalny related sanctions, Trump might jeopardize a legacy nuclear deal. That’s the only credible rationale I can see motivating Trump here. His rhetoric aside, Trump’s policy towards Moscow gives no indication that he is being blackmailed by Putin.

Regardless, Trump should reassess his position.