U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a press conference after the meeting of U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo

Trump says Russia is ‘not happy’ with new Syria policy, Putin disagrees

Hoping to justify his controversial new policy in Syria, Donald Trump released a detailed blueprint of his strategy this morning and agreed to a series of interviews with independent journalists, vowing to provide answers to the public about how he arrived at this decision and what he expects the consequences to be.

No, I’m just kidding. The president actually published a few tweets, the first of which said the United States has been “doing there [sic] work” in Syria, referring to ISIS’s enemies.

Trump added soon after:

“Time for others to finally fight. Russia, Iran, Syria & many others are not happy about the U.S. leaving, despite what the Fake News says, because now they will have to fight ISIS and others, who they hate, without us.”

The message is more than a little muddled. It was just yesterday when the Republican boasted that ISIS forces in Syria have been “defeated,” adding, “We’ve beaten them and we’ve beaten them badly.” Just 24 hours later, the same president argued that other countries will now have to fight ISIS forces in Syria – forces that the American president just said no longer exist.

But even putting that aside, the idea that countries like Russia and Iran want U.S. military forces to remain in Syria suggests Trump probably should’ve attended an intelligence briefing or two before deciding on his new strategy.

Indeed, Russian President Vladimir Putin didn’t exactly seem disappointed by the developments this morning.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Thursday welcomed President Trump’s announcement of a withdrawal of American troops from Syria, calling it “the right decision.” […]

Speaking at his annual news conference, which typically runs for several hours, Mr. Putin said he broadly agreed that the Islamic State had been defeated in Syria. “Donald’s right, and I agree with him,” Mr. Putin said.

And before the White House or its allies start arguing that Putin’s satisfaction is insincere, it’s important to note that every relevant detail points in the same direction: by withdrawing from Syria, Russia and Iran have reason to celebrate.

All of which raises a rather awkward question for the Republican president: why would Trump ignore the advice of his own team, ignore the wishes of his own allies, ignore the circumstances in Syria, ignore his own administration’s commitments, and give Putin what he wants, all while saying Russia is “not happy” with the decision?

Maybe Trump, an unusually uninformed and incurious man, is simply ignorant about the basics of his own foreign policy.

Or maybe Trump has some other motivation for trying to make Moscow happy.