The first thing President Trump did when meeting Russia’s Putin in a social gathering in Germany today was shake his hand warmly, then pat him fondly on the back. There it was and remains for the world to see.
All indications are that Putin helped orchestrate an attack on the sovereignty of the United States during the last U.S. election and has made similar moves in other Western counties, seeking to undermine confidence and stability in democratic institutions and ideals. Now he gets a pat on the back from the leader of the free world.
It was a disturbing if not sickening display. But it is theatrics for now. The real showdown comes when the two meet and talk formally.
Putin is widely known to respect strength and he has a nostril for weakness. He is an experienced and shrewd operator, while Mr. Trump has proven to be a bumbling novice who seeks affirmation. It is a recipe for disaster.
For all the damage Mr. Trump and his policies can do domestically, what is happening on the world stage - from dangerous posturing on North Korea, to risking a trade war with Europe, to pulling out of the climate pact - is truly frightening. The number one job of the President of the United States is to protect the safety and security of the nation. Mr. Trump is in far over his head, and the most dangerous thing is he doesn't know it and his enablers who should know better don't seem to care.
No one is arguing that seeking peace and lowering tensions with Russia isn’t necessary. But demonstrating strength and resolve, in ways small and large, is an imperative in trying to reach those ends. That and making it abundantly clear that mucking around in American elections will not be tolerated.
A pat on the back is not an encouraging way to start.