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In Helsinki, Trump wasn't apologetic enough

In Helsinki, President Trump said of meddling in the 2016 election:  "I have President Putin, he just said it's not Russia; I will say this: I don't say any reason why it would be." Tuesday, the day after, Trump said he meant to say the word "wouldn't."

When discussing the recent summit between President Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, why do you not talk about how the Trump administration has, in fact, escalated tensions with Russia? From the tone of your editorial (“Congress must rebuke Trump on Putin grovel,” July 17), the reader would be forgiven for thinking that President Trump only wanted to appease Russia and pursue peace (if only), but that the ideal policy would involve greater confrontation with and provocation of another nuclear power (which would be insane).

On the contrary, the most recent Nuclear Posture Review in February called for an increase in the tactical nuclear arsenal, which fits in with Mr. Trump's previously voiced desire for "a nearly tenfold increase," all the while painting Russia as an enormous military threat even though their annual defense budget is only a small fraction of our own. At the same time, President Trump has overseen the actual arming of Ukraine's military, which hawks had tried but failed to get President Barack Obama to do.

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Finally, Mr. Trump has escalated our military operations in Syria, including killing of Russians, while you bizarrely imply that Russia alone is involved in their civil war. The main problem with your attitude and that of most summit critics is that you take American exceptionalism for granted. We should condemn their interference in our elections, but they should accept our right to interfere in theirs (as we openly did in the 1996 reelection of Boris Yeltsin). We should condemn their annexation of Crimea but they should accept our attack on Yugoslavia and occupation of Kosovo. We should condemn their involvement in Syria but they should give us a pass on ours.

You just can't run a foreign policy like that and not expect it to break down eventually. If we really wanted to uphold a "rules-based" international order, that starts by learning to follow the same rules we impose on others. The most powerful critique of the Helsinki summit is not that Mr. Trump was too apologetic toward Russia but that he was not apologetic enough about his own country's aggressive behavior on the international stage and did not make concrete promises to stop such behavior.

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Jonathan Gress-Wright, Baltimore

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