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Russian Collusion? Trump Just Smacked Down Putin By Expelling 60 Spies

Russia: By expelling 60 Russian “diplomats” and closing a Russian consulate, President Trump has sent a strong signal to Russia that the U.S. and its allies will stand together when Vladimir Putin badly misbehaves. If Putin didn’t get the memo, he has it now.

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This might be the first fruits of Trump’s new national security team, with Mike Pompeo as secretary of state and John Bolton as national security advisor, both fresh faces. Trump named those two hardliners — and we mean that as a compliment, not as a slight — to key national security slots because he wanted a more decisive foreign policy.

With Defense Secretary Jim Mattis still in office, Trump now has the national security team he wants — and likely the one he needs, given the recent proliferation of problems around the globe that might require a military response, ranging from China and North Korea to Iran and Russia.

If the decision to sanction Russia harshly for its attempted assassination in England of a former Russian spy and his daughter is any indication, U.S. foreign and security policy is about to take on a much harder edge.

No, we’re not talking about engaging in senseless wars or threatening other nations with our military might. But when bad actors like Putin are allowed to get away with assassinations, rampant spying, meddling in elections and media, and militarily interfering in other nations’ affairs, the U.S. must draw clear lines.

That’s what Trump did.

Britain had already announced it was expelling 23 Russian spies operating under diplomatic cover. At least 18 other European Union nations likewise followed suit. With the U.S.’ move, it brought the total to well over 100 spies sent packing back to Moscow.

But the U.S. action was by far the largest of any nation. As we said, not only did Trump expel diplomat-spies, but he closed the Russian consulate in Seattle entirely. It’s long been an open secret that the Seattle facility is little more than a spies’ nest that snooped on the local U.S. Navy nuclear submarine base, military aircraft maker Boeing, and the spate of high-tech companies that reside in the greater Seattle area. It should never be opened again.

Trump’s move certainly marks a change in tone from just two weeks ago, when he extended his congratulations to Putin on his spurious re-election as Russia’s president.

And it’s a sharp departure from President Obama’s years in office, when he infamously promised Putin “flexibility” once he won the 2012 election, ridiculed GOP candidate Mitt Romney for suggesting Russia was our No. 1 national security challenge, and then did nothing about Russian meddling in the U.S. even after he knew about it.

In addition to lacking any evidence, the left’s talk of collusion between Trump and Putin now seems absurdly wrong. Why would you hit someone with harsh sanctions that you were “colluding” with? It makes no sense.

No question that Russia under Putin is a menace and a threat, though perhaps not on the scale of the old USSR, which could field an army in the millions with its East Bloc allies.

Unlike the old Soviet Union, which sought to export communism, Putin has more narrow, nationalistic aims of reconstituting the old Russian empire that dominated Eastern Europe, the Balkans, parts of the Mideast, and Central Asia for years.

Putin’s Russia is using a mix of tactics, old and new, to gain an edge over his more-deliberative geopolitical foes, most of which are democracies.

“Like the old Soviet Union, today’s Russia uses covert action to destabilize regimes, launches disinformation campaigns to confuse public opinion in democracies and, as we’ve recently seen in the United Kingdom, employs assassinations known as “wet operations” against individuals the Kremlin believes to be traitors,” wrote Gary Schmitt, co-director of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, in The Hill.

“Of course,” he added, “today’s Russia, as with the old Soviet Union, is more than willing to threaten other countries, near and abroad, with its military.”

And that’s the point. A bully, once emboldened, does not become a pacifist. He becomes an even bigger bully. If Putin knows that the West won’t sit still while he conducts his nasty affairs on our soil, he’ll be less likely to do such things in the future. The surest way to end bad behavior is to raise the cost of doing it.

That said, we don’t know (as of this writing) what Putin will do in response. Russia’s government, we suppose trying to be cute, has queried followers on Twitter for their input on which U.S. consulate it should close.

Meanwhile, we wouldn’t put it past Putin to do something symbolic and violent to thumb his nose at the West’s disapproval. As if trying to kill British MI6 double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a deadly nerve agent weren’t enough, Putin seems to like being regarded as a violent wild-card in the global deck.

Will he invade Ukraine? Double down on his support of Iran? Deliver more deadly assistance to Syria’s Bashar Assad? It’s hard to tell. At best, there will be a tit-for-tat expulsion of diplomats, at worst military action of some sort.

“Britain’s allies … are blindly following the principle of Euro-Atlantic unity, to the detriment of common sense, the norms of civilized international dialogue, and the principles of international law,” a Russian government statement said. “It goes without saying that this unfriendly act by this group of countries will not go without notice and we will react to it.”

Regardless of Putin’s response, at least he now knows the U.S. won’t look the other way when he misbehaves.

Meanwhile, it should be very clear to Americans, that we’re now in much better hands with Trump than we would have been with Hillary Clinton, whose appeasing “reset button” Russian diplomacy while she was secretary of state marked a nadir for America’s recent foreign policy.

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