During hearings with FBI Director James Comey and Adm. Mike Rogers, several Democrats joined ranking member Adam Schiff (D-CA) in claiming that the GOP’s platform position on Russia was weakened at this summer’s convention. Democrats suggested this weakening was a result of Russia’s influence on the Trump campaign through former campaign manager Paul Manafort, former campaign consultant Roger Stone and other nefarious actors on behalf of the Putin regime.
At the Washington Examiner, Byron York makes a strong case that this narrative is dead wrong, a minor incident of mis-reporting that blossomed into conventional wisdom. Perhaps he’s right. We may never know.
But what we do know, because it’s posted on the GOP’s website, is the final language of the Republican platform approved by the party when Donald Trump officially became the nominee. Here are some highlights, with emphasis added:
Also neglected [by the Obama administration] are our strategic forces, especially the development and deployment of ballistic missile defenses. The Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system has been delayed and underfunded. To curry favor with Russia, defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic have been neutralized and the number of planned interceptors in Alaska has been reduced.
A New START agreement (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), so weak in verification and definitions that it is virtually impossible to prove a violation, has allowed Russia to build up its nuclear arsenal while reducing ours. Meanwhile Moscow has repeatedly violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty (a treaty agreeing to the elimination of land-based mid-range nuclear missiles) with impunity, covertly testing missiles banned under that agreement. In the international arena, a weak Administration has invited aggression. The results of the Administration’s unilateral approach to disarmament are already clear: An emboldened China in the South China Sea, a resurgent Russia occupying parts of Ukraine and threatening neighbors from the Baltic to the Caucasus…
We support maintaining and, if warranted, increasing sanctions, together with our allies, against Russia unless and until Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are fully restored. We also support providing appropriate assistance to the armed forces of Ukraine and greater coordination with NATO defense planning.
There’s more—quite a bit more, actually. For example, the platform states explicitly that the GOP and the Russian people “have a common problem: The continuing erosion of personal liberty and fundamental rights under the current officials in the Kremlin. Repressive at home and reckless abroad, their policies imperil the nations which regained their self-determination upon the collapse of the Soviet Union. We will meet the return of Russian belligerence with the same resolve that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. We will not accept any territorial change in Eastern Europe imposed by force.”
Could the GOP’s language on Russia be stronger? Sure. Anything short of “Fire the nukes now!” could theoretically be tougher. The question is whether this language on Putin’s Russia is weak, soft, or even supportive? It doesn’t appear to be.
As York reports:
In the end, the platform, already fairly strong on the Russia-Ukraine issue, was strengthened, not weakened, as a result of the subcommittee meeting. The Trump campaign agreed to a platform condemning Kremlin belligerence, calling for continued, and perhaps increased, sanctions against Russia, for the full restoration of Ukrainian territory, for refusing to accept “any territorial change in Eastern Europe imposed by force, in Ukraine or elsewhere,” and pledging to aid Ukraine’s armed forces.
But as English historian Thomas Fuller observed, “Nothing is good or bad except by comparison.” So let’s compare the final GOP platform with this language:
We believe in strong alliances and will deter Russian aggression, build European resilience, and protect our NATO allies. We will make it clear to Putin that we are prepared to cooperate with him when it is in our interest—as we did on reducing nuclear stockpiles, ensuring Iran could not obtain a nuclear weapon, sanctioning North Korea, and resupplying our troops in Afghanistan—but we will not hesitate to stand up to Russian aggression. We will also continue to stand by the Russian people and push the government to respect the fundamental rights of its citizens.
Compared to the final GOP language, this isn’t particularly strong. It’s also . It’s from the Democrats’ final platform, passed by the Clinton campaign and her supporters this summer.
This isn’t the entire statement. The Democrats did include some rough talk in their Russian rhetoric…directed at Donald Trump:
Russia is engaging in destabilizing actions along its borders, violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and attempting to recreate spheres of influence that undermine American interests. It is also propping up the Assad regime in Syria, which is brutally attacking its own citizens. Donald Trump would overturn more than 50 years of American foreign policy by abandoning NATO partners—44 countries who help us fight terrorism every day—and embracing Russian President Vladimir Putin instead.
These two statements make up the entire “Russia” section of the Democrats’ platform. There’s only one other mention of Russia in the platform:
Democrats will stand with our European allies and partners to deter Russian aggression, address security challenges to Europe’s south, and deal with unprecedented economic and social challenges.
From a get-tough-on-Putin standpoint, this is pretty weak beer.
Platforms aren’t policy, and Putin is certainly smart enough not to worry about a few words on a partisan position paper. But a fair reading shows that the words coming from Republicans and Team Trump were much tougher on Russia than Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.
This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard