Why should we be surprised by a Russian kill bounty on U.S. troops?

Washington has been in turmoil since intelligence leaked out that Vladimir Putin’s operatives were offering bounties to the Taliban for killing American soldiers. Putin’s government regards the U.S. as its primary geopolitical enemy and has been doing its utmost to harm American interests since he took power. The bounties would be just one more arrow in Russia’s venomous quiver.

Despite our President’s chummy relationship with the Russian dictator, Putin tells his people that the U.S. is their mortal enemy. It is a cornerstone of his hold on power. As stated in the Military Review last July, “Kremlin-sponsored Russian media have inundated the Russian information space with an anti-American message” during the last decade. We are branded as the source of all of Russia’s ills and deserving of severe punishment.

Putin’s hatred of the United States is nothing new. Let’s take a walk down memory lane. While I was serving in Vietnam in the late 1960s, the Soviet Union was arming the North Vietnamese to the teeth with weapons to kill American troops. The Soviets were responsible for the deaths of thousands of U.S. soldiers.

Putin cut his teeth as a Soviet KGB officer and, after he assumed the Russian presidency in 2000, he set about trying to reconstitute what Ronald Reagan called the “Evil Empire.” That included making the U.S. an existential threat so as to tighten his grip on power.

Since then, Putin has done everything possible to sabotage American foreign policy and weaken our long-standing alliances, particularly with our European partners. He has invaded parts of Georgia and Ukraine, annexed Crimea and worked tirelessly to frustrate American policy in the Middle East.

His malicious activities include military and political outrages. His crony, Yevgeny Prigozhin, also known as “Putin’s chef,” oversaw Russia’s attack on our elections in 2016 and he is doing likewise for the 2020 election, according to U.S. intelligence. On February 7, 2018, a group of Russian mercenaries controlled by Prigozhin joined in an attack on U.S. forces and our Kurdish allies in Syria, after receiving clearance from the Kremlin. It did not turn out well for the attackers because our side killed around 200 of them, including upwards of 30 of Prigozhin’s mercenaries.

Trump failed to call Putin out for his failed attempt to kill our troops in Syria on that occasion. He should have loudly denounced Putin and imposed punitive action. Instead, he later announced that he was precipitously abandoning our Kurdish allies, much to Putin’s delight.

It is fairly common knowledge in military circles that Russia has been furnishing weapons and financial support to the Taliban in Afghanistan for a number of years. The weapons are obviously intended to harm U.S. and allied forces there. It is not too hard to believe the leaked intel that the Russians offered bounties to kill U.S. troops. There is evidence of electronic fund transfers to back up the intel.

Regardless of when Trump learned of this latest outrage–whether he was told by John Bolton in March of 2019 or whether he learned about it from recent press reports–why has he not taken decisive and public action to bring Putin to account? By acting as Putin’s lap dog, he is encouraging more Russian aggression and further endangering our troops.

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