While newly minted White House Chief of Staff already is tamping down the internal turmoil on which the Trump administration seems to thrive — the rambunctious communications director Anthony Scaramucci is out — foreign turmoil is nipping at President Trump’s heels, namely from Russia, Venezuela, and North Korea.
President Trump has yet to execute a solid, grounded foreign policy, as opposed to the kind he favors based on personal contact, deal making, and tweeting on a whim. These have yet to make America more secure.
Vladimir Putin announced Sunday the expulsion 755 U.S. embassy personnel in Moscow by the end of the month. This most likely comes in response the U.S. sanctions imposed by Congress, but that have yet to be signed by the president. Given the still-unknown depths of Trump administration’s relationship with Russia — under investigation — it’s difficult to speculate as to what it all means. Russian stagecraft? Posturing? A chance for Trump to make a deal with friend and look heroic?
North Korea, which conducted another missile test over the weekend, clearly needs thoughtful attention from the State Department, which is in some turmoil itself, unfortunately.
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And on Monday, the president issued more sanctions against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
To the thousands of Venezuelans living in exile in Miami-Dade, squeezing Maduro himself is welcome news. The latest sanctions are a direct result of Maduro’s Constituent Assembly elections held Sunday — a mockery of the democratic process staged only to ultimately eliminate Maduro’s sizeable opposition in the legislative body and remake the nation’s constitution to grant him undue staying power.
Last week, the Treasury Department froze the assets under U.S. jurisdiction of Maduro’s wealthy backers. Monday, Washington froze the assets of Maduro himself, banned him from the United States, and prohibited Americans from doing business with him.
Maduro turned a deaf ear to the clamor of Venezuelans who have been protesting for almost four months against the attempt by the Chavez ruler to draft a new Constitution for him.
Venezuelans know full well that the new “Magna Carta” would eliminate the few remaining loopholes of democracy in the country, allowing Maduro to govern at will, without opposition.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday’s election was “illegitimate” and confirms that “Maduro is a dictator who ignores the will of the Venezuelan people.” Mnuchin also pointed out that anyone who participates in the Constituent Assembly may be targeted by U.S. government sanctions.
The United States said it would ignore the results of Sunday’s vote, as did Spain and several Latin American countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Paraguay. Harder to dismiss are the deaths of 10 protesters Sunday deaths in Venezuela during opposition protests — in addition to the deaths of more than 100 protesters over four months, at the hands of government forces.
Maduro continues down his disastrous course, for now. And the United States, with stepped-up sanctions is following the right and responsible path. Now, the Trump administration must be equally resolute in protecting America’s best interests as other foreign challenges loom.