Trump announced that the United States will pull out of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty, a bedrock of international security. The move prompted outrage from Russia and warnings of “the most severe crisis in nuclear arms control since the 1980s,” (Malcolm Chalmers of the Royal United Services Institute), including the threat of a new nuclear arms race. The move is widely credited to National Security Adviser John Bolton, who, as I warned in The Nation in April, sees the Russiagate moment as “a not-to-be-missed opportunity” to advance a hawkish neoconservative agenda, including the dismantling of arms-control treaties that he began under George W. Bush.
Despite this dangerous move, none of the prominent voices who have accused Trump of being soft on Russia, speculated whether he is a Kremlin operative, is vulnerable to Russian blackmail, or is even taking orders directly from Putin, have stepped forward to revisit their collusion theory. Worse, some are doubling down. Decrying Trump’s failure to confront the Kremlin in the wake of the Russian troll farm accountant’s indictment, Representative Schiff told MSNBC that Putin must think to himself, “This weak U.S. President will never confront me—he doesn’t have the guts to confront me.”
As diplomats and arms-control experts confront Trump’s abrogation of a vital nuclear treaty, Schiff and other prominent Russiagate exponents are notably silent. The reasons seem clear: Ever since the 2016 election, the figureheads of Trump’s political and media opposition have invested in a supposition that Trump is in cahoots with Russia and encouraged him to be confrontational as a means of disproving it. They have de-incentivized and disempowered themselves to stand up to Trump when he confronts Russia in one of the most reckless ways that he could. For all the dire warnings about Russian trolls and hackers over the past two years, it is those sounding the alarms who have fueled a much worse threat.