'Incoherent' Trump blistered by ex-National Security Council member for acting as Putin's unwitting stooge
President Donald Trump's manner with Russian leader Vladimir Putin was in contrast to the anger he flashed at NATO allies. (AFP / Brendan Smialowski)

In a ferocious column for Politico, a former member of the National Security Council who served under both President George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton called out Donald Trump for what he called the president's "incomprehensible" policies when it comes to Russia.

According to Andrew S. Weiss, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment, the American president is likely the best friend Russian President Vladimir Putin could wish for.

Pointing out that Trump's meeting with Putin in Osaka is only days away, Weiss, who worked on Russian affairs in the State Department, said the get-together is happening just as three government officials with the most experience dealing with Russia -- Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph Dunford, the NSC’s in-house Russia expert Fiona Hill, and U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman -- are leaving the administration.

"The conventional wisdom has long held that Trump’s bizarre brand of Russian policy (which he invariably describes as 'getting along with Russia') doesn’t matter all that much because the rest of the U.S. government is taking a tougher line on the Kremlin’s misbehavior," Weiss writes. "None of this obscures the fact that there is still no overarching Russia strategy in place, let alone the discipline to implement it. The Administration’s actual day to day policy on Russia is mostly reactive, bordering on incoherent. Sure, there’s lots of attention on the appearance of countering the Kremlin’s malign activities, but little sustained focus on how best to manage an adversarial relationship with Moscow over the long haul."

That lack of focus -- as well as Trump's shoot-from-the-hip type of uninformed policy whims -- is playing right into Putin's hands, the Russian expert added.

"Trump keeps insisting that release of the Mueller report means he can finally get down to business with Putin. But what exactly does he have in mind? Trump has never provided a coherent explanation for why Russia is so important to his vision for U.S. foreign policy," he wrote, "Putin has effortlessly outmaneuvered a far less experienced counterpart who famously disdains preparation and briefing materials. Does anyone even remember the time Trump endorsed Putin’s suggestion about forced repatriation of Syrian refugees under the auspices of the Assad regime? "

"In the best of times, none of these problems would be easy to manage, let alone resolve. But they are being exacerbated by Trump’s glaring shortcomings as a manager and continued inability to staff his national security team properly," he added. "Against that backdrop, the U.S.-Russian relationship is likely to stay stuck regardless of any grand gestures aimed at turning Putin into his 'new best friend.'"

"And, sadly, Trump’s own staff will continue to view interactions like the Osaka meeting as exercises in damage limitation, not as serious chances to advance U.S. national interests," he lamented in closing.

You can read more here.