(BBG) Trump Paralyzed on Russia as Probes Continue, Ex-NATO Chief Says

(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump’s administration is
paralyzed by the continuing probes of Russia’s role in the 2016
election, limiting the U.S.’s ability to speak with a single
voice against Moscow’s meddling abroad and find productive ways
to improve ties, NATO’s former chief said.
Anders Rasmussen, who led the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization for five years through 2014, said that the policy
stalemate in Washington undermines U.S., European and Russian
interests alike in hot spots such as Ukraine.
“He can’t move, the U.S. can’t move,” Rasmussen, who now
serves as an adviser to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko,
said at a roundtable with Bloomberg reporters and editors
Thursday in Washington. The continuing probes “serve the
interests of Putin,” he added. As a result, “We haven’t seen
Russia move one single step in the implementation of the Minsk
agreement” reached in 2015 to stop the military conflict in
eastern Ukraine.
“Putin must be laughing right now because has achieved much
more than he could ever have dreamed of” in undermining the
credibility of Western democratic institutions, he said. U.S.
intelligence agencies have found that Russia was behind a social
media and internet campaign that they said was aimed at hurting
Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and ultimately helping to
elect Trump.
Rasmussen, who was Denmark’s prime minister from 2001-2009,
said “the road to better relations with Moscow runs through
Kiev.”

UN Proposal

He said the U.S. and its allies should try to build on what
he called an unacceptable Russian proposal at the United Nations
calling for peacekeepers in eastern portions of Ukraine. They
could do that by backing Ukraine’s demand that UN-sanctioned
troops control the border between Russia and its former Soviet
partner, he said.
But with probes by a special counsel and congressional
committees continuing, he said policy in Washington appears
confused.
“Right now we are seeing such mixed signals from this
capital,” Rasmussen, 64, said. “Congress has decided to
strengthen sanctions, but the administration is hesitant to
actually implement it. Congress has decided that the U.S. should
deliver defensive military systems to the Ukraine, but the
administration is hesitant to implement it.”
Read how Russia props up Ukraine rebels with coal sales
from war zone
“It’s important to not only float the ideas of these
initiatives but also ensure that there is a consistent messaging
from the administration and Congress,” he said.
Rasmussen would probably get a sympathetic audience for his
views among foreign policy leaders on Capitol Hill. Republican
Senator John McCain of Arizona, who heads the Armed Services
Committee, has repeatedly called for tougher measures against
Russia over Ukraine and has criticized the White House for
missing an Oct. 1 deadline to implement new sanctions against
Moscow.
McCain and Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland last
month called on the administration to disclose how it will
implement fresh sanctions “robustly,” saying it would send a
message to Moscow that the U.S. is committed to countering
“Russian subversion and destabilization.”
Rasmussen, saying that Putin sees policy hesitation as a
weakness, also called on Europe to follow tougher sanctions
against Russia over Ukraine, for the West to provide defensive
weapons to Kiev and for the country to be named a “major non-
NATO ally.” That designation, already held by nations including
Afghanistan and Japan, would facilitate defense cooperation
between the West and Ukraine, Rasmussen said.
“We have to do something to change the calculus in the
Kremlin, and I still believe that ‘peace through strength’ is
the right formula,’ he said.