Nikki Haley wanders off the plantation again

"We can't trust Russia, and we won't ever trust Russia," said United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, speaking on CNN.

Seriously, was a statement like that helpful to what President Trump was trying to accomplish in the wake of his summit with Russian president Vladimir Putin?

Does it help to say the opposite of what President Trump has said, or annoy the Russians when we are trying to get something out of them, or reveal our true cards to them – tell them what we really think during negotiations?  Does it help to fan the Russians' natural paranoia?  All of those things are likely side effects from Ambassador Haley's rather intemperate statement on the Russians in the wake of the G-20 summit and its Trump-Putin meeting, which, if I had to guess, was probably geared to a domestic, not foreign policy audience.

I say this ruefully because there is so much to admire about the former South Carolina governor.  But telling the Russians we will never trust them isn't the best way to make the Russians – or anyone, for that matter – cooperative.  Obviously, she doesn't want them to be, or perhaps she forgets that the Russians themselves can read the news.

It's a statement that has been exploited pretty well in the Russian state media, generally with Trump's positive remarks in one story and Haley's negative remarks in the story next to it – as RT News has done, living up to its reputation of sowing doubt.

There is reason for doubt with this diversion in aims.  Could it be that she is trying to marginalize herself as Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson move forward with Putin, both on Syria and maybe cyber-security?  Some news accounts say she is playing tag team with her Washington bosses.  But the thing is, she does have a history of popping off and has reportedly had to be reined in, so there is reason for doubt on that theory, too.

To be fair to Haley, her remarks seem to be missing their context – on CNN, she said it was important to keep friends close and enemies closer – to "keep an eye on them and keep them in check," as she put it.  She also was on solid ground in saying the Russians certainly had hackers looking at voter rolls in the elections, in terms of meddling.  (She wasn't saying Russia worked to elect Donald Trump, as the left claims.)

But to say Russians can "never be trusted" is far too strong wording, much too sharp an edge.  Who would want to cooperate with anyone who thinks that?  And to tell the Russians they need to be kept an eye on also reveals too much in tactics, something it would be better to keep the Russians guessing on.  At a minimum, when President Trump has forged some kind of agreement with Russia, it's bad timing.

It's also frustratingly ignorant of who the Russians are – why they act the way they do – and the constructive role they can play.  They are, after all, not ISIS – pretty much the opposite, and that stance extends for centuries – they could play a decent role in getting rid of this problem.  What's more, the U.S. does have a long history of trusting Russia – dating from the American Revolution, but more recently, from World War II and even in parts of the Cold War – as when Russia kept Castro from setting off nuclear bombs in the U.S.

President Reagan had a far better understanding of what we are up against in getting Russia's cooperation on important matters: trust but verify.  If Haley can't read up on Russian history, can she at least read up on Reagan?

"We can't trust Russia, and we won't ever trust Russia," said United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, speaking on CNN.

Seriously, was a statement like that helpful to what President Trump was trying to accomplish in the wake of his summit with Russian president Vladimir Putin?

Does it help to say the opposite of what President Trump has said, or annoy the Russians when we are trying to get something out of them, or reveal our true cards to them – tell them what we really think during negotiations?  Does it help to fan the Russians' natural paranoia?  All of those things are likely side effects from Ambassador Haley's rather intemperate statement on the Russians in the wake of the G-20 summit and its Trump-Putin meeting, which, if I had to guess, was probably geared to a domestic, not foreign policy audience.

I say this ruefully because there is so much to admire about the former South Carolina governor.  But telling the Russians we will never trust them isn't the best way to make the Russians – or anyone, for that matter – cooperative.  Obviously, she doesn't want them to be, or perhaps she forgets that the Russians themselves can read the news.

It's a statement that has been exploited pretty well in the Russian state media, generally with Trump's positive remarks in one story and Haley's negative remarks in the story next to it – as RT News has done, living up to its reputation of sowing doubt.

There is reason for doubt with this diversion in aims.  Could it be that she is trying to marginalize herself as Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson move forward with Putin, both on Syria and maybe cyber-security?  Some news accounts say she is playing tag team with her Washington bosses.  But the thing is, she does have a history of popping off and has reportedly had to be reined in, so there is reason for doubt on that theory, too.

To be fair to Haley, her remarks seem to be missing their context – on CNN, she said it was important to keep friends close and enemies closer – to "keep an eye on them and keep them in check," as she put it.  She also was on solid ground in saying the Russians certainly had hackers looking at voter rolls in the elections, in terms of meddling.  (She wasn't saying Russia worked to elect Donald Trump, as the left claims.)

But to say Russians can "never be trusted" is far too strong wording, much too sharp an edge.  Who would want to cooperate with anyone who thinks that?  And to tell the Russians they need to be kept an eye on also reveals too much in tactics, something it would be better to keep the Russians guessing on.  At a minimum, when President Trump has forged some kind of agreement with Russia, it's bad timing.

It's also frustratingly ignorant of who the Russians are – why they act the way they do – and the constructive role they can play.  They are, after all, not ISIS – pretty much the opposite, and that stance extends for centuries – they could play a decent role in getting rid of this problem.  What's more, the U.S. does have a long history of trusting Russia – dating from the American Revolution, but more recently, from World War II and even in parts of the Cold War – as when Russia kept Castro from setting off nuclear bombs in the U.S.

President Reagan had a far better understanding of what we are up against in getting Russia's cooperation on important matters: trust but verify.  If Haley can't read up on Russian history, can she at least read up on Reagan?

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