First was Kim Jong-un’s threat of a “Christmas gift,” and now Russia has announced it has successfully developed the world’s first hypersonic weapon. These last couple weeks have presented Donald Trump with difficult diplomatic situations — and he will suffer politically as a result of his abysmal decisionmaking.
Putin has an obsession with restoring Russia to its peak as a superpower, which in his mind has meant trying to recreate the Soviet Union. According to Politico, Putin boasted at a meeting with top Russian officials:
The Russian leader noted that during Cold War times, the Soviet Union was behind the United States in designing the atomic bomb and building strategic bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
‘Now we have a situation that is unique in modern history when they are trying to catch up to us,’ he said. ‘Not a single country has hypersonic weapons, let alone hypersonic weapons of intercontinental range.’
Politico reports that the speed of this weapon is 20 times the speed of sound. However many other sources, including the Associated Press, reported that the weapon can travel 27 times the speed of sound. For the record, that’s nearly 21,000 miles per hour.
This news is probably alarming to you. The question remains: Is it alarming to Trump? Or more specifically, is it alarming enough to Trump to elicit a meaningful and measured response? Don’t get your hopes up.
Trump takes every opportunity to kowtow to Putin, and don’t expect this to be any different. Monday morning, he’ll spout some kind of deranged word salad in front of Marine One about how Putin is smart, strong, and how Trump admires him for the accomplishment. Yes, the US will have supersonic weapons within years, and we may even have defenses to Russia’s and China’s supersonic weapons as well, but for now we’re behind, and we have a president who admires Russia more than the late Senator John McCain, an American war hero.
The combination of North Korea’s threat with Russia’s announcement of it hypersonic weapon puts Trump in an awkward position. His continued bloviating about being friends and being “in love with” Kim Jong-un, which were always nonsense, really seems like exceptional idiocy now. His continued admiration and servility to Putin now is deeply inappropriate.
This behavior has angered a lot of Americans, in particular active-duty service members. Military Times reports that a whopping half of active-duty service members are unhappy with Trump. Traditionally, Republicans have a lot of support from military service members, which makes this news striking. Trump’s poor handling of military strategy is clearly hurting him politically, and I’m willing to be that whatever it is he does next will only make his situation worse.
2020 will be a politically challenging year in the US. I don’t expect Trump has ever made a New Year’s resolution (because of course, how could you improve upon perfection?), but this year he needs to more than ever, for the nation: Step up, have some honor, and lead.