The inside-the-beltway crowd was absolutely outraged and appalled by Trump’s performance at Helsinki. There, Trump violated all the principles of American hawkishness. He sat next to Vladimir Putin, leader of a rival power, signaling that Russia is a peer. He sided with Putin over the assessments of the CIA, the NSA and other US intelligence organizations (they are 16, and mostly redundant since they are under pressure to conform to one another). He denied Russian attempts to influence the 2016 elections. He declined to press Russian president Vladimir Putin on his annexation of the Crimea or border clashes with Ukraine, or the poisoning of his critics while they were in the UK, or Putin’s crackdown on the press and on his political opponents.
While Putin’s behavior has been objectionable, there is something profoundly hypocritical about the US elite pretending that the US doesn’t embrace people like Putin all the time.