The tragic loss of an American service member in Ukraine this week is a reminder of President Trump's robust support for that nation. Since entering office, Trump has indeed done far more than his predecessor to support Ukraine against Russian aggression, as he recently pointed out.
Killed during a multi-nation NATO-Ukraine military exercise called "clear sky," the fallen American, almost certainly a pilot, died alongside an Ukrainian air force pilot as they flew an Su-27 fighter jet. "Clear sky" seeks to educate pilots to the advantages and limitations of partner-nation aircraft. And "clear sky" matters not just for what it is, but for the fact that it is new. After all, where the Obama administration always sought to avoid U.S. military strike support for Ukraine, Trump has allowed the U.S. Air Force to send F-15 fighter jets to participate in this year's "clear sky" exercise. Russia would have noticed that and not liked it one bit.
Still, this is just one element of the Trump administration's support for Ukraine. In providing anti-tank missiles to Kiev, for example, the Trump administration did what the Obama administration had believed would invite massive retaliation from Vladimir Putin. The U.S. also continues to support Ukraine on issues such as Russia's blockade of its waters, and Moscow's harassment of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. For some reason, many journalists seem to forget these facts when they write about Trump's foreign policy.
Don't get me wrong, Trump's deference to Putin in public is damaging to U.S. credibility and to Trump's own interests. Still, when we measure Trump's actual policies in Ukraine, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, there is no doubt the president is making Putin upset. And the contrast here with President Obama, who refused to support close American allies following Russia's downing of a civilian airliner over Ukraine, is distinct and undeniable. President Trump was right to point that out to CBS last weekend.