Biden says Putin in a ‘difficult position’ and resorting to brutality
(CNN) – President Donald Trump has a point when he says that Vladimir Putin’s election win is the “biggest political upset” in Russia’s young history.
And he’s right.
But as Trump continues to press his argument that Russia must be held accountable for its election meddling, the question of whether Putin actually has the power to hold back the United States from acting against Russia in response deserves more scrutiny.
To be sure, he’s always had the legal power to do so. The president has the authority to issue a presidential order directing the United States to take military action against Russia without seeking Congressional approval. And he has the power to impose sanctions on Russian companies for human rights abuses.
But the question here is whether Putin actually has the will and the inclination to exercise these powers.
CNN has reached out to the US Treasury Department, the Department of Defense, the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Council and has asked them to share with us their views on whether Putin is a legitimate leader.
There is also mounting concern in the US that Putin may have tried to influence the election in Trump’s favor in hopes of keeping the Republican in power.
But there’s been a lack of clarity and consistency of answers, especially from the White House.
Here is the latest information we have at this time:
On Russia’s power in a foreign conflict
Last week, a bipartisan group of senators led by Republican senator Lindsey Graham wrote a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis challenging his denial that Russia has the military capacity or the desire to invade the US.
“There is a profound question about the nature and extent of Russia’s malign activity in Europe that has gone undiscussed,” Graham said. “We agree, however, that the Russian government is not currently capable of initiating hostilities and that the use of force with Russia is contrary to our interests and values.”
But in response to a question about whether the United States would consider a military strike against Russia, Mattis said “we have no intent to use the armed forces of the United States,” adding that “the Russian government is our partner