The irony of Pompeo’s Syria agenda is that Europe won�

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is flying to Brussels this week with a final piece of his family-friendly agenda: Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But as a top aide clarified in an…

The irony of Pompeo’s Syria agenda is that Europe won�

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is flying to Brussels this week with a final piece of his family-friendly agenda: Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But as a top aide clarified in an interview, Europe will also be on the agenda, because Pompeo will meet with his European counterparts on the Syrian crisis and at the start of the NATO summit.

However, just as the Europeans are closing ranks around the idea of the two leaders meeting, they are confronting the troubling reality that Russia has the overwhelming support of countries across the Atlantic.

Perhaps the most horrific aspect of this meeting is what may happen once he meets with Vladimir Putin, a president they have vilified for years. The Trump administration, and particularly Pompeo, has shown that it is willing to treat Russia as part of the solution to the Middle East crisis. Pompeo insisted in the interview that the Islamic State had been defeated, despite the Islamic State’s resurgence in Syria. He also seemed to give credence to Russia’s claims that the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad was responsible for bombing a gas plant in Idlib last week, despite the U.S. government’s allegation that Russia did it. And when the United States, a NATO member, was considering a French military strike in Syria, Pompeo expressed concern about the consequences for Europeans.

“The European allies should be extremely concerned, as they should have been from the very beginning, about the fact that Vladimir Putin has many, many levers of power in Syria,” Pompeo said.

He was referencing Russia’s extensive presence there and its support for Assad, a brutal dictator whom the American people overwhelmingly view as a bad guy. But here is where the transatlantic alliance meets its foreign policy in a new negative light: the way Europe has been dealing with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Russia captured Crimea in 2014 and the U.S. and its allies blamed Putin’s military for the move. The United States increased sanctions on Moscow and kept talking about it. Even after the Russians started bombing parts of eastern Ukraine in 2014, including in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, the United States largely accepted the Kremlin explanation that it was responding to a terrorist attack with downed aircraft.

The United States failed to use the opportunity to impose sustained economic and military sanctions on Russia. This delay helped persuade the European Union to continue to subsidize the Russian economy. And there was no effort to financially burden Putin and protect the Russian people.

Europe, particularly in its former Eastern Bloc countries, has taken the opposite tack. Countries like Poland and the Baltic states have seen their economies battered by the Russian invasion and have taken a strong anti-Russian stance. After Russia gained control of the Crimean peninsula, the same countries demanded that Russia leave the country. Others denounced Putin’s invasion as a hostile act that violated international law and the territorial integrity of their countries.

While the United States and its allies have kept the focus on Russia and its efforts to divide the community of nations, the Europeans have turned against them in the war in Syria. President Trump openly questioned Russia’s role in the crisis, and European leaders have collectively blamed Assad and the Syrian regime for killing innocent civilians. They have backed the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State in Syria. But even there, Europe’s leadership has turned against Trump.

Trump’s former national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty last December to lying to the FBI about a conversation he had with Russia’s ambassador to the United States about lifting the economic sanctions that were imposed on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine. Trump fired Flynn for lying about the conversation with the Russian ambassador. Flynn subsequently did not cooperate with the investigation into his contacts with Russia by Robert Mueller, the special counsel.

Under Mueller’s investigation, the Justice Department and Congress have been looking at, among other questions, how the European response to Russian aggression in Ukraine was even more muted than that of the United States. Congressional hearings are already underway, and the intelligence committees of the House and Senate are conducting their own investigations.

But Europeans have yet to be confronted directly by the reality that Russia has all the levers of power in Syria, and it has actually exploited them. Pompeo is sounding more and more like a man who genuinely believes that he can fix the Syrian crisis, but who also believes that one conversation with Putin will do him and America good.

If he does get the chance to have a conversation with Putin, Europe will be staring down an awkward choice. It may have to choose whether or not to help the United States investigate Russia’s interference in the United States and its election. Or whether or not to support the United States against Russia’s latest

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