The RNC has a new ad that tries to capitalize on Russophobia. The ad shows Biden stating that the U.S. and Russia “no longer have good reason not to trust one another,” then it shows him saying, “This is not 1956,” and then it includes footage from a news report about Russian arms supplies to the Syrian government. So because Russia is continuing to arm one of its clients, that is reason for the U.S. to distrust Russia? Does Russian support for the Syrian regime mean that the USSR has returned and has revived its Cold War posture from the ’50s? Neither conclusion makes any sense. The RNC obviously wants to demagogue Obama’s Russia policy, but so far they’re not doing a very good job.

I suppose this ad appeals to hawkish interventionists, who already believe that administration policy on Russia and Syria is mistaken, but as a political ad it is a complete failure. Drawing attention to Russian arms supplies to Syria tells us nothing about the nature of the U.S.-Russian relationship, nor does it explain why it would be a mistake to cooperate with Russia on areas of common interest. Charles Grant has a balanced assessment of the benefits of U.S.-Russian cooperation. How does Russian support for Syria change any of that? Obviously, it doesn’t. It is hardly news that Russia sells weapons to repressive governments around the world. Russia and the U.S. are the world’s two leading arms suppliers, and the U.S. has sold and continues to sell weapons to governments that abuse their people. If a U.S. client state faced an uprising that threatened to topple it and jeopardized perceived U.S. interests in the process, the U.S. would almost certainly keep selling weapons to that state. Would that mean that other major powers shouldn’t trust the U.S.? No, it wouldn’t.