Donald Trump is already discussing the idea of another meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, after the two have already met for one-on-one talks four times in Trump’s 18 months in office.
During that time, Trump has visited U.S. troops in war zones exactly zero times.
The president has drawn increasing criticism for his failure to visit troops stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, especially after his predecessors made numerous trips to visit service members in the line of fire. A number of veterans groups and individuals have tried to pressure Trump into making his first visit, and Gregg Zoroya wrote in USA Today that “Donald Trump needs to ditch his cronies, get off the golf course, and go thank the men and women who keep us safe.”
The ever-increasing stretch without visiting U.S. troops in combat zones has come under even greater scrutiny as Trump has gone out of his way to schedule visits with Vladimir Putin. Despite the U.S. intelligence community’s consensus that Putin ordered Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election to help elect Trump, the president himself has been hesitant to condemn Russia and even sided with Putin’s denials after their most recent meeting in Helsinki. Trump’s continued efforts to reach out to Russia and meet with Putin have drawn criticism from both sides of the aisle, especially as Trump fails to condemn the Russian attacks on the election.
That has helped to draw more attention to Trump’s failure to visit troops, which political experts say would be an “easy win” for an administration plagued by scandal and poor performance.
“I think he’s missing a big political opportunity because, you know, this is an important part of his presidential brand is support of the military and his belief in a strong America and you see it in his tweets and his oral statements a lot,” Steven Schier, a political science professor at Carleton College, told the Washington Examiner. “You would think he would want to back that up by supporting troops in their fields of combat personally but he has not done that.”
Both Barack Obama and George W. Bush made regular visits to troops stationed in combat zones.
So far, Donald Trump has not announced any plans to visit U.S. troops in combat zones anytime in the near future, but has extended an invitation to Vladimir Putin to visit Washington for their fifth meeting and is discussing the possibility of visiting with Putin in Moscow.