Credit: George Danby / BDN

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Paul Gregory Smith of Boothbay Harbor is a retired U.S. Army brigadier general who commanded the military Joint Task Force during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings response.

On Aug. 25, a Russian armored vehicle in Syria rammed a U.S. personnel carrier without apparent provocation. The incident caused injuries to several U.S. service members. The Russian military expressed no regret and stated that the collision was justified because U.S. forces had attempted to block the Russian patrol.

Despite an assault on U.S. troops by a hostile power, President Donald Trump remained silent.

According to intelligence sources, Russian agents may have offered bounties to Taliban fighters and other malign actors in Afghanistan for attacks against U.S. forces. These bounties may have precipitated an attack that resulted in the deaths of three Marines in April 2019.

While disavowing knowledge of the reports and questioning their credibility, Trump has refused to confront Russia.

In Belarus, the dictator Alexander Lukashenko has clung to power while reporting election results that international observers consider to be false. The courageous citizens of Belarus have faced police brutality and arrest as they have taken to the streets day after day to speak out for democracy. Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued an ominous threat that a reserve group of law enforcement personnel are poised to prop up the dictator.

Although he is considered to be the leader of the free world, Trump has offered no condemnation of the dictator in Belarus, no support for free elections and no encouragement for the people of Belarus.

The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released its final report on Russian interference in the 2016 election on Aug. 18. The report relates incidents of contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian agents that should concern every American. The Senate report also contains copies of letters sent by Trump to Putin. In a 2007 message, Trump congratulated Putin on being chosen as Time magazine’s “Man of the Year” and Trump stated, “I am a big fan of yours!”

Perhaps it’s admiration for the Russian leader. Perhaps it’s fear of a strongman. Perhaps it’s something darker and more nefarious. But whatever the reason, Trump is unwilling or unable to live up to his responsibility to confront a meddlesome and provocative adversary of the United States. This weakness will certainly be exploited by wily Russian leaders, which will lead to more military clashes, more encouragement for terrorists and more interference in our democratic processes.

Former Vice President Biden has opposed the hostile actions and autocratic repression of Putin for many years. In a recent speech he unequivocally criticized Trump’s troubling reluctance to act against Russia. “Never before has an American president played such a subservient role to a Russian leader,” he said in the speech in Pennsylvania. “It’s not only dangerous, it’s humiliating and embarrassing for the rest of the world to see. It weakens us.”

As the father of a former U.S. Army officer, Biden knows too well the obligation of leaders to safeguard our troops. He clearly stated during his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention: “I take very personally the profound responsibility of serving as commander in chief.”

In November, the American people will face a choice that will have a profound impact on the security of our country and the future of democracy around the globe. A vote for Trump essentially tells Putin that he has free rein for unbridled treachery and an iron fist as he expands Russian power and snuffs out emerging democracies. A vote for Biden sends a clear message that we have empowered a strong, experienced commander in chief who has a clear-eyed understanding of the Russian dictator and isn’t afraid to stand up to him. Let’s hope American voters make the right choice for our nation’s security and worldwide democracy.