President Donald Trump rebuffed the effectiveness of Russian President Vladimir Putin expelling U.S. diplomats during a security briefing at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club on Thursday, Aug. 10.
Trump was asked about Russia’s July 30 announcement that hundreds of U.S. diplomatic staff will be expelled as Putin forces a reduction in the U.S. diplomatic corps there from 1,200 to 755.
Trump suggested the cuts were to the U.S.’s advantage.
“I want to thank him because we are trying to cut down our payroll,” said Trump.
The comment effectively denies Putin’s expulsion will have any effect on the United States.
“There is no real reason for them to go back,” Trump said of the diplomats being expelled.
“We’ll save a lot of money.”
The payroll reduction Trump referenced comes from the budget the White House set out for 2018.
Titled America First A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again, the budget proposes a 28 percent cut for the State Department and USAID—a target that requires significant staff reductions and a smaller diplomatic footprint.
While the 755 staff reduction will force many American’s out of the country, many of those let go will be Russian nationals.
Trump’s comment echoes his previously stated sentiments toward the amount of money and government attention directed outside the country.
During his campaign, Trump emphasized retooling federal spending and foreign policy, including trade and security policy, toward efforts that will support the American economy as well as national security.
“My foreign policy will always put the interests of the American people and American security above all else. It has to be first. Has to be,” Trump said in his campaign foreign policy speech in April 2016.
Trump has described U.S. foreign policy as a disaster that focused on democracy building in countries with no tradition of democracy and half-baked military interventions that destroyed functional governments and created chaos in many Middle Eastern countries.
“We tore up what institutions they had and then were surprised at what we unleashed: Civil war, religious fanaticism, thousands of Americans and just killed be lives, lives, lives wasted. Horribly wasted. Many trillions of dollars were lost as a result. “
Trump’s position remained unchanged immediately after the election.
“We will stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we know nothing about, that we shouldn’t be involved with,” Trump told a large crowd in North Carolina, near the Fort Bragg military base, during his “thank-you tour” shortly after the election.
“Instead, our focus must be on defeating terrorism and destroying ISIS, and we will,” he said.
Trump has emphasized that money invested in wars would be better spent on infrastructure, including America’s aging roads, bridges and airports.
Trump has since softened his rhetoric and has developed a more nuanced position toward U.S. military operations overseas, though his general position on foreign spending is the same.
Trump’s budget proposes a nearly one-third cut in U.S. bilateral foreign aid, which includes funding for the United Nations, World Bank, and the State Department’s diplomatic duties.
The cuts, and Trump’s comments in regard to Putin’s expulsions, fall in line with his comments during the campaign, including efforts to retool trade deals that have often contributed to U.S. trade deficits.
“We’re rebuilding other countries while weakening our own,” said Trump in April 2016.