https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/08/heal ... trump.html
Short version: Some UN-affiliated group is considering a resolution to promote breast-feeding as better for infants than formula. US starts threatening countries that support the resolution. Then Russia supports the resolution. US has no objection.
Leave aside the decoder ring objections to government officials deliberating over how to feed infants. Leave aside the fact that the resolution is pretty benign and breast-feeding is generally good for kids and it's fine if Russia supports it. The basic outline is that we've got international reps doing pretty mundane international meeting stuff, Trump administration acts belligerent, then Russia says "We support the resolution" and US has nothing to say.
To be clear, I'm not saying the US should have rattled sabers against Russia over infant formula. (Especially since Russia was on the more sensible side here.) I repeat: I am not saying that the US should have rattled sabers against Russia over infant formula.
What I am saying is that US diplomats have always had ways of disagreeing with Russians in international forums, ways short of threatening war or whatever. I don't know the specifics, and I doubt Trump knows them either, but the sorts of boring foreign policy functionaries who go to these meetings (and sit a few layers below the White House in the hierarchy) do know how to disagree with Russia in a public forum. Whether or not they SHOULD disagree with Russia on this matter, boring foreign policy functionaries have means by which they can argue for a position that Russia disagrees with.
But a new boss comes in and suddenly nobody is able to disagree with Russia? This doesn't pass the smell test.
Now, I know that somebody will say "What, you want the State Department to issue massive threats against Russia over infant formula?" My answer is no. I don't give a fuck about infant formula. I just find it fascinating that State Department functionaries can fight hard for a stance until Russia comes in, and then they fold. This is new behavior for the US government, and it's at a meeting that I doubt Trump gives one tenth of one shit about.
To be clear, I do NOT think that Putin gave Trump a directive over infant formula and breast-feeding. I repeat: I do NOT think that Putin gave Trump a directive about infant formula and breast-feeding. I doubt either of them paid any attention to this meeting.
What I do think is that the general understanding at the State Department is that nobody disagrees with Russia about anything.