Trump likes to say he is tough on Russia and claims that he is willing to take action to protect American interests, but he only ever does so after other players have forced his hand.

Trump signed a Russia sanctions bill into law — but only after Congress passed it with a veto-proof majority.

When Congress, aiming to punish Russia for its interference in the 2016 election, passed a bill placing new sanctions on Russia and limiting the president’s power to lift the sanctions, Trump resisted. He called the bill an unconstitutional encroachment on executive power. But when faced with the threat of an embarrassing Congressional override, Trump was forced to sign the bill. These protections were only sanctified as law because it was clear that Congress would pass it — with or without his support.

Trump implemented sanctions on Russia — but only after public pressure to act on election hacking reached levels too great to ignore.

Despite signing this sanctions bill into law, Trump missed one implementation deadline after another, and finally announced in January that he was not planning on implementing any new sanctions. But pressure to take action kept increasing: On Feb. 16, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for interfering in the 2016 election, and on Feb. 27, some of the administration’s top intelligence chiefs testified that the president had not instructed them to directly combat Russian election hacking. After public outcry, the Treasury Department announced it would sanction 19 people and five organizations under the law, many of which had already sanctioned by Obama or indicted by Mueller. Again, the Trump administration took only nominal action when left with no other options.

Trump condemned Russia for poisoning a former spy — but only after Rex Tillerson made a public statement holding Russia accountable.

After Trump and the White House declined to name Russia as likely being behind the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the U.K., then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Russia was “clearly” behind the attack and that “it certainly will trigger a response.” The next day, Trump fired Tillerson and issued a statement of solidarity with the U.K. Trump’s willingness to hold Russia accountable only came after Tillerson pledged the U.S. would take action.

Trump has shown that he does not want to hold Russia accountable for its actions — but what happens when no one is able to force his hand?