Trump, Putin blame ‘forces in US’ for undermining Helsinki summit ‘success’

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with US President Donald J. Trump (L) after their joint news conference following their meeting in the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, 16 July 2018. [Kremlin Pool/EPA/EFE]

In separate statements on the same day (19 July), US President Donald Trump and his Russian colleague Vladimir Putin blamed forces within the United States for marring what they called the success of their first summit.

Trump, who has struggled to quiet a political uproar over his failure at Monday’s summit in Helsinki to confront Putin over Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US election, renewed his fierce criticism of one of his favorite targets, the news media.

The Republican president accused the media of distorting comments in which he gave credence to Putin’s denials of election interference despite the conclusions of the American intelligence community about Moscow’s conduct.

Second summit in Washington

“The Summit with Russia was a great success, except with the real enemy of the people, the Fake News Media,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

“I look forward to our second meeting so that we can start implementing some of the many things discussed, including stopping terrorism, security for Israel, nuclear proliferation, cyber attacks, trade, Ukraine, Middle East peace, North Korea and more,” Trump said.

Trump has invited Putin to Washington this autumn, the White House said yesterday (19 July).

Four days after Trump stunned the world by siding with Putin in Helsinki over his intelligence agencies, the president asked national security adviser John Bolton to issue the invitation to the Russian leader, said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.

Trump drew a barrage of criticism in the United States, including from lawmakers in both parties, after he refused to blame Putin for the election meddling. Putin has denied such interference.

Trump’s submission to Putin stuns EU allies

The political class in the US, as well as many of Washington’s European allies were astonished to watch Donald Trump playing into Vladimir Putin’s hands at the Helsinki summit on Monday (16 July).

The Republican president later said he had misspoken and accused “some people” of hating the fact that he got along with Putin.

US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said on Thursday (19 July) he did not know what happened in the one-on-one meeting in Helsinki between Trump and Putin.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress are seeking answers on what agreements Trump may have reached with Putin in their two-hour meeting on Monday in which they were accompanied only by their interpreters.

“Well, you’re right, I don’t know what happened at that meeting,” Coats said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.

“I think as time goes by and the president has already mentioned some things that happened in that meeting, I think we will learn more. But that is the president’s prerogative,” Coats added.

On the prospect of Trump and Putin holding another one-on-one meeting with only their interpreters, Coats said: “I would look for a different way of doing it.”

In Moscow, Putin accused forces in the United States of trying to undermine the success of his meeting with Trump, but said the two leaders had begun to improve US-Russia ties anyway.

Putin, speaking to Russian diplomats from around the world, said the Helsinki summit had been successful.

“It was successful overall and led to some useful agreements. Of course, let’s see how events will develop further,” he said, without disclosing the nature of the agreements he referred to.

However, Putin said “powerful” US forces were trying to sabotage what the summit had achieved.

“We see that there are forces in the United States that are prepared to casually sacrifice Russian-US relations, to sacrifice them for their ambitions in an internal political battle in the United States.”

Those same forces appeared ready to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of US jobs and hurt US business and security while waging their divisive political battle, Putin said.

‘Narrow party interests’

Putin did not name names, but spoke of US politicians who put their “narrow party interests” above the best interests of the United States and were powerful enough to be able to foist their questionable “stories” on millions of Americans.

He said it would have been naive to expect that the Helsinki summit could have resolved problems that had built up over many years in the space of a few hours.

“Despite the difference in opinions (with Trump), we did agree that Russian-US relations are in an extremely unsatisfactory state. In many respects, they are even worse than during the Cold War,” he said.

But the two leaders had at least made a start when it came to improving relations.

“The path to positive changes has all the same begun,” said Putin. “It’s important that a full-scale meeting has finally taken place allowing us to talk directly.”

Putin warned however of the dangers of Moscow and Washington failing to continue to mend ties, saying the New START strategic arms reduction treaty would expire soon unless both countries took action.

“If today, right now, work on extending it is not begun it will simply expire in a year and a half.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday (18 July) the arrest in the United States of a 29-year-old woman accused of being a Russian agent was carried out to spoil the positive impact of Monday’s Helsinki summit, RIA news agency reported.

Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was cited as saying there were no grounds for the detention of Russian Maria Butina, who was arrested on Sunday, a day before Putin and Trump met in Helsinki.

Butina has been charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian government.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs changed its Twitter profile photo to #FreeMariaBulina.

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