First Vladimir Putin and then President Trump gave statements following their meeting in Helsinki yesterday. I have posted the video below (about 47 minutes); the White House has posted a transcript of the entire event. Angelo Codevilla makes a contrarian case for Trump’s performance in a column for American Greatness, but I thought it was a low point in the Trump presidency.
In the questions and answers, President Trump name-checked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and weighed Coats’s assessment against Putin’s: “My people came to me, Dan Coats, came to me and some others they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be. But I really do want to see the server but I have, I have confidence in both parties.” This too is to be regretted: “I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”
In his opening statement President Trump placed his remarks in the context of American diplomatic history: “I’m here today to continue the proud tradition of bold American diplomacy. From the earliest days of our republic, American leaders have understood that diplomacy and engagement is preferable to conflict and hostility. A productive dialogue is not only good for the United States and good for Russia but it is good for the world. The disagreements between our two countries are well-known and President Putin and I discussed them at length today.” He harked back to our wartime alliance with the Soviet Union: “We have also seen the benefits of cooperation. In the last century, our nations fought alongside one another in the Second World War.”
One might recall the first meeting of Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin at the Tehran conference in 1943. Churchill was dismayed by Roosevelt’s partiality toward Stalin’s views. He remarked to his physician after that first meeting, “A bloody lot has gone wrong.” General Alan Brooke lamented, “Stalin has got the president in his pocket.” Well, President Roosevelt had a famous weakness for “Uncle Joe” Stalin, but at least Stalin was taking the fight to the Nazis at the time.
UPDATE: I note that our friend Senator Cotton issued this statement following the press conference: “U.S.–Russia relations remain at a historic low for one simple reason: Vladimir Putin is a committed adversary of the United States. In the last few years alone, Russia meddled in our presidential campaign, violated arms-control treaties with the United States, invaded Ukraine, assassinated political opponents in the United Kingdom, made common cause with Iran in propping up Bashar al-Assad’s outlaw regime in Syria, and cheated not only in the Olympics, but even in the Paralympics. These are not the actions of a friend, an ally, or merely a nation with aligned interests. Until Russian behavior changes, our policy should not change. The United States should stay on the strategic offensive against Russia by maintaining sanctions, rebuilding our military, modernizing our nuclear forces, expanding missile defenses, sending more weapons to our allies, and producing more oil and gas. Strength is the one language for which Vladimir Putin needs no interpreter.”