Monday, 20 August, 2018

'Very Good Start,' But No Details From Putin Meeting

US President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin shake hands after their joint news conference in the Presidential Palace in Helsinki Finland 'Very Good Start,' But No Details From Putin Meeting
Melinda Barton | 17 July, 2018, 18:54

He called the appointment of a special counsel on Russian interference and the involvement of United States persons in that effort, Robert Mueller III, a "disgrace" to the country and an impediment to his own efforts to improve ties with Russia.

With that, the two leaders gave a quick handshake and their private meeting in the opulent Gothic Hall was under way.

During the conference, Putin reiterated his denial of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 United States presidential elections.

"We ran a brilliant campaign, and that's why I'm president", Trump declared. "I don't see any reason why it would be", he replied.

Trump made no mention of Putin's invasion, annexation and occupation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea; of Moscow's efforts to meddle in recent elections in Britain, France and Germany; nor of warnings from his own director of national intelligence that Russian Federation is preparing to interfere in the 2018 USA midterm elections.

What has USA reaction been?

Earlier Monday, Trump said his talks with Putin got off to a "very good start for everybody" after the two met privately for two hours. "We won that race and it's a shame that there can be even a little bit of a cloud over it". "The president is putting himself over our country", Schumer said in a statement.

Another senior Republican, Senator Lindsey Graham, who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, tweeted that it was a "missed opportunity.to firmly hold Russian Federation accountable for 2016 meddling".

Trump has repeatedly denied that there was any collusion between anyone in his campaign and the Russian government.

The US and Russian leaders came out of their meeting in Helsinki expressing a desire to cooperate on global challenges, after discussing an array of issues from Syria, Ukraine and China to trade tariffs and the size of their nuclear arsenals.

The summit, which is being closely watched around the world, was not the first time Trump and Putin have held talks. Asked if he trusted USA intelligence agencies which concluded that Russian Federation interfered in the 2016 election, Mr. Trump said he had been told by his CIA chief that it was Russian Federation, but that he saw no reason to believe it. "President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today".

US President Donald Trump receives a football from Russian President Vladimir Putin as they hold a joint news conference after their meeting in Helsinki Finland

He added: 'Duing todays meeting I addressed directly with President Putin the issue of russian interference in our elections...

He made it clear that, in return, Russian Federation would want similar access to people in the United States it suspects of criminal activity.

Yet after the bad-tempered North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit and a contentious trip by Trump to Britain, anxious European leaders will have been relieved if not much came out of the Helsinki meeting. "We are the two great nuclear powers, we have 90 percent of the nuclear".

Mr Trump would have none of it.

"He and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script". The damage inflicted by President Trump's naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is hard to calculate.

The long-awaited summit was overshadowed by the USA president blaming his own country's past "foolishness and stupidity" for the two powers' hostile ties.

There was no big agreement on anything other than to try to improve the relationship.

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In their totality, Trump's remarks amounted to an unprecedented embrace of a man who for years has been isolated by the US and Western allies for actions in Ukraine, Syria and beyond. He talks about the illegality of the Crimean reintegration to Russian Federation. US Senator Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, said Monday morning it was "likely".

A US Secret Service agent spoke with the unidentified man, before Finnish security physically escorted him from the room minutes before the two presidents entered to begin their press conference.

The Cipher Brief: Given that you've studied Russian Federation for a number of years, as both a journalist and academic, what are you going to be closely paying attention to?