Speaking before a room of engaged media in Helsinki, Finland, President Donald Trump & Russian President Vladimir Putin promised a new relationship built on conversation and working together. Standing in front of “Helsinki 2018” decorated podiums and an even number of Russian and American flags to their wings, both men looked stern and imposing as they read through prepared statements.
Putin was first and sounded as upbeat as could be expected:
Today both Russia and The United States faced a whole new set of challenges. The creeping threats of terrorism and transnational crime. We can only cope with these challenges if we work together. Today negotiations reflected our joint wish with President Trump to improve this relationship and restore an acceptable level of trust.I’d like to point out specifically that our special forces are cooperating quite successful together. – Putin
Expounding on his hope for a new relationship between the two nations, Putin praised President Trump’s work on the geopolitical situation in North Korea:
We will make a step towards creating a lasting peace in compliance. We are glad that the Korean peninsula issue is beginning to resolve. To a great extent it was possible thanks to the personal engagement of Donald Trump who opted for dialogue instead of confrontation. The Russian state has never interfered and is not going to interfere into internal American affairs including the election process. – Putin
He finished in a level tone that expressed hope for a new path forward for US-Russia relations:
It’s quite clear that the bilateral relationships are going through a complicated stage. We had a great conversation and I hope we start to understand each other better. We made the first important step in this direction. – Putin
Trump and Putin once more showed their effect on the market. By the time Trump began to speak, the DOW Jones was moving up in response to the stoic and lukewarm comments from the Russian President.
Trump took a moment to pay his respect to Putin for the nation’s successful hosting of this summer’s World Cup and congratulated the Russian soccer team on their performance. He spoke openly about a more than 90-minute private meeting between Trump and Putin from earlier in the afternoon:
It went very well. From the earliest days of our Republic, our leaders have understood that diplomacy and engagement is preferable to conflict and hostility. Last century our nations fought alongside one another in the second world war. Our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed as of about four hours ago. I really believe that. – Trump
Trump didn’t wait long before lashing out at his critics back home in America:
As President, I can’t make decisions on foreign policy in a feudal effort to appease partisan critics or the media or Democrats who want to do nothing but resist and obstruct. As President, I will always put what is best for America and the American people. – Trump
As the conference opened up to the press corps it was Jeff Mason of Reuters who asked the hard questions of the afternoon. He queried whether Trump holds Russia at all accountable for reported collusion into the 2016 Presidential Election:
Yes I do. I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish. We should’ve had this dialogue a long time ago. A long time, frankly, before I got to office. I think we’re all to blame. I think the United States now will step forward with Russia and we have a chance to do some great things. I think the probe has been a disaster for our country. I think it’s kept us apart. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it – Trump
Trump and Putin both brushed aside potential Russian collusion questions. Trump reiterated his dismissal of collusion talks and suggested he beat Hillary Clinton with ease. His ego, even on this international stage, can’t help from preening. Putin also disregarded the continued investigation into the 2016 United States election as a misguided pursuit that only hurts the relationship between countries. He called Russia a Democratic society and pointed out that private citizens acting on their own interests should not be confused with the Russian political state.
Putin went further when he proposed that Mueller’s team go to Russia and watch the questioning of the 12 indicted Russian. Against the backdrop of frustrated reporters, Trump and Putin shook hands for the cameras and walked off stage in partnership.
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