Ahead of Summit, Trump Blames US — Not Putin — For Sour Relationship
HELSINKI, Finland — President Donald Trump blamed US policy — not Vladimir Putin — for the dismal state of relations between the two countries, just hours before arriving to meet with the Russian leader.
Trump arrived Monday afternoon at the Finnish presidential palace for what he has called a summit with Putin, hoping once again that his personal touch can reverse the steep decline in US-Russia relations in recent years.
US officials have stressed the path to improving US-Russia ties runs through a clear-eyed understanding of Russian aggression and the root causes of discord in the relationship, but Trump is signaling a different course. He is holding previous US administrations and the Justice Department’s investigation stemming from Russian meddling in the 2016 election responsible.
“Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!” Trump tweeted.
Trump and Putin arrived separately at the Finnish presidential palace, about 45 minutes behind schedule. Trump held at his hotel while he waited for Putin, who is known for arriving late to important events, to touch down — drawing comparisons to Trump’s late arrivals at recent summits with US allies.
Trump’s Monday morning tweet and his words and actions in the last week have only amplified concerns about his approach to Russia among US allies and lawmakers of both parties in Washington.
Ahead of his meeting with Putin — who is alleged to be behind the assassination of journalists and political dissidents — the US President also lashed out again at the news media on Sunday by branding journalists “the enemy of the people.”
Everything from Russian meddling in the 2016 election to the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine are expected to be on the agenda for their summit here in Helsinki, but Trump has signaled he is most eager to jumpstart talks to “substantially reduce” the two countries’ nuclear weapons arsenals and generally improve US-Russia relations.
Trump is not, however, expected to offer to halt military exercises in the Baltics as part of his discussions with Putin, with a US official telling CNN’s Jeff Zeleny “at least that’s the plan going in.”
The question of the Baltics exercises has hung over the summit, particularly after Trump abruptly decided last month to agree to stop joint US-South Korean military exercises during his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Trump has said he intends to once again ask Putin about Russian efforts to sway the results of the 2016 election, but has signaled he will not press the issue.
Trump has sought to cool expectations in the last days leading up to the summit, saying in an interview Saturday that he planned to arrive in Helsinki “with very low expectations.”
“I think that getting along with Russia is a good thing, but it’s possible we won’t,” Trump said.