Donald Trump & Vladimir Putin Meet One-On-One In Helsinki, Trump Blames U.S. For Poor Relationship
President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin met in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday for a long-anticipated one-on-one summit to discuss trade relations, military alliances, nuclear weapons and China.
According to the New York Times, Trump started off by saying the United States, and not Russia, was at fault for an increasingly tense relationship between the two nations.
The meeting holds particular significance given the Justice Department’s announcement on Friday that 12 Russian intelligence operatives have been indicted for interfering in the 2016 U.S. election. Specifically, these agents were charged with hacking the Democratic National Committee’s emails and sabotaging Hillary Clinton‘s bid for president. Trump has repeatedly called special counsel Robert Mueller‘s Russia investigation a “witch hunt,” and insists there was no collusion between his campaign staff and the Russian government.
The summit also follows a week in which Trump exacerbated tensions with several European allies at a NATO gathering in Brussels. The president slammed Germany for being “captive” to Russia, particularly with regard to its dependence on Russia for natural resources. European Union officials fired back at Trump by urging him to “appreciate” the U.S.’s allies. Large protests were held in London last week while Trump visited the United Kingdom, and Trump’s brash behavior when meeting with the Queen of England —arriving late, walking in front of her — only drew further outrage. The president also reportedly criticized Prime Minister Theresa May for her handling of Brexit, Great Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, but later denied having ever made the comments, despite the fact that they are on tape.
Trump’s recent impositions of massive tariffs on Chinese goods have also said to help exacerbate what some historians have called one of the biggest trade wars in U.S. history. Despite this, Trump recently praised Chinese leader Xi Jinping after he became president for life. Trump’s fervent support of authoritarian leaders like Xi, Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un and heavy criticism of leaders of Democracies like Canada and EU member nations has drawn increasing rebuke and concern from many U.S. elected officials and pundits.
Trump, who said he and Putin would not discuss Russian election meddling in 2016 on Monday, said after the pair of leaders had talked for more than two hours that their meeting was off to a “very good start for everybody.”
“We have not been getting along well for the last number of years,” Trump declared upon arriving at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki. “But I think we will end up having an extraordinary relationship… I really think the world wants to see us get along.”
Trump’s warm relationship with Putin has been very clear for several months. Earlier this year, Trump drew severe criticism from European leaders after he suggested Russia should be reinstated into the G7 group to become the G8 again. Under Barack Obama, Russia had been expelled from the group and drew sanctions following its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in early 2014.
Protests against the Trump-Putin summit also took place in Helsinki and in other European cities over the weekend and on Monday. Experts also feared Trump might sell out Syria to Russia during the summit with Putin.