Trump faces fire for Putin summit, comments

The mainstream commentary on the Trump-Putin summit has particularly focussed on the President’s refusal to endorse the claim by American intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S presidential election to help his victory.

President Donald Trump is in the eye of a storm in the U.S for blaming American security agencies and praising Russian President Vladimir Putin after a summit meeting between the two in Helsinki, Finland on Monday. A vast array of mainstream political leaders and strategic commentators have accused the President of compromising American national interest.

Former CIA Director John Brennan denounced Mr. Trump’s approach to Russia and Mr. Putin as “treasonous.” “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???” Mr. Brennan posted on Twitter. Former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said: “In my almost four decades with national defense starting in the Pentagon under Ronald Reagan, I never saw or imagined so uneven a handover of American security interests and principles with nothing in return at a meeting. It was like watching the destruction of a cathedral.”

The mainstream commentary on the Trump-Putin summit has particularly focussed on the President’s refusal to endorse the claim by American intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S presidential election to help his victory. “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,” Mr. Trump had said in response to a question on the issue, during a joint press conference with Mr. Putin.

A section of experts that are broadly supportive of better ties between the U.S and Russia also found this remark over the top. William Tobey, Senior Fellow at the Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University said: “Better U.S.-Russian cooperation on a host of issues — including fighting nuclear terrorism and proliferation — would be a good thing, as President Trump rightly notes. …..This willful obliviousness to hard evidence of Russian cyber attacks amounts to failure to execute his office and to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

As the media trained its guns on Mr. Trump, a rare voice of support for him came from Republican Senator Rand Paul, not usually a supporter of the President. “We must find a way to keep our historic allies, while realizing that threatening Russia through NATO expansion is not the answer,” Mr. Paul said. “While I had a great meeting with NATO, raising vast amounts of money, I had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia. Sadly, it is not being reported that way – the Fake News is going Crazy!,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter.

Mr. Trump has championed better ties with Russia amid an investigation into allegations that his campaign was aided by Kremlin. While Russia is widely seen as America’s primary rival by its professional strategists, support for better ties are on the rise among Mr. Trump’s supporters. According to a Gallop poll last week, 40% of Republicans say Russia is an ally or friendly, up from 22% in 2014. Among Democrats, 25% say the same compared to 28% in 2014. Among all Americans, 31% say Russia is an ally or friendly to the U.S.

While the TV noise has been overwhelmingly against any rapprochement with Russia, some experts are more optimistic about potential of the Helsinki summit. Matthew Bunn, Co-Principal Investigator, Project on Managing the Atom at the Belfer Centre said: “Despite President Trump’s blame-America-equally press conference blunders, the Trump-Putin summit may have opened windows of opportunity for some areas of cooperation that would serve American and world security interests. Both presidents emphasized the importance of working together to stop jihadist terrorism, stop nuclear proliferation, and control the dangers of existing nuclear arsenals, with President Putin calling for extending the New START nuclear agreement and expressing a willingness to address the serious problem of INF Treaty compliance. The two presidents have asked their security experts to follow up, potentially opening paths to address both terrorist and nuclear dangers. The United States has to be able to confront Russia when needed while simultaneously cooperating with Russia where our interests align.”

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