Politicians and critics from the American left and right reeled at Monday’s Helsinki Summit between President Donald Trump of the United States and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of Russia. The Russian establishment has gained traction on favor of the Kremlin, citing the summit as a “win” for Putin. Russian newspapers headlined the failure of the West to isolate the country, as President Trump defended allegations against Russian collusion in his 2016 presidential win.
Expectations vs. Reality
The summit’s press conference centered on President Trump’s recognition of Russian collusion during the 2016 elections. In addition, statements made regarding intelligence agencies of the US were at the forefront, as the indictment of Trump’s campaign manager Robert Mueller occurred just a week earlier.
President Trump did not defend the US intelligence agencies when probed about their investigations. Instead, he affirmed that Putin assured him of absolutely no interference, describing the Kremlin as “strong and confident”. Meanwhile, he described his own department of justice and the relevant probe as a “…disaster for our country”.
Failures of the Summit
Between Moscow and Washington, there was a bilateral recognition of the failure of breakthroughs. No resolutions or actions were taken on pertinent issues such as Syria, Ukraine or control of arms. The focus ended up being the symbolic union between two superpowers after years of international isolation. This had been triggered by the 2014 annexation of Crimea, which was heavily criticized by the international community.
Russian Mission Accomplished?
Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov considered the summit a huge success. Putin was able to present himself as equal to the US President, a major objective according to sources close to Russia’s foreign policy establishment. This summit tied up some loose ends left from the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. In addition to the peer-power established, the economic benefits were clearly tangible. Suffering from a drop in oil prices over the last few months, the Rouble went up 0.4% against the dollar in international markets.
Although the GOP notoriously stands behind Trump, the Republican Speaker of the House stated that “Russia is not our ally” to the surprise of many involved. The most prominent republican in the party criticizing one of his own came as a surprise. Read the statement by the speaker of the house below.
There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world. That is not just the finding of the American intelligence community but also the House Committee on Intelligence. The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally.
There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals. The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.