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Datum objave: 16.07.2018

Trump-Putin Meeting in Helsinki

The two presidents held their first summit meeting as Mr. Trump was throwing into doubt longstanding assumptions about the West’s political, military and trade alliances

Live Updates: Trump-Putin Meeting in Helsinki

RIGHT NOW President Trump said he raised the issue of Russian interference in the 2016 American election, and President Putin again denied any involvement, in their first face-to-face talks.

The two presidents held their first summit meeting as Mr. Trump was throwing into doubt longstanding assumptions about the West’s political, military and trade alliances. He began the day by blaming the United States, not Russia, for tensions between the two countries, though he later said both sides were to blame.

The timing was exceptionally awkward, just days after the Justice Department indicted 12 Russian intelligence agents on charges of hacking the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, in an attempt to aid Mr. Trump. Speaking briefly with reporters before the meeting, Mr. Trump said they would discuss trade, nuclear arms and China, but he did not mention Russia’s interference in the 2016 election that brought Mr. Trump to power.

Later, Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin both said that Mr. Trump had raised the issue of election meddling, but Mr. Putin again denied that it had taken place.

The summit meeting capped a weeklong trip to Europe in which Mr. Trump made his distaste for diplomatic norms abundantly clear: He caused turmoil at the NATO summit meeting and during a visit to Britain by demanding that allies spend more on defense, saying that Prime Minister Theresa May was mishandling Brexit, advising her to sue the European Union over the issue and calling the bloc a trade “foe.”

• The meeting on Monday will be closely scrutinized for signs of whether Mr. Trump is friendlier to his Russian counterpart than he was to the NATO leaders. The encounter began late, and the two leaders met one-on-one for more than two hours before heading into a working lunch with their aides.

• Mr. Putin proposed the meeting in March during a phone call with Mr. Trump, and American officials say the Russian leader desperately needs Washington to ease sanctions that have squeezed his country’s economy and oligarchs.

• American observers on both sides of the political aisle feared that Mr. Trump, who dislikes policy briefings and has said he needed no preparation for the meeting, could be an easy mark for manipulation by Mr. Putin, a former intelligence agent whom Mr. Trump has refused to criticize directly.

Mr. Trump raised the matter of Russian interference in the 2016 United States election, the two leaders said at a news conference after their meetings, and Mr. Putin reiterated his denial of Russian involvement, rejecting the findings of American intelligence services and prosecutors.

“I addressed directly with President Putin the issue of Russian interference in our elections,” Mr. Trump said. “I felt this was a matter best discussed in person. President Putin may very well want to address it, and very strongly, because he feels very strongly about it, and he has an interesting idea.”

It was not clear what Mr. Trump meant.

In his own comments minutes earlier, Mr. Putin said: “President Trump mentioned the so-called interference of Russia in the American elections. I had to reiterate things I said several times: that the Russian state has never interfered, and is not going to interfere, in internal American affairs, including the election process.”

Mr. Putin said the war in Syria, where the United States and Russia have backed opposing factions, actually represents a prime opportunity for cooperation between the two countries, and flattered Mr. Trump for his handling of North Korea. Mr. Trump this year became the first sitting American president to meet with the leader of North Korea.

“We are glad that the Korean Peninsula issue is starting to resolve,” he said. “To a great extent it was possible, thanks to the personal engagement of President Trump, who opted for dialogue instead of confrontation.”

Trump blames United States for tensions with Russia

• The New York Times has live coverage of his seven-day, three-nation trip, from our White House reporters and European correspondents. Photographs from Mr. Trump’s trip are here.

Mr. Trump began the day of the meeting by blaming the United States for its poor relationship with Russia, casting aspersions on the federal investigation into Moscow’s cyberattack on the 2016 presidential election, even as he said he felt “just fine” about meeting with Mr. Putin.

In a pair of tweets sent on Monday before he headed for breakfast at Mantyniemi Palace, a residence of the Finnish president, Mr. Trump twice branded the special counsel investigation into Russia’s election interference the “Rigged Witch Hunt.”

That investigation, and “many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity,” he wrote, are why the United States’ relationship with Russia “has NEVER been worse” — a bold claim, given that the history includes periods like the Cuban missile crisis, and the wars in Korea and Vietnam.

He did not mention factors that are usually cited in the West as causes for friction with Moscow: Russia’s annexation of Crimea, its support for rebels in Ukraine and for the Assad regime in Syria, its meddling in the elections of the United States and in those of other countries, and the nerve agent poisonings in England that the British government has said the Kremlin was behind.

The president’s tweet drew praise and a “like” from the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Mr. Trump reiterated the point in his prepared remarks at the news conference with Mr. Putin, saying: “Our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed as of about four hours ago. I really believe that.”

“Nothing would be easier politically than to refuse to meet, to refuse to engage, but that would not accomplish anything,” he added. “As president, I cannot make decisions on foreign policy in a futile effort to appease partisan critics or the media, or Democrats who don’t want to do anything but resist and obstruct.”

Asked if he held Russia at all responsible for the state of relations, he said: “Yes, I do, I hold both countries responsible. I think the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish.”

But he did not cite a single specific thing Russia had done to contribute to tensions.

Mr. Trump also lashed out at former President Barack Obama for the second day in a row, tweeting that his predecessor had failed to intervene to stop Russia’s hacking because he “thought that Crooked Hillary was going to win the election.”

The messages suggested that Mr. Trump, who has never directly condemned Mr. Putin for the election meddling and has cast doubt on whether he even agrees with his own intelligence community’s finding that it was carried out by Moscow, has not changed his stance in the wake of the indictment last week of 12 Russian agents in the attack.

Mr. Trump had said that he would ask Mr. Putin about the meddling during their talks but that he did not expect the Russian president to admit culpability, and that the issue was an obstacle to improving relations between the United States and Russia.

At the breakfast with President Sauli Niinisto of Finland and his wife, Mr. Trump telegraphed confidence about the day ahead, saying, “We’ll do just fine.” — Julie Hirschfeld Davis

Trump cited trade and nuclear weapons as agenda items, but not election meddling

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Mr. Trump indicated, moments before he and Mr. Putin began their private meeting, that trade and reducing their nations’ nuclear arsenals would be high on the agenda.

But he did not mention the issue that has dogged him at home, the Russian interference in the 2016 election. Just days ago, the Justice Department indicted 12 Russian intelligence agents for computer hacking intended to influence the election.

He also did not mention Russia’s annexation of Crimea or allegations that it had used a nerve agent on British soil.

“We will have discussions on everything from trade to military to nuclear,” and “a little bit about China — our mutual friend, President Xi,” Mr. Trump said, as he and Mr. Putin posed for photographs before going behind closed doors.

“I think we have great opportunities as two countries that, frankly, we have not been getting along too well,” he said, against a backdrop of three American and three Russian flags. “I think the world really wants to see us get along.”

“We are the two great nuclear powers,” Mr. Trump said. “We have 90 percent of the nuclear, and that’s not a good thing, it’s a bad thing.”


He also praised Russia’s hosting of the soccer World Cup, which ended on Sunday.

“I’d like to congratulate you on a really great World Cup, one of the best ever,” Mr. Trump said. “It was beautifully done, so congratulations.”

He and Mr. Putin first met with only translators in the room, before they convened with advisers present. Walking from one session to the other, Mr. Trump said to reporters: “I think it’s a good start. Very, very good start for everybody.”

The president’s cheery comment came as the Americans and Russians were running several hours behind schedule for a joint news conference with the two leaders.

It also came days after the Justice Department indicted 12 Russian agents on charges of hacking during the 2016 U.S. election — and British investigators believe that a poisoning attack carried out on a former Soviet spy and his daughter was carried out by current or former agents of the intelligence service they worked for, known as the G.R.U.

On Monday, Mr. Trump had not publicly addressed the issue of meddling, except to blame the United States for the bad relationship with Russia.

After berating NATO allies, Trump says they’re “thanking me”

Mr. Trump, who disparaged American allies during last week’s NATO meeting, tweeted on Monday that he had “received many calls from leaders of NATO countries thanking me” for pressuring other nations to spend more on their militaries.

He did not name the leaders or their countries.

The president has been similarly short on specifics about his claim on Thursday that in response to his demands, other member nations had pledged major increases in military spending. He did not name countries, give dollar amounts or timetables.

The official communiqué from the meeting committed the countries to the same spending increases they agreed to four years ago, and the president of France and the prime minister of Italy both said after Mr. Trump spoke that no new commitments were made.

Mr. Trump unsettled the alliance — even appearing to suggest behind closed doors, some diplomats said, that the United States could withdraw from it — in ways that analysts said could work to the benefit of Mr. Putin.

But in his tweet, Mr. Trump called the summit “truly great” and “inaccurately covered by much of the media.”

And at a breakfast on Monday with President Sauli Niinisto of Finland, Mr. Trump said his tactics had been just the tough love needed to strengthen the alliance.

“I enjoyed being with you a couple of days ago,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Niinisto. “NATO has, I think, never been stronger. It was a little bit tough at the beginning, but it turned out to be love. I appreciated your support.”

It was not clear what support Mr. Trump was referring to. Mr. Niinisto attended the NATO gathering, but Finland is not a NATO member, so he would not have been in a position to help the president’s push for more military spending. — Julie Hirschfeld Davis

Trump is fidgety, and Putin stony, at start of meeting

Mr. Trump’s body language on this trip has alternated between aloof and uncomfortable, with brief moments of warmth — and that was when meeting America’s closest allies.

As Mr. Trump sat with Mr. Putin before their private meeting on Monday, Mr. Trump, who often gesticulates and jokes while making his points, seemed to keep himself uncharacteristically retrained — except for the moment he inexplicably winked in the Russian president’s direction.

Still, Mr. Trump appeared fidgety while seated next to his stony Russian counterpart, whom he has repeatedly congratulated and tried to flatter before meeting him in Helsinki. In his opening remarks, he did it again.

“First of all Mr. President, I’d like to congratulate you on a really great World Cup,” Mr. Trump said. “One of the best ever from what everybody tells me and also for your team, itself, doing so well.”

During the five-minute photo opportunity and brief remarks, Mr. Trump hunched forward in his chair, tapped his fingers together with his hands making an upside-down triangle — a gesture he has made in the presence of other leaders in high-stakes settings. His head swiveled back and forth between the news cameras and his translator, but he rarely looked at the Russian president.

Compared with Mr. Trump, who leaned forward toward the cameras, his eyes darting back and forth, Mr. Putin appeared clamped into his chair. The Russian president’s eyes rarely left the floor, and if they did, they were focused on Mr. Trump. His hands rarely left two fixed positions — one on his lap, the other curled backward, gripping the chair.

Mr. Trump, who has called journalists the enemy of the people, did not answer questions from the news media. When a journalist shouted a question about Russia tampering with the 2016 election, Mr. Putin’s face appeared to curl into a smirk. — Katie Rogers

For Putin, a Russian jet, a Russian limousine and a delay

Mr. Putin arrived in Finland aboard a Russia-made Ilyushin-96 jet from Moscow, and headed into Helsinki in his new, Russian-made limousine, which is even bigger than the American president’s state car, known as the “Beast.”

Russia’s national airline, Aeroflot, and other Russian carriers mostly ditched Russian jets years ago and now fly planes made in the United States by Boeing and in Europe by Airbus. But Mr. Putin, who has poured billions of dollars into supporting Russia’s flagging aircraft industry, has stuck with the Ilyushin, a Soviet-era design.

As often happens with the Russian leader, Mr. Putin ran late — his airplane did not land until after 1 p.m. — leaving Mr. Trump cooling his heels in his guesthouse for almost an hour past his scheduled time to leave for the palace. They shook hands in front of the news cameras, before heading into private talks, an hour behind schedule. — Andrew Higgins

The stakes are so high even some Trump aides are holding their breath

That Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin met one on one — with interpreters present but no advisers — added an element of unpredictability to a high-stakes encounter.

Mr. Trump’s perceived admiration of Mr. Putin, his urging at the recent Group of 7 meeting that Russia be readmitted despite its annexation of Crimea and his efforts to minimize United States intelligence about the impact of Moscow’s cyberattacks on the 2016 election had foreign policy experts and some in the White House wondering what he might give away to Mr. Putin — deliberately or inadvertently.

Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, on Friday compared the danger of Russian cyberattacks with the warnings the United States had of increased terrorism threats ahead of the Sept. 11 attacks. “The warning lights are blinking red again,” Mr. Coats said. “The digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack.”

He said Russia should be held to account.

Allies including Britain say they welcome the Helsinki meeting, but Mrs. May warned that it must address Russian “malign activity.” (Russia is the chief suspect in an attack using a nerve agent on British soil that led to a woman’s death.)

Some analysts also note that while Mr. Trump abhors briefing memos, Mr. Putin would be well schooled before the meeting. Analysts say the fact that the meeting occurred at all is already a victory of sorts for the Russian leader.

White House advisers have described the summit meeting as a chance to reset a tense relationship, and Mr. Trump has dismissed concerns, mocking those who point to Mr. Putin’s past as a spymaster, suggesting that he could manipulate the American leader.

“You know, ‘President Putin is K.G.B.,’ and this and that,” Mr. Trump said before the meeting. “You know what? Putin’s fine. He’s fine. We’re all fine. We’re people. Will I be prepared? Totally prepared. I’ve been preparing for this stuff my whole life.”


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