2018 Russia–United States summit

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2018 Russia–United States summit
File:Vladimir Putin & Donald Trump in Helsinki, 16 July 2018 (3).jpg
Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin shake hands during the summit
Host country  Finland[1]
Date July 16, 2018[1]
Venue(s) Presidential Palace
Cities Helsinki, Finland
Participants United States Donald Trump
Russia Vladimir Putin
Website um.fi/helsinki2018

The 2018 Russia–United States summit was a summit meeting between United States President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin (hence also known as the Trump–Putin summit). The event took place on July 16, 2018, in Helsinki, Finland. The Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs officially titled the summit as the #HELSINKI2018 Meeting.[2] It was hosted by the President of Finland Sauli Niinistö.

The summit was also notable for the controversial remarks made by President Trump in the press conference afterwards in which he refused to acknowledge that Russia interfered in 2016 US elections. Trump's remarks provoked a backlash across the political spectrum, including among some of his usual allies. Trump claimed that he had misspoken.

Background

File:Präsidentenpalast Helsinki.jpg
The Presidential Palace in Helsinki, the venue of the summit

The summit took place in the Presidential Palace. The event marked the first official meeting between the world leaders after previous unofficial talks between Trump and Putin at the G20 Hamburg and APEC Vietnam summits held in 2017.[3] Trump also met the Finnish President Sauli Niinistö in the Presidential Palace. Topics Trump announced to be discussed at the summit included the situations in Syria and Ukraine.[4][5] The United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met his Russian and Finnish counterparts Sergey Lavrov and Timo Soini.[6]

Niinistö held bilateral meetings with both presidents on the day of the summit. That morning, Niinistö and Finnish First Lady Jenni Haukio welcomed Trump and U.S. First Lady Melania Trump at their main official residence in Mäntyniemi. During the presidents’ meeting, the two women met for a joint breakfast.[7]

The Helsinki 2018 meeting began at the Presidential Palace after midday (at approximately 1 pm) with Niinistö officially welcoming Putin, followed by Trump. The bilateral discussions between the Russian and American presidents took place in the Presidential Palace’s Gothic Hall; Trump and Putin met with only interpreters present.[8] Their meeting was followed by a working lunch including additional officials in the Hall of Mirrors.[9]

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said they welcomed Trump's planned meeting with Vladimir Putin.[10]

Two days before the scheduled meeting, a group of top Senate Democrats urged Trump to not meet with Putin one-on-one. Signers of a letter advising him not to meet alone with Putin included Minority Leader Charles Schumer, Minority Whip Dick Durbin, and the top Democrats on the Senate Intelligence (Mark Warner), Foreign Relations (Bob Menendez), Judiciary (Dianne Feinstein), Armed Services (Jack Reed), Appropriations (Patrick Leahy), and Banking (Sherrod Brown) committees.[11][12]

Controversial remarks

During an interview on the eve of the summit with CBS News, Trump said Russia was a foe in certain aspects and called the EU the biggest trade foe of the United States.[13]

Trump tweeted on the morning of the summit that the relationship between Russia and the U.S. had "never been worse".[14] He blamed this on "foolishness and stupidity" on the part of the U.S., and referenced the ongoing Special Counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, calling it a "witchhunt". He also defended Russia over claims of interference in the U.S. election leveled by the FBI and other U.S. intelligence agencies, saying "President Putin says it's not Russia. I don't see any reason why it would be."[15]

History

File:Vladimir Putin and John R. Bolton (2018-06-27) 06.jpg
President Vladimir Putin and NSC Advisor John R. Bolton meeting at the Kremlin, Moscow, on June 27, 2018, to discuss the summit

Helsinki previously served as the location for the signing of the Helsinki Accords in 1975, following a series of meetings intended to reduce tensions between the Western and Soviet blocs during the Cold War.[16] The US National Security Advisor John R. Bolton met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 27, 2018, to discuss the details of the summit and other bilateral issues.[17] On June 28, the location of the summit was announced by the White House and the Kremlin to be Helsinki.[18]

Demonstrations

According to the Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle, more than 10 demonstrations were planned for the summit.[19] On Sunday 15 July, about 2,500 protesters gathered for the "Helsinki Calling" pro-human rights demonstration at the Helsinki Senate Square.[20][21] Simultaneously, the youth section of the nationalist Finns Party staged a pro-Trump rally. The "Welcome Trump" event gathered a crowd of 50 people including Finns Party youth and Soldiers of Odin members.[21][22]

More demonstrations were planned for Monday 16 July, including the "Stop Putin" and "Helsinki against Trump and Putin" rallies and protests for women’s rights, Afghanistan and against Russophobia.[19] Youth section of the conservative National Coalition Party said they would hold a demonstration against President Trump's trade policy and Russia’s annexation of the Crimea.[19]

Delegations

U.S. delegation

Russian delegation

Private meeting

Trump and Putin met privately for two hours, without aides or note-takers, accompanied only by their respective interpreters. The meeting had been scheduled for 90 minutes but lasted two hours.[23][24] There were later calls by Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Representative Bill Pascrell for Trump's interpreter, Marina Gross, to testify before Congress.[25] The private meeting was followed by a working lunch that included senior advisors.[24]

On July 18, 2018, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed that Putin and Trump had discussed the possibility of Russian officals questioning Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Russia, as well as Putin critic Bill Browder, in exchange for allowing investigators of the Special Counsel investigation to question twelve Russians who are under indictment in America. Sanders stated in a press conference, "The president will work with his team and we’ll let you know if there’s an announcement on that front."[26] State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert called the Russian request "absolutely absurd."[27]

Press conference

After the private meeting and the working lunch, Trump and Putin gave a joint press conference. When Trump was asked whether he would condemn Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, he demurred, saying that Putin had denied it.[28]

JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: President Trump, you first. Just now, President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you sir is, who do you believe? My second question is would you now, with the whole world watching, tell President Putin, would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you want him to never do it again?

TRUMP: So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server. Why haven't they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee?

I've been wondering that. I've been asking that for months and months and I've been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know where is the server and what is the server saying?

With that being said, all I can do is ask the question.

My people came to me, Dan Coats, came to me and some others they said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia.

I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be. But I really do want to see the server but I have, I have confidence in both parties.[28]

When Putin was asked if he had wanted Trump to win the 2016 election, he responded "Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal."[29]

Asked whether Russia possessed any compromising material on Trump, Putin laughed and talked about the number of businessmen who visit Russia, but did not give a direct answer. Trump commented that if any such material existed "it would have been out long ago" and then changed the subject.[30]

Reaction

The hours immediately following the summit drew bipartisan criticism in the United States. Criticism focused on Trump's apparent acceptance of Putin's denial of involvement in Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, which contradicted the findings of the United States Intelligence Community, and stood in pointed contrast to the indictment of twelve Russian GRU agents just three days earlier in the ongoing Special Counsel investigation:[28] International news coverage of the summit was strongly negative in Europe, triumphant in Russia, and muted in China.[31]

Democrats universally condemned Trump's performance, but so did some Republicans. Some Republicans in Congress strongly criticized Trump, such as Senator Bob Corker ("he made us look like a pushover"), Senator Ben Sasse ("This is bizarre and flat-out wrong"), and Senator Tim Scott ("I fear today was a step backwards").[32] Others including Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell reaffirmed support for the U.S. intelligence community without directly condemning Trump.[32] Newt Gingrich, a longtime Trump supporter, called Trump's statements about the U.S. intelligence community "the most serious mistake of his presidency."[33] 2012 Republican Candidate for President Mitt Romney[34] and 2008 Republican candidate for President John McCain both strongly criticized Trump; Romney said Trump's siding with Putin rather than U.S. intelligence agencies was "disgraceful and detrimental to our democratic principles", while McCain called the summit "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory."[35] U.S. media reaction was almost universally negative, even from many commentators on Fox News who normally support the president.[36]

Senator Rand Paul supported Trump's visit stating "They also said he shouldn't meet with Kim and this is an extraordinary thing about President Trump that should be lauded and not belittled is that he is willing to meet with adversaries to try to prevent us from having World War 3."[37]

Senate Democrats led by Jeanne Shaheen called for American interpreter Marina Gross, who sat in on the private meeting with Putin, to be brought before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and interrogated. Shaheen added, if the administration is to exert executive privilege, “we need to find another way to get the information.” [38]

Trump's followup

File:President Trump Meets with Members of Congress.webm
Trump's statement on the 17th of July

The next day, Trump, reading from a prepared statement, contended that he had mistakenly used the word "would" when he had meant to say "wouldn't", acknowledging Russian attempts at meddling in the 2016 election but denying Trump-Russia collusion.

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NBC News Twitter
@NBCNews

President Trump claims he misspoke while discussing election meddling during news conference with Putin: "In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word 'would' instead of 'wouldn't.' ... The sentence should've been: 'I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia'"

July 17, 2018[39]

Straying from his prepared statement, Trump returned to a theme he has asserted before: that Russia may not have been the only culprit, but rather there "Could be other people also. A lot of people out there."[40]

Trump then posted on Twitter on July 18, 2018:

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Donald J. Trump Twitter
@realDonaldTrump

Some people HATE the fact that I got along well with President Putin of Russia. They would rather go to war than see this. It’s called Trump Derangement Syndrome!

18 Jul 2018[41]

Russian claim of agreements

The day after the meeting, a Russian military spokesman said that Russia is "ready for practical implementation of the agreements reached between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump in the sphere of international security achieved at the Helsinki summit." His statement said the agreements include cooperation in Syria and discussions about extending the START Treaty.[42] No agreements were announced at the summit, and White House and Pentagon spokesmen said they were not aware of any new agreements.[43]

Gallery

See also

References

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  8. Ericson, Amanda; The Washington Post: "Trump can't beat Putin at his own game." July 16, 2018 [1]. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
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  11. www.warner.senate.gov (14 July 2018): Do not meet Putin alone
  12. thehill.com (14 July 2018): Senate Dems tell Trump: Don't meet with Putin one-on-one
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  27. Heather Nauert calls the Russian request "absolutely absurd" and "We do not stand by those assertions" the Russian government makes: https://twitter.com/JonathanLanday/status/1019665207021506560
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  38. MARIAM KHAN | ABC News, Senate Democrats want to question Trump's interpreter at Putin summit, https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/senate-democrats-question-trumps-interpreter-putin-summit/story?id=56668320, July 18, 2018
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External links