terça-feira, 17 de julho de 2018

Key moments from the Trump-Putin press conference

The Guardian view on the Trump-Putin summit: Russia is the winner

Donald Trump was not adlibbing when he said his meeting with Putin might be the easiest part of his Europe trip. That was his intention too

Mon 16 Jul 2018 18.37 BST Last modified on Mon 16 Jul 2018 21.46 BST

Donald Trump meeting Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. Photograph: Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Before he left Washington last week for the Nato summit, his UK visit and talks with Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump raised eyebrows by suggesting that the meeting in Helsinki on Monday might be the easiest one of the three. In retrospect, it is clear that this was not an off-the-cuff comment. It was his plan all along. First rough up Nato in order to damage transatlantic commitments, then stir things up in Britain in order to damage the EU, and, finally, play the cooperative statesman in his talks with the Russian president. Or, to put it another way: bully, bully and cringe.

The European visit and its outcomes have offered a chilling illustration of Mr Trump’s worldview. His strategy decries the values that endured in western policy since the defeat of Hitler. It is a conscious break with the postwar network of alliances and aspiration for universal standards. It is a return to the era in which big powers have self-interests not allies, little countries do not matter, and international standards are subordinate to military might. Because Russia is a significant military power, Mr Trump has brought it in from the cold. It is not just the cold war that is over. The post-1945 order of international values and ethics may be ending too.

Mr Trump went into the talks with Mr Putin offering bland banalities that signalled his readiness to resume business with Moscow: there were “a lot of good things to talk about”, the two sides had “great opportunities together”, it would be an “extraordinary relationship” and the world wanted “to see us get along”. Beside him, Mr Putin put on his stone face, saying little, giving nothing away. Five hours later, after two sets of talks, the leaders re-emerged. This time Mr Putin was garrulous. The talks had been successful and useful. Relations had moved to a different phase. There were no objective reasons why Russia and the United States could not cooperate strategically on military, anti-terror, economic and ecological issues. It was all smiles. Mr Putin even gave Mr Trump a football, to mark the end of Russia’s successful hosting of the World Cup.

As well he might, because the US president gave the Russian leader a far bigger present than a football. Mr Trump used the meeting to smooth Russia’s almost unconditional re-entry into his version of the international order. If the accounts that the leaders produced at their press conference on Monday evening are reliable, the issues that have made relations with Russia so difficult for so long – Ukraine, interference in elections, cyber disruptions and the Salisbury novichok attack – counted for very little in their talks. In his overeagerness, Mr Trump essentially gave Mr Putin a free pass.

Mr Putin was always likely to be the big winner from the Helsinki meeting. The mere fact that it took place was a victory for the Kremlin. But Mr Trump made it clear in Helsinki that he regards bygones as bygones. He is prepared to reset the dial. Mr Trump barely seems to have made an issue of Moscow’s unilateralism against Ukraine, so much so that Mr Putin was emboldened to suggest at the press conference that Washington was not putting enough pressure on Kiev to give in to Russian demands. The practical impact of the two men’s discussions on Syria and the Middle East remains unclear, but there was no suggestion that Mr Trump intends to take any kind of a stand here either. Russian interference in US elections – which has recently led to 12 Russians being charged – remains a very awkward obstacle. But not because of Mr Trump, who manifestly does not treat the issue seriously. Mr Putin returns to Moscow under less pressure than ever on all the difficult issues.

If Mr Putin is the big winner, Theresa May is one of the losers. The Salisbury novichok attack counted for nothing in Helsinki. In the Commons on Monday Mrs May talked about Nato to MPs as though nothing has changed. Britain and the US were on the same side on burden-sharing. Mr Trump’s approaches at Nato and in Britain had been constructive. This is nonsense. Mrs May talks as if the alliance is unchanged when in fact everything is changing. If she is to avoid Britain and her government becoming collateral damage in Mr Trump’s dangerous demolition of the global order, she will need to wake up very fast.

Trump 'treasonous' after siding with Putin on election meddling

US president under fire after backing Kremlin at joint press conference with Russian leader

David Smith in Helsinki
Mon 16 Jul 2018 18.43 BST First published on Mon 16 Jul 2018 17.27 BST

Donald Trump has been condemned as “treasonous” for siding with the Kremlin over his own government agencies after a stunning joint appearance with Vladimir Putin in which he seemingly accepted t
The Russian leader’s denial of election meddling.

At a joint press conference after one-on-one talks lasting more than two hours in the Finnish capital, the US president offered no criticism of Putin or the cyber-attacks that the US intelligence community says he coordinated to help Trump’s 2016 election campaign.

 “They said they think it’s Russia; I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia,” Trump told reporters. “I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be. 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.”

The comments set off a new firestorm in Washington and critics suggested it was a historically weak performance by a US president against a foreign adversary. It also fuelled the intrigue of why Trump’s refusal to speak ill of Putin remains one of the few constants of his White House tenure.

Asked directly if he took Putin’s word over his own law enforcement and intelligence agencies, Trump veered off in a rambling attempt to change the subject, raising the Democratic National Committee’s server and Hillary Clinton’s missing emails – a move seen by critics as a crude attempt to deflect and distract.

 “Where are those servers?” Trump demanded. “Where are Hillary Clinton’s emails?”

And bridling at the suggestion that his election victory might be discredited, Trump added: “I beat Hillary Clinton easily ... We won that race. And it’s a shame that there can even be a little bit of a cloud over it ... We ran a brilliant campaign and that’s why I’m president.”

There was swift condemnation from some of Trump’s opponents in Washington. John Brennan, a former director of the CIA, tweeted: “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.”

John McCain, chairman of the Senate armed services committee and a former Republican presidential nominee, said: “Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naivety, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake.”

There was even a rebuke from the most senior elected Republican, House Speaker Paul Ryan, who said both the US intelligence community and the House intelligence committee concluded that Russia interfered in the election.

 “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,” he said. “The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.”

Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader in the Senate, said: “In the entire history of our country, Americans have never seen a president of the United States support an American adversary the way President Trump has supported President Putin.

“For the president of the United States to side with President Putin against American law enforcement, American defence officials, and American intelligence agencies is thoughtless, dangerous, and weak. The president is putting himself over our country.”

And Jeff Flake, a Republican senator from Arizona, tweeted: “I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression. This is shameful.”

For his part, Putin acknowledged that he had wanted Trump to win the 2016 election but reiterated his denial of meddling. Speaking through an interpreter, he said: “We should be guided by facts. Can you name a single fact that would definitively prove collusion? This is utter nonsense. Just like the president recently mentioned.”

In the wake of last week’s indictment of 12 Russian military officers for hacking and leaking Democratic emails, Putin offered to allow the special counsel Robert Mueller’s team to visit Russia and witness the accused being interrogated – but only if the US made a reciprocal arrangement that would allow Russian agents to operate in the US.

The 45-minute news conference followed a dialogue between Trump and Putin, with only interpreters present, at the Finnish presidential palace, followed by a working lunch – the first such event between a US and Russian president since 2010.

Journalists gathered in a baroque ballroom decorated with columns, golf leaf and crystal chandeliers and, behind the podium, five American and five Russian flags. Before the press conference started, a man, said to be holding a sign protesting against nuclear weapons, was bundled out of the room by three security guards.

The two leaders were an unlikely match at the podium. Trump, bigger and taller, had held political office for just 18 months; Putin has been at the top of government for 18 years.

Trump shook his counterpart’s hand and whispered, “Thank you very much”, before congratulating him on the successful hosting of the World Cup. Eager to take credit, he claimed: “Our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed as of about four hours ago.”

Later, questioned why relations had deteriorated so badly, he said: “I hold both countries responsible. I think the United States has been foolish ... I think we’ve all been foolish. We’re all to blame. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago ... We have both made some mistakes. I think the probe is a disaster for our country.”

The comments prompted consternation in Washington. Republican senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska said: “This is bizarre and flat-out wrong. The United States is not to blame. America wants a good relationship with the Russian people but Vladimir Putin and his thugs are responsible for Soviet-style aggression. When the President plays these moral equivalence games, he gives Putin a propaganda win he desperately needs.”

There was some relief for western diplomats in that the press conference offered few clues as to whether Trump had made major concessions that would undermine Nato or Ukrainian sovereignty. Asked about Crimea, Putin said Trump “continues to maintain that it was illegal to annex it. Our viewpoint is different.”

The Russian leader was also asked about claims that he holds compromising material on Trump; there have long been rumours of a video tape in which Trump was caught in a Russian hotel with sex workers. He quipped: “I was an intelligence officer and I know how dossiers are made up.”

Putin added: “Now to the compromising material, I did hear this rumour. When Trump visited Moscow back then, I didn’t even know he was in Moscow.”

Trump interjected: “If they had it, it would have been out long ago.”

But once again Trump seemed utterly resistant to saying anything negative about the Russian president. Having branded the European Union a “foe” over the weekend, he said of Putin: “I called him a competitor, and a good competitor he is. The word competitor is a compliment.”

Putin, basking in the afterglow of Russia’s hosting of the World Cup, presented Trump with a football and said: “Now the ball is in your court.” Trump, smiling, replied: “That will go to my son Barron, no question.” He threw it to his wife, Melania, sitting on the front row along with secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and other senior officials.

Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina, tweeted: “ ... if it were me, I’d check the soccer ball for listening devices and never allow it in the White House.”

Trump shows he trusts an ex-KGB agent more than US intelligence

New line on Russia opens up an unprecedented chasm between London and Washington

Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor
Mon 16 Jul 2018 19.16 BST Last modified on Tue 17 Jul 2018 00.13 BST

Trump and Putin in Helsinki. The US president made repeated references to the start of a new era.

For those hoping the US president would refrain from making unwarranted concessions to Vladimir Putin, the omens were not good. Before his departure for Europe, Trump predicted the Putin conversation was likely to be easier than his discussions with his Nato allies and Theresa May.

He tweeted hours before the meeting that relations between the US and Russia were so poor because of American foolishness and stupidity, thus exonerating Putin for much of his behaviour in the past decade. In so doing Trump went into the Helsinki conference chamber not quite naked, but at least pleading guilty on his country’s behalf.

In the opening exchanges of the meeting, prior to the ushering out of the photographers, Trump declared the world wanted to see Russia and the US get along. Listing the issues he predicted he would discuss, Trump omitted from his chosen agenda any challenging subject such as Ukraine, or the evidence that Russian intelligence agencies interfered in the 2016 US presidential elections.

From the very first minute of their 45-minute press conference, Trump deferred to Putin, allowing him to make the opening lengthy statement setting out the parameters of what had been discussed and what had been agreed – in essence a new era of intelligence, military, political and business cooperation that unravels the second cold war caused by Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014.

In some specific areas – future economic sanctions against Russia, the ending of the war in Syria, including the future role of Iran, the recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and the role of Nato troops in the Baltics – there was little detail. But Trump accepted the Syrian civil war was at an end, as long as Israel’s interests were respected.

But Trump’s repeated references to the start of a new era made it clear that the US president wants these frozen conflicts to be defrosted, and in many cases, responsibility for their existence lies with America, not Russia. The two sides’ bureaucracies will now be set in motion, probably starting with talks on arms control. It may well be that the US state department proves less supine than the president.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of Trump’s European tour was how much the tone of near-docile respect to Putin, and to Russia, stood in stark contrast to the insults he dished out over the previous six days to the EU, his declared foe, and to Nato, May and Angela Merkel.

Trump’s performance in Helsinki was a second wounding blow to May in less than a week. The UK has been the most forward of European powers in its criticisms of Russia. But Trump made no reference to the British intelligence assessment that Russia was responsible for a nerve agent attack in Wiltshire that resulted in the death of a British citizen last week.

This new approach to Russia opens an unprecedented chasm in judgment between London and Washington about how to handle the country that has been the west’s premier adversary since 1945.

The US-UK relationship is based on intelligence cooperation and a common loyalty born of history, but Britain now has to absorb the fact that the US president is willing to trust the word of a former KGB agent ahead of the consensus of his own intelligence community. The killer quote that will send a chill through western intelligence agencies runs as follows: “I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

Once it was thought the Trump doctrine was no enemies, no allies, just permanent destabilisation. After the last six days, it is possible even that Hobbesian assessment is wrong. Trump, for whatever contorted reason, does have an ally, but that ally does not reside in western Europe

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