Global Issue: 2018 U.S. – Russia Summit
On Monday, July 16, the world watched as U.S. President Donald Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki for the 2018 summit between the two countries. Many had predictions about the outcome of the summit. The two were alleged to discuss the situation in Syria, Ukraine, and arms control. Trump hailed the summit as a great success and a step forward for U.S. – Russia relations. During their joint press conference following the summit, President Trump surprised the world when he stated:
“I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think that we’ve all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago, a long time, frankly, before I got to office,”
“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 want to see the server but, I have confidence in both parties,”
President Trump’s statements stunned the world. Many politicians in Washington, both conservative and liberal, condemned the President for his refusal to place blame on Russia for interfering in the 2016 U.S. elections when the evidence from the U.S. intelligence community is clear.
The reactions from countries across the world were mixed. Read below to see the responses from several countries to President Trump’s meeting with Putin and his subsequent statements at the joint press conference.
The Russian establishment saw the outcome of this summit as a major triumph for Putin and Russia. For the last four years, Russia has been isolated by the international community because of its annexation of Crimea, a move that many around the world condemned. For Russia, this summit represented its foray back into international power, as it sought to sit down with the U.S. as an equal. This summit gave Putin the chance to look like the intelligent, experienced leader in contrast to President Trump, helping to solidify his image in the eyes of the Russian establishment. While it did present an opportunity for Russia to insert itself back into international power, many in Russia recognized that the summit did not produce any real progress on issues like Syria, arms control, or the situation with Ukraine. Despite the lack of progress in these areas, the main Russian reaction after the summit was positive. President Trump’s statement during the post-summit press conference demonstrated to Russia that Putin has influence over his American counterpart. Overall, the Russians touted this summit as a success and were pleased by the outcome.
Following days of protests during President Trump’s visit to the UK, newspapers and citizens across the nation had distinctly negative reactions to the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki. One newspaper called Trump “Putin’s Poodle” after Trump sided with Putin over his own intelligence officials. The Guardian ran the headline “Nothing short of treasonous: Trump accused over Putin talks”, referring to the response of many in the U.S. calling Trump’s actions traitorous. The reaction showed that the UK, along with many other countries, recognized Putin’s domination of the summit and Trump’s failure to hold his own against the Russian President. The summit was, in the eyes of the UK, a win for Russia and an embarrassment for the U.S.
Germany’s reaction to the summit and Trump’s remarks was best demonstrated by the former German ambassador to the U.S., Wolfgang Ischinger, retweeting ex-CIA Director John Brennan’s tweet calling Trump’s statement on Russsian meddling “nothing short of treasonous”. Ambassador Ischinger also said that “Europeans are really scared.”. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that “We can no longer completely rely on the White House,”, emphasizing the need for the EU to strengthen its bonds and alliances. This response comes following the NATO meeting at which Trump threatened allies and lashed out at Germany for its pipeline relationship with Russia. Germany’s reaction shows that it no longer sees the U.S. as a reliable ally, especially given Trump’s chuminess with an authoritarian and international aggressor such as Putin.
China’s reaction largely appeared neutral. A spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry Hua Chunying expressed hope that the talks would lead to greater communication and cooperation between the two countries and expand peace for the international community. Beijing’s surface reaction seemed unmoved by the summit, but political leaders in China were likely quietly observing the summit to see its outcome and make use of Russia’s tactics for future U.S. – China summits.
The world watched and the world reacted. What were your thoughts on the summit? Do you see this as a mark of progress for relations between the U.S. and Russia? Or did Trump sacrifice the U.S. position of power by cozying up to Russia?