Trump Hails Relations With Russia, Says Moscow 'Very Heavily Sanctioned'
RFE/RL November 12, 2017
U.S. President Donald Trump, in a stream of Twitter postings, has said having a positive relationship with Russia is "a good thing" and that Moscow can "greatly help" solve crises in Ukraine, North Korea, and Syria, and with global terrorism.
Trump, in Hanoi as part of a 13-day Asia trip, at a later news conference on November 12 brought up sanctions against Russia, saying Moscow had been "very heavily sanctioned" and that "it's now time to get back to healing a world that is shattered and broken."
The United States has placed sanctions on Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and has joined with other Western countries in imposing them against Moscow for its aggression in Ukraine.
He did not explain his sanctions comments further or specifically suggest any easing of them.
He also attempted to clarify earlier statements he made about Russian tampering in the U.S. election, saying he believed U.S. intelligence agencies' assessment but that he also believed Russian President Vladimir Putin was sincere in his denials about the meddling.
In his Twitter comments, Trump attacked "all the haters and fools" who have criticized his attempt to improve relations with Russia and Putin in particular.
"When will all the haters and fools out there realize that having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing," he wrote.
"There [sic] always playing politics -- bad for our country. I want to solve North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, terrorism, and Russia can greatly help!"
In another tweet, Trump asserted that his 2016 presidential election rival, Hillary Clinton "was begging Russia to be our friend" when she was secretary of state, and that President Barack Obama also tried to improve ties with Moscow but "had zero chemistry with Putin."
Trump also wrote that China had agreed to help pressure North Korea over its nuclear-weapons program.
Trump tweeted that Chinese President Xi Jinping "has stated that he is upping the sanctions against [North Korea]. Said he wants them to denuclearize. Progress is being made."
Trump also responded to comments made by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who had called him a "lunatic old man."
"Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me 'old,' when I would NEVER call him 'short and fat?' Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend -- and maybe someday that will happen!" he wrote.
'Very Important' Agreement On Syria
Trump a day earlier said an agreement with Putin on Syria would save many lives after the two met at a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders in Danang, Vietnam.
"We agreed very quickly," Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One as he flew from Danang to Vietnam's capital, Hanoi.
"It's going to save tremendous numbers of lives," he said of the agreement announced by the Kremlin in a joint statement on its website.
Separately, Putin told journalists at the end of the summit that the joint statement "is extraordinarily important" and confirmed the principles of the antiterrorism fight.
The statement said Trump and Putin had agreed on the sidelines of the APEC summit that a political solution was needed on Syria and that they would continue efforts to fight the Islamic State (IS) militant group.
Russia and the United States agree there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict, the joint statement said.
Trump: Putin 'Didn't Meddle'
Trump publicly sitting down with Putin also brought attention back to the issue of Russian meddling in last year's election, which remains under investigation.
Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has been indicted in the probe along with his former deputy, Rick Gates.
Putin told the journalists in Danang that an alleged link between Manafort and Russia was being fabricated by Trump's opponents as a weapon against Trump. Manafort "has nothing to do with us," Putin said.
Speaking to journalists on the plane on November 11, Trump said Putin told him he didn't interfere in the U.S. elections.
"He said he didn't meddle. He said he didn't meddle. I asked him again," he said.
"Every time he sees me, he said: 'I didn't do that.' And I believe -- I really believe -- that when he tells me that, he means it," Trump said.
"You can only ask so many times.... He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election."
'KGB Colonel Vs. U.S. Intelligence'
In response to Trump's comments, Ben Cardin, one of the U.S. Senate's harshest critics of Russia, issued a statement saying Trump's "denial of facts is troubling."
"President Trump believes a former KGB agent over 17 U.S. intelligence agencies. That is outrageous," said Cardin, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Republican Senator John McCain, also often a sharp critic of the president, issued a statement saying that "there's is nothing 'America First' about taking the word of a KGB colonel over that of the American intelligence community."
Trump later attempted to clarify his comments about Russian meddling.
During a news conference with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang in Hanoi, he said he agreed with U.S. intelligence agencies' assessment that Russia interfered in the election.
"As to whether or not I believe it or not, I'm with our agencies. I believe in our...intelligence agencies," Trump said.
He added that what he had said earlier was that he believed Putin was sincere in his denials, not that he, Trump, necessarily believed what Putin said.
"What he believes, he believes," Trump said of Putin.
When asked about his Twitter post suggesting that he and North Korea's Kim could become friends, Trump said he thought it would be a "good thing" for the world and for Pyongyang, although he downplayed the chances.
It "might be a strange thing to happen, but it's certainly a possibility," he added.
With reporting by Reuters and AFP
Copyright (c) 2017. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|