Russian Establishment Chalks Up Trump Summit As A Win For Putin
Russia’s political and media establishment heralded talks between the Russian and U.S. leaders in Helsinki as a victory for Vladimir Putin in breaking down Western resolve to treat Russia as a pariah.
“The West’s attempts to isolate Russia failed,” read the headline on a report on Monday’s summit meeting in state-run newspaper Rossiisskaya Gazeta.
The praise from Russia’s elite for Putin’s performance at the summit contrasted sharply with the reaction in Washington where U.S. President Donald Trump’s own Republican party accused him of failing to stand up to Putin.
In Moscow, there was a recognition that the summit did not produce any breakthroughs on issues such as Syria, Ukraine or arms control. The Kremlin, in the run-up to the summit, had played down expectations of major progress.
Instead, the focus was on the symbolism of the leader of the world’s biggest superpower sitting down one-on-one with Putin after four years of international isolation triggered by Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.
Kremlin officials, speaking in private before the summit, acknowledged that it has been difficult to figure out how best to deal with a U.S. leader who is mercurial and flouts political etiquette.
Putin aides have voiced frustration too that their attempts to repair U.S-Russia relations were being blocked by Trump’s opponents in the United States. Trump’s domestic critics allege his 2016 election campaign colluded with Russia, something both Trump and Russia deny.
In a new departure, Putin waded directly into that U.S. domestic debate. Standing alongside Trump in Helsinki, Putin said he had evidence that $400 million dollars in unlawfully acquired cash may have been funneled to the election campaign of Trump’s defeated opponent Hillary Clinton.