Monica Toft Comments on Trump-Putin Summit

President Donald Trump characterized his bilateral meeting with President Vladimir Putin as a first step toward building “friendship cooperation and peace” between the United States and Russia.

Accomplishing that goal may be even more difficult following a joint press conference that drew widespread condemnation and concern from current and former U.S. government officials and career Russia-watchers.

The president did not address Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 or any of its provocative military or cyber actions towards the U.S. and its European allies which were the basis for the current economic sanctions regime against Russia.

“Trump allowed Putin to paper over the core issues,” said Monica Duffy Toft, director of the Center for Strategic Studies at Tuft University’s Fletcher School. Instead of holding Russia responsible for the annexation of Crimea, threatening European security and meddling in the U.S. election, Trump made a “moral equivalency” argument, pitting the blame on the previous Obama administration.

“Russia’s basically been given a green light that at least the executive branch is not going to hold the Russian administration accountable,” she noted.

Much of the president’s focus was on answering questions about Russian election interference and the findings of the U.S. intelligence community, which he conflated with allegations of collusion between his campaign and the Russian government.

Putin dismissed as “utter nonsense” the allegations that he has compromising material on President Trump. He also downplayed allegations of Russian election interference and collusion with the Trump campaign, though he acknowledged preferring Trump as a candidate, “because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.”


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