Russia may have already won the first point in the historic summit between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin — before the two leaders even shook hands.
About four hours before the meeting in Helsinki was set to begin on Monday, Trump tweeted that “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!” — referring to special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible Trump campaign collusion during the 2016 presidential election.
The main point of his message was clear: America is to blame for bad Washington-Moscow relations, not the Kremlin. And 40 minutes before the meeting, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to Trump’s tweet with two words: “We agree.”
That’s stunning. Trump and Russia are now — very publicly — on the same page about why they believe ties between the two countries are so poor. That could serve as a huge propaganda win for Russia, which has spent decades bashing the US for Moscow’s economic and political problems.
Trump could, of course, have blamed some of Moscow’s transgressions on the country, much of which occurred under Putin. Here’s just a quick list:
- Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, in part by using intelligence officers to leak Hillary Clinton’s emails, among other things. We know this because of Mueller’s indictments last Friday against 12 members of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency.
- In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, a southern Ukrainian peninsula, and invaded Eastern Ukraine.
- Moscow likely poisoned a former Russian spy and his daughter and Britain and killed another British woman with that poison in the UK.
- Russia backs Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, who has killed hundreds of thousands of people— some with chemical weapons — during the seven-year Syrian civil war.
There’s more, but you get the idea.