As each day since the presidents of the United States and Russia held their first official summit in Helsinki on July 16 brings to light new and contradictory information, Americans are struggling to make sense of what the meeting means for their country – internationally and domestically.
On Thursday the White House invited Vladimir Putin to Washington, D.C. for a second summit this fall.
Hromadske’s Nataliya Gumenyuk reports from California on how Americans in official positions and in the media have been responding to the new developments.
“If you talk to anybody, the whole story is still about undermining U.S. security in the presence of Vladimir Putin by Donald Trump not fully trusting them. And that would even be considered as possible treason,” she says. However, she observes that Republican party supporters and conservative media like Breitbart maintain that the summit was a success.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was in Helsinki, but did not attend the two-hour-long private meeting between the U.S. and Russian leaders, gave an interview on Fox News on Thursday. According to Gumenyuk, he assured “everybody that President Trump clearly knew that Russia was meddling in the elections, he knew all about the Russian security officers in the United States and their operation, and that support for Ukraine would still be very strong.”
However, the most recent news that Putin told Russian diplomats that he proposed resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine through a referendum, reported by Bloomberg on July 19, has not received much attention in the U.S. “What is more shocking for a lot of people here is that Donald Trump hasn't briefed American diplomats,” Gumenyuk says.
Americans are also unnerved by Russia’s demand to question 11 U.S. citizens in response to the indictment of 12 Russian spies by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who charged them with meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections in the week leading up to the Helsinki summit. Gumenyuk notes the discrepancy between the U.S. president’s consideration of Russia’s demand and the position of the U.S. Senate, which voted unanimously to refuse to make any officials available for questioning by Putin’s government.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, who was named as one of the American citizens Russia would like interrogate, told Gumenyuk that the United States should not create a moral equivalence between the Mueller indictment and the fake story created by the Russian Prosecutor's Office.
“The whole story about the Helsinki summit showed that there is a huge discrepancy between Donald Trump himself and his team, and the Republican establishment,” Gumenyuk says. “Even if they brief Donald Trump, even if they talk to him and make the agenda – of course the Congress could be strong with sanctions – still, he is able to say anything he wants and look, as he does in this regard, like somebody who is weaker that Vladimir Putin.”