Trump, Putin promise a fresh start to troubled relations

AFP
Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin vowed a fresh start to troubled relations between the world's greatest nuclear powers at their first summit yesterday.
AFP
Reuters

US President Donald Trump receives a football from Russian President Vladimir Putin as they hold a joint news conference after their meeting in Helsinki, Finland July 16, 2018. 

Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin vowed a fresh start to troubled relations between the world’s greatest nuclear powers at their first summit yesterday, as the American leader rejected a chance to condemn Moscow’s alleged manipulation of US elections.

The US and Russian leaders came out of their meeting in Helsinki expressing a desire to cooperate on global challenges, after talks on an array of issues from Syria, Ukraine and China to trade tariffs and the size of their nuclear arsenals.

Standing alongside Putin at a joint news conference, Trump said he had “spent a great deal of time talking about” election meddling, without going into detail or explicitly condemning any interference, after 12 Russian agents were indicted in the United States.

Rather, when pressed about the verdict of his own intelligence chiefs, Trump stressed that Putin had delivered a “powerful” denial of any Russian vote meddling and said the US investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller had been a “disaster” for the US.

Trump again denied any collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin, while Putin insisted: “The Russian state has never interfered and is not planning to interfere in the USA’s internal affairs.”

The US leader, bent on forging a personal bond with the Kremlin chief despite the election allegations, went into the summit blaming the “stupidity” of his predecessors for plunging ties to their present low.

“Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of US foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!”

The Russian foreign ministry “liked” his words and tweeted back: “We agree.”

“Our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed as of about four hours ago. I really believe that,” Trump said yesterday, vowing the summit was “only the beginning.”

Putin said: “It is obvious to everyone that bilateral ties are going through a difficult period. However, there are no objective reasons for these difficulties, the current tense atmosphere.”

Praising the “frank and business-like atmosphere” of the summit, the Russian leader said he considered the talks “very successful and useful.”

The two leaders met one-on-one for more than two hours in the Finnish capital for the historic summit, with just their interpreters present, before they were joined by their national security teams.

In a weekend interview with CBS News, Trump admitted that Russia remains a foe, but he put Moscow on a par with China and the European Union as economic and diplomatic rivals.

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