So much was expected from the meeting with Russian President, Vladimir Putin, the first during his one and half- year presidency. It however, ended up the most criticized foreign trip so far by US President, Donald Trump.
American foreign policy pundits had expected Trump to drive hard the vexed issue of Russia’s alleged meddlesomeness in the 2016 US presidential election which has been a subject of investigation by Congress, Justice department, the security agencies and the intelligence community.
The unending controversy had led to the sack of former FBI Director, James Comey in 2017. In January 2018, his deputy, Andrew McCabe was pressurized by Trump through his boss, Christopher Wray to step down. Trump himself had earlier fired his counsel John Dowd, in the course of the Russian probe.
The appointment of Robert Mueller as Special Investigation Counsel after Comey’s sack has led to the indictment of at least four key former Trump campaign staff over alleged contacts with the Russians before the 2016 elections.
From the intelligence community, all investigations led to the conclusion of Russia’s meddlesomeness in the election which turned the table against Democratic Candidate, Hilary Clinton.
Against this background therefore, Trump was expected to send a direct message of disapproval to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin during last Monday’s meeting in Helsinki, Poland.
However. There was no such outcome. In a joint press conference, Trump was upbeat about the meeting and clearly rated its success above an earlier meeting with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ( NATO)Allies.
“While I had a great meeting with NATO, raising vast amounts of money, I had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia.
“Sadly, it is not being reported that way the fake news is going crazy!’’ Trump said via Twitter.
The international media had focused mainly on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
Trump at a joint news conference however, said he did not see any reason why Russia would be responsible for interfering in the 2016 U.S. election. He said Putin told him Russia did not interfere in the U.S. election.
“The U.S. Intelligence Community released a report in January 2017 in which it concluded that that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
“Russian officials, including Putin, have repeatedly denied the allegations, noting that no evidence has been revealed to back up the claims.
“Also, Russian officials have said the allegations have been made up as an excuse for a candidate’s election loss and to deflect public opinion from actual instances of election fraud, corruption as well as other issues,” an international news platform wrote in its reportage about the visit.
Shortly after the visit, Communications Director of the Democratic National Committee, Xochiti Honojosa, in message to Democrats soliciting funds said “Trump’s disgraceful appearance” with Vladimir Putin made clear that “this president is unwilling to protect America from hostile foreign powers.”
“The American president is supposed to be in charge of protecting our country — and yesterday, Donald Trump failed to stand up for American democracy. If there was ever a time to have a check on this president, it’s now.” He wrote in a bulk mail to Democratic Supporters.
“At no point in our history has an American president so blatantly failed to stand up to a hostile foreign power on our nation’s behalf. Not only did Trump let Putin off the hook for attacking our country, he effectively invited him to continue meddling in our democratic process by refusing to demand that Russia stay out of our elections,”The DNC Communications Director stated.
Senator John McCain, former Republican presidential nominee who ran in the 2017 election against President Barack Obama also did not spare Trump as he reportedly described his appearance with Putin “ one of the most disgraceful performances by an American President in memory”.
Since assumption of January 20,2017,Trump has made it clear by words and deeds, he wants to be his own foreign policy management himself. Each step in the foreign policy arena has been dogged with controversy.
From the nullification of the Iran Nuke deal, repudiation KD Paris Climate change agreement, quarrels with G7 over the continued suspension of Russia, to Trade wars with China, and quarrels of NATO allies over funding concerns, Trump has never stayed one bit out of foreign policy controversy.
The Russian romance is however, one that touches directly on the sensibilities and patriotic sentiments of most adult Americans who are still very much in the memory of the bitter Russo- American relations of the defunct Cold War era.
The Russian investigations is still on. The outcome may weigh largely on te future of Trump presidency.