Putin Offers First Comments On Helsinki Summit Since Returning To Russia

Jul 19, 2018
Originally published on July 19, 2018 12:09 pm
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

President Trump has someone new coming to his defense - Vladimir Putin. Speaking to a conference of Russian diplomats in Moscow today, the Russian president described the summit this week in Helsinki as successful overall. But he said certain forces in the U.S. want the U.S.-Russia relationship to fail and are feeding millions of Americans stories to serve their own interests.

Putin's remarks are not unlike Trump's tweets this morning. Trump is attacking media outlets, saying that the, quote, "fake news media" is the real enemy of the people. NPR's Lucian Kim is in Moscow. Good morning, Lucian.

LUCIAN KIM, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So are Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin both suggesting here that there are forces conspiring against President Trump here in the United States?

KIM: Oh, absolutely. I mean, it's not the first time that Putin has talked about it. But, you know, of course, coming in the current atmosphere, it's quite surprising. He had quite a bit to say. He kept on speaking about certain forces in the United States that were trying to downplay, or even negate, the results of the summit. He said that these forces were sacrificing the betterment of U.S.-Russian relations for their own political ambitions. And he just went on, said, they're ready to sacrifice business ties with Russia, business opportunities, even their own allies.

And it sounded a little bit like he might've used those arguments while talking to President Trump about the need for cooperation and that, yeah, President Trump would've agreed with him.

GREENE: You know, one of the concerns among some of President Trump's critics going to the summit was that there was going to be this one-on-one meeting with Vladimir Putin and that we might not know what happened in the meeting. Putin keeps saying that there were useful agreements reached during the summit. Do we know what he's talking about?

KIM: Well, amazingly, not really.

GREENE: OK.

KIM: No agreements were announced in Helsinki. In fact, there wasn't even a final joint communique, which is often very common in those kind of situations. So right now, you know, we have the Defense Ministry - Russian Defense Ministry, and then the Russian ambassador to the U.S. mentioning - just mentioning agreements made - verbal agreements. And hearing it today from President Trump is sort of a reinforcement, sort of an official stamp of approval on that.

They - those ministries have said that this could concern an arms control agreement that's due to expire, and possibly Syria. But Putin himself did not go into any details during the speech.

GREENE: He sounds pretty happy with the summit, the Russian president does. So where does he want to take this relationship now?

KIM: He's happy, but I think he's also quite cautious. And what's interesting is President Trump, this morning, has just tweeted that he would like to meet President Putin a second time as an opportunity to implement the things that they discussed.

So it seems like there might be some overlap, according to President Trump's tweet, and that they might really go for this Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, renewing it, which is actually an Obama administration accomplishment. That could be a first common step in going forward.

GREENE: All right. NPR's Lucian Kim reporting for us this morning in Moscow. Lucian, thanks.

KIM: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.