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Stoking the flames of collusion: Helsinki Summit 2018

Stoking the flames of collusion: Helsinki Summit 2018

Donald Trump arrived back at the White House last night after a trip to Europe that brought him face to face with some of America’s closest allies, yet it is Russian President Vladimir Putin – a long-term foe of the United States – that Mr Trump appeared to have the strongest relationship with.

Before meeting with the Russian President, Mr Trump had spent time with British Prime Minister Theresa May and with NATO leaders, clashing over issues such as trade and mutual defence contributions, once again showing his difficulty maintaining positive relations with America’s traditional partners.

Given Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, speculation was rife as to whether this abrasiveness when dealing with allies would translate into a tougher stance against the Russian Federation, in order to quash further allegations of having secret dealings with the Russian oligarchy – particularly given the indictment of 12 Russian officials just days before the summit.

However, Trump showed anything but toughness when dealing with Vladimir Putin, instead choosing to berate his own country ahead of Russia, tweeting before the meeting that ‘U.S. foolishness and stupidity’ surrounding the Russia investigation has caused the recent decline in relations.

When asked about his tweet during a joint press conference between the two leaders, Donald Trump claimed, ‘we are all to blame’ [for the recent decline], a stunning refusal to place the blame at the door of the Russian’s, particularly given mounting evidence over Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election.

Donald Trump’s friendly tone towards the Russian leader and the refusal to challenge Putin on any substantial issues was followed by attacks on the investigation by the United States into potential attempts to influence the 2016 election.

Speaking at the joint press conference, Trump stated that the probe into Russia’s attempts to influence the election was a ‘disaster’ and there ‘was no collusion’, showing a willingness to side with the Russians instead of America’s own intelligence community in an act that was described as ‘almost treasonous’ by former Republican Senator Joe Walsh.

This is despite the fact that a probe by the American intelligence community concluded that it is undeniable Russia attempted to influence the election, even though a probe into his campaign’s ties is yet to conclude.

This suggests that Donald Trump values America’s relationship with Russia above the integrity of American elections, with political commentator Cenk Uyger suggesting that in doing so Donald Trump has ‘done a great job in serving Putin’.

Speaking at the press conference, Putin further stoked the fire by answering ‘yes I did’, when questioned whether he wanted Donald Trump to win the election, further worrying those who believe that Russia attempted to shoehorn Donald Trump into office, potentially by colluding with his campaign.

Before his meeting in Helsinki, despite the proveable attempts of Russia to interfere in the election, few outside of the president’s harshest critics saw Mr Trump as potentially tied to the Russian government, but his defence of the Russian position and critique of America has led to increased scepticism over that narrative.

Although the Mueller investigation into any Trump campaign ties with the Russian government is yet to conclude, his trip to Helsinki has only stoked the flames of collusion and has perhaps given the special counsel significant direction as we head towards the investigation’s 15th month.

The Helsinki Summit was supposed to be Donald Trump’s big opportunity to show the world that he values American interests above the interests of Russia, yet it appears that throughout the summit he has continued to subvert American interests. It remains to be seen how the United States will react to this disastrous meeting in the coming weeks.

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