The U.S. Needs a Russia Strategy Now More Than Ever

The Real Lesson From the Helsinki Summit

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin hold a joint news conference after their meeting in Helsinki, July 2018.  Leonard Foeger / REUTERS

U.S. President Donald Trump shocked the world earlier this week when, standing side by side with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he refused to accept the basic facts of the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Trump appeared to back Putin over his own intelligence community, saying during a press conference in Helsinki, “I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia that hacked into Democratic Party servers. In that one answer, Trump guaranteed that the Helsinki summit would become a historic moment in U.S.-Russian relations. Although he later tried to reverse course by claiming he misspoke, the damage was done. Never in previous summits with Kremlin leaders had an American president looked so weak.

The controversy surrounding the press conference is more than understandable, but it should not overshadow another, perhaps more consequential, source of U.S. weakness on display in Helsinki.

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