One day before his much-anticipated meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Trump called for Russia to stop contributing to global unrest, signaling tomorrow’s sit-down won’t be all sunshine and rainbows.
Despite his comments, Trump faced tough Democratic criticism Thursday for “casting doubt” during a press conference on whether Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election.
The reaction shows the tough balancing act ahead as Trump prepares for the Putin meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Germany. Trump arrived in the country on Thursday, meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Hamburg, ahead of Friday’s planned meeting with Putin.
Trump has repeatedly said he wants the U.S. to get along with Russia and has rejected allegations of ‘collusion’ between his associates and Russia last year. At the same time, Trump has an interest in putting an end to Russia’s destabilizing actions around the world.
Trump took the first step toward that goal during his speech in Warsaw, Poland, Thursday morning, openly criticizing Russia’s policies on the global stage.
“We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere, and its support for hostile regimes including Syria and Iran, and to join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and in defense of civilization itself,” Trump said.
However, during a joint press conference hours earlier with Poland’s president, Trump was not as critical of Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.
“I think it was Russia, and I think it could have been other people in other countries—I don’t want to be specific,” Trump told reporters. “I think Russia probably, and other people and other countries, nobody really knows, nobody really knows for sure.”
Trump added: “Remember Iraq weapons of mass destruction? Everyone was 100 percent sure Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, guess what—they were wrong and it led to a mess—it was Russia, but others also.”