Flip-flopping Trump vows to be Putin’s ‘worst enemy’ if US-Russia relationship doesn’t pan out
Amid a puzzling week of flip-flopping on Russian meddling, Donald Trump has promised to be Vladimir Putin’s arch nemesis if re-engagement with Moscow is a dud – while underscoring that getting along with Russia is desirable.
Speaking with CNBC on Thursday, the US president said that he would become Putin’s “worst enemy” if his dealings with Russia failed to produce results.
"Getting along with President Putin, getting along with Russia, is positive, not a negative," Trump noted, adding that if US-Russia relations are a flop, “I'll be the worst enemy [Putin’s] ever had."
In the same interview, Trump took a swipe at his predecessor, claiming that Barack Obama was a “total patsy” for Russia. In contrast, Trump said that he has been "far tougher on Russia than any president in many, many years – maybe ever.”
"Look at the diplomats I threw out," Trump added, referring to the 60 diplomats expelled from the US in March after the alleged poisoning of ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK. Challenging the narrative that he’s been soft on Russia, Trump also noted that he has slapped Moscow with fresh sanctions. "Look at all the things that I have done," the president said.
Trump’s comments come at the end of a week of headline-grabbing utterances and clarifications about the president’s position on Russia.
During a joint press conference with Putin after their meeting in Helsinki, Trump said he didn’t see “any reason” why Russia would meddle, adding that Putin was “extremely strong and powerful in his denial." He also insisted that “there was no collusion at all” between his campaign and Russian officials. But after returning to Washington, Trump walked back these statements, telling reporters that he had misspoke. Trump explained that when he said he saw no reason why Russia “would” interfere, he meant to say he saw no reason why it “would not” be Russia who interfered in the US elections. In a similar incident, Trump offered a simple “no” after being asked by a reporter if Russia was “still targeting” the United States. The White House later clarified that the president was saying “no” to answering more questions.
“He does believe that they [Russia] would target US elections again. That’s why we are taking steps to ensure this does not happen,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.
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