Trump blames everyone except Putin for bad US-Russian ties before Helsinki summit - and it's a huge mistake

Trump blames everyone except Putin for bad US-Russian ties before Helsinki summit - and it's a huge mistake

trump and putin

Mikhail Klimentyev/AP

Trump (R) and Putin (L)

  • President Donald Trump blamed stupid policy from the Obama administration for souring US-Russian relations.
  • Trump also preemptively blasted the media as "the enemy of the people" for what he expects will be negative coverage of the summit.
  • Trump, like Obama before him, is making a huge mistake by asking how the US can improve ties with Russia, rather than asking Russia to improve its behavior.

President Donald Trump blamed stupid US policy from former President Barack Obama for souring US-Russian relations just hours before meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland - and in doing so he might already be giving Putin a pass.
"Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!" Trump tweeted about the investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia.
In 2009, after first taking office, Obama set out to "reset" relations with Russia, despite Moscow's recent military power move against its neighbor Georgia. But after a few years of cooperation, in 2014 Russia illegally annexed Crimea from Ukraine, again using military force.

The US responded with sanctions, but Obama served out the rest of his term refusing to provide lethal weapons to the western-leaning Ukrainians trying to fight back Russia. Trump has provided lethal aide, but to questionable effect.

Now, it's Trump's turn to remake US-Russia relations, and he's already preemptively blamed the media for misrepresenting it.

"If I was given the great city of Moscow as retribution for all of the sins and evils committed by Russia over the years, I would return to criticism that it wasn't good enough - that I should have gotten Saint Petersburg in addition! Much of our news media is indeed the enemy of the people," Trump tweeted.

But absent from Trump's push to reshape Russia relations is any focus on Russia's behavior itself. Obama and Trump have both asked what the US can do to improve relations with Moscow, but not what Moscow can do to improve relations with the US.Russia meddled in the 2016 US election in an attack on US democracy. Under Putin, it has expanded its borders for the first time since the leadership of Joseph Stalin. Russia has committed sweeping human rights abuses against sexual minorities and built nuclear weapons designed to make the earth uninhabitable.

"Every American president, Democrat and Republican alike, comes in thinking that the problem lay with his predecessor, and he will be the one to fix the US-Russian relationship. But it never works out because the problem is not with the American side," Anna Borshchevskaya, an expert on Russia's foreign policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, previously told Business Insider.

"It's important to recognize that Putin doesn't want to build democracy in Russia, and he doesn't want Russia to move closer to the West - to the contrary, he sees Russia as standing in opposition to Western values."

In Russia's pursuit of undermining western institutions like NATO, democratic elections, and a free press, Trump has proven a reliable ally by consistently and pointedly questioning their validity.

In Helsinki on Monday, Trump and Putin will discuss Syria, Ukraine, nuclear weapons, and other issues without much of a solid agenda.