During his historic summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, President Trump needs to hold the formidable Kremlin leader accountable for the chaos that he’s strewn through Europe, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia said.
“The question is whether the president will do that, or whether he’ll accentuate the positive as he did with Kim Jong Un in Singapore,” Alexander Vershbow, who served as the ambassador from 2001 to 2005, said during an interview with FOX Business’ Stuart Varney on Thursday.
Trump met with Kim in early June, and faced widespread criticism from Democrats for praising the dictator, while ignoring the Hermit Kingdom’s human-rights abuses.
To ensure he doesn’t fall in a similar trap while meeting with Putin, Trump should address differences in foreign policy head-on – like the fact that Moscow is still occupying certain parts of Ukraine, or that it’s actively working against the U.S. in Syria.
“There’s a big question as to whether we’re going to be able to accomplish anything,” Vershbow said. “Having a nice meeting and smiling photo ops doesn’t necessarily advance the relationship. I actually think the president’s right. It is important to talk with Putin.”
While issues like military reduction and nuclear arms control will likely dominate the conversation, Vershbow said it’s unlikely that Putin will make any major concessions.
The meeting is also sure to produce fresh controversy for the White House as special counsel Robert Mueller continues to investigate whether Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of the Trump campaign. The president has repeatedly decried the investigation as a witch hunt, and blasted it again early Thursday morning.
“Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!” he wrote on Twitter. “Where is the DNC Server, and why didn’t Shady James Comey and the now disgraced FBI agents take and closely examine it? Why isn’t Hillary/Russia being looked at? So many questions, so much corruption!”
The meetings with Putin and Kim come in the midst of escalating trade tensions with U.S. allies, including Canada, Mexico and the European Union.