In a video interview with Pat Robertson, which was released on Thursday, President Donald Trump mused that Russian President Vladimir Putin would have been happier if Hillary Clinton were now occupying the White House. Saying that the summit meeting in Hamburg with his Russian counterpart was “excellent,” Trump said, “We are the most powerful country in the world and we are getting more and more powerful because I'm a big military person. As an example, if Hillary had won, our military would be decimated.” However, an interview conducted by Spero News shows that the results of the meeting for the United states are mixed at this time because of Washington's current fixation with Trump's alleged ties to Russia.
The president told Robertson, “So there are many things that I do that are the exact opposite of what he would want. So what I keep hearing about that he would have rather had Trump, I think 'probably not.' ”
Trump once praised Putin as being a better leader than Barack Obama. In his interview with Robertson, Trump pointed to the partial ceasefire in Syria as evidence of success in a region where Russia has considerable influence.
Trump’s success at the G20 came at the price of the current controversy over a meeting his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., had with a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselitskaya, who has been linked to the Russian government. Also, the three separate investigations into supposed influence on the part of Russia during the 2016 presidential race continue. The narrative continues to be that Russia indeed meddled in the general election in the hope that Trump would be elected.
In an extensive interview with Spero News, Prof. Paul Goble of the Institute for World Politics dismissed the notion that Russia sought to influence the past presidential election to favor one candidate over another. Goble said that Russia’s intent was to create confusion in the minds of Americans and thus put their electoral and political institutions into doubt.
With regard to the bilateral summit, Goble said “Vladimir Putin needed the summit more than Donald Trump did. Since invading Ukraine, he has been diplomatically on the outs. Being able to come to a major international meeting and half a one on one meeting with the president of the United States is terribly important for him.” A concession was made to Putin in that there were no note-takers in the room with Trump and Putin, who were accompanied only by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, respectively, and two translators. Goble explained that this means that both leaders can more easily determine what is ultimately reported from the meeting to the public.
Goble said that the current controversy over whether or not Russia influenced the presidential election to favor Trump, and Trump Jr.’s meeting with Veselitskaya, may be tying the president’s hands in his dealings with Russia. Among the issues Trump may wish to discuss, Goble said, is increased business for American oil companies. “It has tied Trump’s hands. If he had wanted to give some concessions to get the relationship moving again, the minute he would make any concessions, it would be interpreted by many in Washington as that he was in Putin’s pocket.”
Goble added, “Whatever his [Trump’s] initial impulses may have been, he wasn’t in a position to do very much,” at the bilateral meeting with Putin.
Putin made gains at the meeting with Trump, said Goble, simply by being able to secure the meeting with the American president. Putin can tell the Russian people and his supporters that he was successful in getting the US to meet with him, said the analyst, despite his diplomatic isolation that ensued after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of the Crimea and without having to make concessions to the West.