Not a show of strength in Helsinki

Prior to his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, President Donald Trump had been offered a lot of advice on how to deal with the Russian dictator, especially after 12 Russian military intelligence officers were indicted in the U.S. for interfering with the U.S. election in 2016. He should cancel the summit, some said. He should demand the extradition of the 12, others said. He should tell Putin that Russia interfered with the election, not ask if Russia interfered, and warn him what would happen if they did it again.

Trump did none of that. He accepted Putin’s “extremely strong and powerful denial” that Russia did anything to mess with the election. He blamed the U.S., in a tweet before the summit and in the press conference afterward, for at least a share in why relations between the countries are so bad. He tweeted about “many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity, and now the Rigged Witch Hunt!” which he later said was “a disaster for our country.”

He then denied there was any collusion by his campaign, and said his election was the result of brilliant campaigning.

There is the crux of Trump’s reasoning on the whole question of Russian interfering in the 2016 election, in his favor. If he stands up to Putin and denounces Russia’s actions, it throws a shadow on his election. He will not do that.

Trump wants the U.S. and Russia to be friends. But friendship between countries, like the friendship between the U.S. and England, or Germany, or Canada, can only come when each side respects the other, and demands that respect in return. The summit seems to show that U.S-Russia respect is a one way street heading in the direction of Moscow.