July 16, 2020 – Two years ago today, President Trump stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki and, in front of the entire world, sided with him over American intelligence. By rejecting the conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and instead parroting Russian propaganda, Trump once again put his personal interests over the national interest.
Since Helsinki, Trump has been the gift that keeps on giving for Putin. From refusing to respond to bounties on the heads of our troops in Afghanistan to giving a megaphone to Putin’s propaganda, Trump has proven that there is no low to which he will not stoop if it would cater to Putin — even if it means betraying American troops, our allies, and American democracy itself.
Trump has betrayed America, our troops, and our allies to Putin:
- During his 2017 Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Trump reportedly revealed highly classified information regarding efforts to confront ISIS, damaging Israeli counterterrorism sources and methods.
- At a 2017 NATO summit, Trump refused to affirm America’s commitment to Article 5, NATO’s mutual defense pact and cornerstone, which has only been invoked once: by our allies after 9/11. Instead, Trump repeatedly discussed withdrawing from our largest military alliance.
- Trump dragged the 2018 NATO summit into chaos by arriving late, insulting allies, and distracting from the goal of countering Russian aggression. The event was characterized as “one of the most divisive summits in [NATO’s] 69-year history.”
- Trump then berated NATO ally Montenegro and again cast doubt on America’s commitment to Article 5. That only helped advance Russia’s interests: in recent years, Moscow has tried to destabilize Montenegro.
- In a call with former British Prime Minister Theresa May in the summer of 2018, Trump again sided with Putin by disputing British intelligence officials’ conclusion that Russia had attempted to carry out an extrajudicial killing on British soil using a WMD.
- Days before the G7 summit in August 2019, Trump expressed his desire to welcome Russia back into this group of industrialized nations — even though Moscow continues to illegally occupy Ukraine’s sovereign territory. In 2020, Trump postponed hosting the G7 in part to again invite Russia to attend — despite the repeated rejections from our allies.
- Trump is set to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, freeing Russia from its obligations under the pact, much as he did by withdrawing from the INF Treaty. All the while, Trump has failed to commit to an extension of New START — the last treaty imposing limits on Russia’s nuclear arsenal.
- This June, without consultation, Trump abruptly announced that he will remove thousands of U.S. troops from Germany, blindsiding NATO and even American officials and undermining NATO’s deterrent capability.
- In recent weeks, we learned that President Trump and his administration have sat for months on intelligence that Russia offered Afghan militants bounties to kill American troops. Instead of taking action, Trump rushed to try to save solely his own reputation, denying that he had been briefed on the bounties — and then took Putin’s side by calling the conclusions of the American intelligence community “not credible.”
Trump has invited Putin to undermine American democracy:
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- In a July 2016 news conference, then-candidate Trump infamously invited Russia to interfere in the 2016 election, imploring: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
- During a meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak in the Oval Office in May 2017, Trump reportedly told them that Russian interference in U.S. elections did not concern him.
- By resurfacing a debunked conspiracy theory during his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky, Trump lent credence to the lie that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election — a conspiracy that benefits Russia, Trump, and no one else.
- Trump and his allies have given an American megaphone to Putin’s propaganda, prompting the then-Republican Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to warn his colleagues late last year that their sham investigation into Hunter Biden could serve Moscow’s ends by sowing additional doubt, chaos, and distrust here at home.
- This month, Trump granted clemency to Roger Stone — an act of rank corruption that also sought to absolve Putin for interfering in the 2016 election. By justifying the unprecedented move in familiar language around the so-called “Russia hoax” and “witch hunt,” Trump continued his efforts to whitewash Moscow’s meddling and embrace Russian propaganda — a move that helps Trump and Putin at the expense of our democracy.
All the while, Trump has gone out of his way to laud Putin and his authoritarian leadership, bestowing undue legitimacy in the process:
- As a candidate, Trump praised Putin — calling him “highly respected in his own country and beyond” — and defended him against credible allegations of murdering journalists by saying: “I think our country does plenty of killing also.”
- Shortly after assuming office, Trump reportedly fawned over Putin in a phone call, calling him a great leader and apologizing profusely for not calling him sooner.
- At the June 2019 G20 summit, Trump told a Russian state-media reporter that Putin is a “great guy” and a “terrific person.” The network later aired the exchange, effectively turning Trump’s words into state propaganda.
- Trump initially welcomed Putin’s invitation to attend Russia’s Victory Day festivities, which commemorate the Soviet Union’s triumph in World War II.
Trump’s abdication of global leadership has left a void that Putin has rushed to fill.
- Before the 2016 election, a pro-Russia proxy predicted that if Trump won, Russia would “drink champagne” in anticipation of being able to advance its positions on Syria and Ukraine. Trump has delivered.
- By conditioning military aid to Ukraine on investigating his domestic political rival, Trump betrayed American national security, corroded American power, and sent a signal to world leaders — and especially to Putin, who continues to illegally occupy Ukrainian territory and undermine its democracy — that America’s foreign policy is up for sale.
- Trump’s decision to impulsively withdraw U.S. troops from northeast Syria allowed Russia to assert itself more prominently in the conflict. Trump’s betrayal of our Kurdish partners created a glide path for Russia to continue its aggression in Syria and in the region.
- Trump’s feckless approach to supporting a democratic transition in Venezuela has allowed Russia to deepen its influence over both the country’s economy and its strongman, Nicolás Maduro.
- In Libya, Trump has opened the door for Russia to send fighter jets in support of Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar, over U.S. objections — a consequence of Trump’s failure to develop a coherent Libya policy that has allowed Russia to expand its influence in Libya.
- National Security Action is dedicated to advancing American global leadership and opposing the reckless policies of the Trump administration that endanger our national security and undermine U.S. strength in the world. www.nationalsecurityaction.org