VIDEO - Sen. Chris Coons, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined CNN New Day.
Sen. Chris Coons: “It is striking that President Trump continues to disregard the actions of our own Department of Justice, the public statements of his own director of national intelligence, and instead suggests that somehow the EU is our foe, and doesn’t correctly identify Russia as our adversary.”
Coons on the Helsinki summit:
Exactly what is said today in Helsinki between President Trump and President Putin, exactly what happens at this important meeting, may, like Russia itself, remain a great mystery. And I think it’s risky, even dangerous, for our president to go there without being clear-eyed about who’s sitting there on the other side of the table from him. It’s not necessarily a bad idea to talk to the leader of Russia.
We’ve got lots of things we can and should work together on, from nonproliferation to fighting terrorism to the future of the arctic, but we can’t do that without first being clear about why our relations are so bad, what it is that Russia has done in attacking our democracy, invading Crimea, supporting the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, a wide range of things to get our relationship to the low point it’s currently at.
In fact, I think I read a retweet from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs saying ‘we agree.’ It is striking how much President Trump stands out from his own party, members of his own party in the Senate, and from senior officials in his own administration. His own director of national intelligence, my former colleague Dan Coats, just this past week said that Russia is our most aggressive foreign adversary and continues cyber-attacks on the United States and will threaten our 2018 elections.
It is striking that President Trump continues to disregard the actions of our own Department of Justice, the public statements of his own director of national intelligence, and instead suggests that somehow the EU is our foe, and doesn’t correctly identify Russia as our adversary.
... one of the challenges we face in crafting a successful, bipartisan strategy to confront and contain Russia is that how folks view our relationship with Russia really is determined by how they view President Trump.
There’s millions of Americans who increasingly, according to recent polls, don’t think that Putin or Putin’s Russia are real threats to the United States and they tend to be Trump supporters, and there’s an all-time high number of Democrats who seem to think that Putin and Putin’s Russia are a great threat to the United States.
In fact, I’m here at the historic Chautauqua Institution in Upstate New York to deliver a speech on exactly that topic today. Given how unprecedented this is, given the threat to the rule of law presented by this closed-door meeting between Trump and Putin, how do we move forward in a way that rebuilds a bipartisan approach to Russia that’s clear-eyed and hopefully someday effective.
And to be hopeful, if you look at his whiplash performances at the G7, and more recently at the NATO summit, one of the challenges with our president is that he tends to come in to big meetings full of bluster and approach that is in one direction, and within a matter of 24, 48 hours he’s leaving, characterizing a relationship in a different direction.
Given the warmth and optimism with which he’s approached Vladimir Putin, incorrectly, given his actions, one can remain hopeful that somehow not much comes out of this summit, and that if anything it is merely the reestablishment of a relationship between the United States and Russia where very few commitments are made.
But, frankly, you know in some ways Putin has already succeeded by being at the same table, at the same level on the world stage as the president of the United States. He was thrown out of the G8 by President Obama. He’s the subject of sanctions led by the United States, by most of the western world.
For Vladimir Putin to begin to reenter global leadership is the beginning, I’m afraid, of his exit of the box he was put in for invading Crimea. The end game I’m afraid is one which the United States is weakened by the president not having a clear-eyed approach to our alliances and democracy.