Vladimir Putin is a competitor but getting along with Russia is a “good thing,” Donald Trump told the press before embarking for Europe, causing another Twitter meltdown ahead of his summit with the Russian leader next week.
Asked on Tuesday if the Russian president was a “friend or foe,” Trump remarked: “I really can’t say right now. As far as I’m concerned, he’s a competitor.” Trump also said that it was in Washington’s interest to foster better relations with Moscow and Beijing.
“Getting along with Russia, getting along with China and others is a good thing, not a bad thing. I’ve said that many times, for many years,” he noted. His comments triggered a wave of tweets, ranging from Russiagate-induced fury to dictionary definitions.
The “competitor” line seems to be a Republican talking point, as the same term was employed by a Republican congressional delegation that visited Moscow last week. Senator Richard Shelby, who led the delegation, told journalists after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that the US should view Russia as a “competitor, and not an adversary.”
Trump is scheduled to meet with Putin in Helsinki on July 16, following the highly-anticipated NATO summit in Brussels, and Trump’s state visit to the UK. Speaking at a press conference in Brussels on Tuesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that he welcomed the summit between Trump and Putin.
“That’s fully in line with NATO policies – combining defense with dialogue,” he said. Yet the establishment in US, UK and Germany have expressed their concern over the meeting.