US has been ‘far tougher on Putin than any­body’

Daily Mail - - The Pomp And The Pygmy - By Claire El­li­cott Po­lit­i­cal Cor­re­spon­dent

THE US had ‘been far tougher on Rus­sia than any­body’, Mr Trump said yesterday as he vowed to take a firm line with Vladimir Putin when they meet next week.

He dis­missed the no­tion that his re­peated crit­i­cism of Nato would em­bolden the Rus­sian pres­i­dent but played down his chances of suc­cess, adding: ‘I’m not go­ing in with high ex­pec­ta­tions, but we may come out with some very sur­pris­ing things.’

Mr Trump will leave Bri­tain this week­end for a meet­ing with Mr Putin in Helsinki, Fin­land, on Mon­day. Theresa May said yesterday she had dis­cussed Rus­sia with the US leader and they agreed that ‘it is im­por­tant to en­gage Rus­sia from a po­si­tion of strength and unity’.

Asked what he hoped to ac­com­plish in his meet­ing with Mr Putin, he said they would dis­cuss Ukraine, Syria, other parts of the Mid­dle East and nu­clear weapons. He spoke of Rus­sia’s oc­cu­pa­tion of Crimea, but blamed Pres­i­dent Obama for al­low­ing Mr Putin into the re­gion in the first place.

Sound­ing a de­fi­ant note, Mr Trump said: ‘Pres­i­dent Obama failed very badly with Crimea. I don’t think we would’ve done that if I were pres­i­dent. I’m not bad at do­ing things so let’s see what hap­pens. But this was an Obama dis­as­ter.’

Asked about the al­le­ga­tions of Rus­sian med­dling in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, Mr Trump said: ‘That’s dis­hon­est re­port­ing. We have been far tougher on Rus­sia than any­body. We’ve been ex­tremely tough on Rus­sia.’

He said al­le­ga­tions that Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence hacked Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign team was a ‘witch hunt’ and an ob­sta­cle in his re­la­tion­ship with Mr Putin.

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