Donald Trump take tougher line against Russia at summit meetings, US officials say

US president expected to focus on Moscow’s ‘malign activity’ during Nato and Putin meetings

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 July, 2018, 2:28am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 July, 2018, 5:49am

US President Donald Trump will focus on Russia’s “malign activity” during summit meetings with Nato allies and President Vladimir Putin, American officials said on Thursday, signalling a harder line against Moscow than Trump traditionally has sought to take.

Trump, whose 2016 election campaign is being investigated for possible collusion with Russia, has said repeatedly he wants to have a good relationship with Washington’s former cold war foe, despite tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine and Syria and alleged election meddling around the world.

A US Senate Intelligence Committee report released on Tuesday supported the conclusion of three American intelligence agencies that Russia tried to help Trump win the 2016 presidential election.

Trump, who is set to leave for Europe on Tuesday, will hold meetings with Nato allies in Brussels, visit Britain, then meet Putin in Helsinki, Finland, for a one-on-one meeting on July 16.

“The president believes a better relationship with Russia would be good for both America and Russia, but the ball really is in Russia’s court and the president will continue to hold Russia accountable for its malign activity,” Jon Huntsman, US ambassador to Russia, told reporters on a conference call.

“We’re entering with our eyes wide open, but peace is always worth the effort,” Huntsman said.

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Trump told reporters last week that he would press Putin on election meddling and also discuss Syria and Ukraine during their meeting.

The US president has denied that his campaign colluded with Russia and has repeated that Putin has denied involvement in the American electoral process.

European allies are also concerned about election meddling by Russia. But the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) summit is likely to be dominated by Trump’s insistence that member nations step up and pay more for their joint defence.

Kay Bailey Hutchison, the permanent representative of the United States to Nato, said Russia would be a key topic at the summit.