President Donald Trump has been on the receiving end of heated criticism since his highly contentious summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday.
Hashtags like #TreasonSummit and #TreasonousTrump have trended widely amid calls for Congress to draft articles of impeachment once President Trump sided with Putin over the assessment from his own intelligence agencies that Russian operatives meddled in the 2016 presidential election.
But these angered reactions only represent the tumultuous political landscape stateside. If you were to ask Russia's Foreign Ministry how the summit went, you'd hear that it went as smoothly as it could have. In fact, according to Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, the meeting between the two world leaders went “fabulously” and “better than super.”
Lavrov's response appears to support much of the reaction from the president's critics, who've said that President Trump kowtowed to Russian aggression. The Russian Foreign Ministry's response to the president's statements also support the accusations that Russia––and Putin in particular––benefited enormously from the closed-door face-to-face meeting.
For example, after President Trump tweeted that the relationship between Russia and the United States "has NEVER been worse"––he blamed "U.S. foolishness and stupidity" and Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian collusion––many members of the media noted that the Russian Foreign Ministry "liked" the president's tweet.
Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1531721129.0
The Russian Foreign Ministry “liked” the president’s tweet, in which Mr. Trump blamed *the U.S.* for poor U.S.-Rus… https://t.co/oSjOtMKzQH— Jake Tapper (@Jake Tapper) 1531730649.0
Russia's foreign ministry just liked a Trump tweet mentioning "Witch Hunt"— Michelle Kosinski (@Michelle Kosinski) 1531730375.0
Even more damning: The Russian Foreign Ministry retweeted the president's tweet, saying "We agree."
We agree https://t.co/7l087Qwmj3— MFA Russia 🇷🇺 (@MFA Russia 🇷🇺) 1531736650.0
Critics have called the retweet a win for Russian propaganda, and a calculated effort to undermine Robert Mueller's investigation.
When the Russian Foreign Ministry is handed an opportunity for a massive propaganda victory, they will always take… https://t.co/hVzWVvWUTI— Mark Hertling (@Mark Hertling) 1531742900.0
Russia’s foreign ministry doesn’t have to call the United States foolish and stupid, or call the investigation into… https://t.co/JCtM31qJqq— Willie Geist (@Willie Geist) 1531739467.0
Russia's foreign ministry - and Russian media today are thrilled, absolutely thrilled that President Trump is trash… https://t.co/EjtvEjCNPn— West Wing Reports (@West Wing Reports) 1531746654.0
The president, meanwhile, has only doubled down on his assertions that his talk with Putin was "productive."
A productive dialogue is not only good for the United States and good for Russia, but it is good for the world.… https://t.co/T6yOEfXXVa— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1531773247.0
He has also found time to once again criticize the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which he (falsely) claimed was draining (and relying too heavily on) the U.S. because of monetary obligations. Statements like the one below have haunted the president, who is aware of Russia's longstanding goal to delegitimize NATO and its allies.
I had a great meeting with NATO. They have paid $33 Billion more and will pay hundreds of Billions of Dollars more… https://t.co/7M1kcZrfmo— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1531835619.0
But regardless of where the president claims to stand on NATO, he feels his meeting with Putin was "even better" than his NATO commitments. That it hasn't been as well received as he would like is a sign––in yet another attack on the media––that "the Fake News is going Crazy!"
While I had a great meeting with NATO, raising vast amounts of money, I had an even better meeting with Vladimir Pu… https://t.co/4BGXYfNXl9— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1531837348.0
According to Maria Lipman, editor-in-chief of the journal Counterpoint and a veteran commentator on Russia, the Trump-Putin summit realized the Kremlin's goal of ending an era of frosty relations with the United States.
“Putin has demonstrated that Russia is not isolated, without making any concessions,” she said, adding that “Putin in a sense lures him into this rhetoric that it’s better to cooperate than to engage in confrontation." The two leaders, she noted, appeared to be "playing along together."
Putin, for his part, described the Helsinki meeting as “candid and useful.”
When asked to elaborate on whether tensions between the U.S. and Russia––tensions which have only heightened since Moscow invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea in 2014––would ease, Putin appeared optimistic.
“President Trump’s position on Crimea is well known. He talks about the illegality of the Crimean reintegration to Russia. We have another point of view… that a referendum was held in accordance with international law. For us, it’s a closed question,” he said.
Fyodor Lukyanov, chairman of the Council of Foreign and Defense Policy, believes, as ABC reports, "Putin and Trump’s comments on Syria suggested a concrete agreement had likely been reached to curtail Iran’s presence close to Israel in southern Syria" and that "the two presidents' pledges to push to reinvigorate key nuclear arms control treaties meant that could now likely happen."
But, he added, the Russia-U.S. relationship is undoubtedly more complex than the summit could possibly remedy, and the likelihood that President Trump would be able to honor his commitments is low because it is "quite obvious that his capacity is limited." Observing that Trump's proposals that came out of his meeting with Putin in Germany last year collapsed quickly, he said, "it’s a question about his resilience."
If these talks fall through much like last year's, Trump "will start to distance himself from things that were discussed," Lukyanov said, and "nothing will change."