Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday praised his summit with President Donald Trump this week as having been a success but then warned that "certain forces in the U.S. now want to prevent what was achieved there."
“On the whole the meeting was successful,” Putin said in a televised speech to an audience of Russian ambassadors in Moscow, adding that "positive agreements" had resulted from the Monday meeting in Helsinki, Finland.
"It would be naive to think the problems would be solved in a few hours. But no one expected that," Putin said.
The meeting, he noted, had allowed the United States and Russia to start down the "path of positive change" and away from a confrontation he said was in some ways "worse than the Cold War."
Putin then warned that progress was jeopardized by the uproar in the U.S. over the meeting, lambasting Trump's opponents and critics of the summit and accusing them of undermining the summit for their own political ends.
“We will see how events develop further, moreover, as certain forces are trying to disavow the results of the meeting in Helsinki,” Putin said. “We see that in the United States there are forces that are ready to easily sacrifice Russian-American relations to their ambitions.”
Putin's comments were a thinly veiled criticism of the uproar that has followed the Helsinki summit in the U.S., where Trump had come under attack from both Republicans and Democrats, as well as in the news media, for what critics have said was his failure to publicly confront Putin over Russia's meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
Instead, Trump has been accused of siding with the Russian leader against his own intelligence agencies and humiliating the U.S. by declining to challenge an authoritarian leader accused of attacking America. Democrats as well as some former government officials, including ex-CIA Director John Brennan, have a gone so far as to call Trump's behavior treasonous, while even some staunch Trump supporters have expressed distress at his performance with Putin.
Trump has since sought to roll back his comments, saying on Tuesday that he had misspoke when he said he did not see why Russia would have meddled in 2016. But on Thursday, Trump went back on the offensive again to defend the summit, writing on Twitter that the media wanted to provoke a war with Russia.
"The Fake News Media wants so badly to see a major confrontation with Russia, even a confrontation that could lead to war. They are pushing so recklessly hard and hate the fact that I’ll probably have a good relationship with Putin. We are doing MUCH better than any other country!" Trump wrote.
Trump is facing some of the heaviest criticism of his presidency since he met with Putin for their first bilateral summit, where the two had announced they wanted to put an end to the confrontation that has characterized U.S.-Russia relations for the past several years. The two presidents met for over two hours one-on-one, with only translators, meaning that no written record of what was discussed exists.
In a press conference afterwards though, Trump embraced a view pressed by Russia for years that the U.S. shares the blame for the state of bad relations with Moscow and lashed out at the U.S. special counsel investigation into whether there had been collusion between his presidential campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.
"I hold both countries responsible," Trump said. "I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago."
"But the main thing — and we discussed this also — is zero collusion," Trump said. "And it has had a negative impact upon the relationship of the two largest nuclear powers in the world. It is ridiculous what’s going on with the probe," he said referring to the special counsel investigation.
Putin, on Thursday, said that greater cooperation between Russia and the U.S. was necessary for global stability, noting, like Trump had, that as the world's largest nuclear powers they have a responsibility to get along.
“Russia is open for developing contacts with the United States on an equal, mutually beneficial basis. That is needed not only for our two peoples but for the whole world," Putin said.
Putin also told the ambassadors that work needed to begin "immediately" on reaffirming the New START arms control treaty, which he warned would otherwise "simply cease to exist" when it expires in 18 months. At the Helsinki summit, Putin said that he and Trump had agreed on the need to work to preserve current arms control treaties that govern the two countries' nuclear arsenals and which have recently been under increasing strain. The New START treaty, which was agreed to by President Barack Obama and President Dmitry Medvedev, confirmed and expanded Cold War-era commitments by Russia and the U.S. to reduce their deployed nuclear warheads. Experts, however, worry that it may not be continued when it comes up for renewal in 2020.
Besides that initiative to make progress on arms controls, it was unclear what agreements Putin was referring two in Thursday's speech. In Helsinki, the presidents said they had agreed to create a commission made up of business representatives to discuss greater economic cooperation. They also said they had ordered their national security councils to intensify their contacts to look for ways to find agreement around issues such as Syria and arms control.
On Tuesday, Russia's defense ministry released a statement saying "it was ready for the practical implementation of the agreements" made between Putin and Trump at the summit, noting it wanted to discuss the New START treaty, interaction in Syria and other military issues. That statement was puzzling since the White House and Pentagon have not announced any concrete agreements from the summit.