On Monday morning, just hours ahead of his scheduled meeting with Russian President Putin in Helsinki, Trump shared his thoughts about current U.S.-Russia relations on Twitter.
Noting that the U.S.’s relationship with Russia “has NEVER been worse,” Trump placed blame on these poor relations on “many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!”
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 (@realDonaldTrump) July 16, 2018
The real state of U.S.-Russia relations aside, the tweet is significant as it appears to target only the U.S., while absolving Russia of responsibility for the current state of affairs. AFP White House correspondent Andrew Beatty suggested that “it is incredibly difficult to imagine any other president in history…publicly blaming America for Russia’s behavior ahead of a meeting with Putin,” calling the move “unprecedented.”
Beatty further highlighted that Trump’s apparent accusation falls within the wider context of a series of transgressions by Putin and the Russian government, including the Chechen war, supporting separatist movements in neighboring countries, a chemical weapons attack in the U.K., and election meddling, among others, none of which Trump appears to acknowledge in his tweet.
Writing in The Daily Beast, David Rothkopf, a political scientist and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, takes this a step further, highlighting that Trump has “proven to be the staunchest defender of Putin.”
“A hostile foreign power intervened in our election,” he continues, “to help elect a man president who has since actively served their interests and has defended them at every turn.” What’s more, Rothkopf argues that Republican attempts to undermine Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s Russia investigation or attack him “as we are being attacked, and to do so to benefit our foreign adversary, is textbook treason.”
The Russian government, on the other hand, appears pleased with current events: the Russian foreign ministry’s Twitter account liked Trump’s tweet.