Updated Jul 16, 2018

Trump's appeasement of Putin undermines U.S. diplomatic posture

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16, 2018. Photo: Chris McGrath via Getty Images

At President Trump’s press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, he assigned blame to the U.S. and complained about Robert Mueller's “witch hunt,” showing indifference to Russia’s meddling in both Ukraine and the 2016 U.S. election. His performance could scarcely have been more favorable to Putin or more threatening to the security of American democracy.

Why it matters: The press conference will create a lasting disconnect between the president and his national security team. It will now be much harder to continue assuring U.S. allies that they can ignore what Trump says.

Last week’s indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers amplified what was already widely known: In 2016, Russian intelligence hacked into private U.S. email accounts and disseminated stolen information to damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign and tip the scales in Trump’s favor.

With the indictments weighing heavily on the summit, Trump, standing next to Putin, continued to deflect, deny and dismiss the findings of his own country’s intelligence community, at times citing a wandering list of grievances about Clinton and U.S. law enforcement.

Trump went so far as to contradict his own Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, giving equal weight to Coats’ assessment of Russian meddling and Putin’s denial of it. Trump's advisers, including U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, appeared stunned by his comments.

The bottom line: The conference stands out as a uniquely submissive moment in the country’s recent history. It also fully fits Trump’s diplomatic worldview: He belittled and insulted longstanding friends and allies last week, and today appeased a major adversary — all of which redounds to Putin's benefit.

Paul Stronski is a senior fellow in the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 11 a.m. ET: 883,225 — Total deaths: 44,156 — Total recoveries: 185,377Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 11 a.m. ET: 189,753 — Total deaths: 4,090 — Total recoveries: 7,141Map.
  3. Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index: It's "a tale of two Americas" as the rich are more likely to work from home and the poor are more likely to report to work.
  4. Federal government latest: President Trump said the next two weeks would be "very painful," with projections indicating the virus could kill 100,000–240,000 Americans.
  5. State updates: Washington and California appear to have slowed their surges of new cases — Florida cases have been doubling the past four days, approaching 7,000.
  6. NYPD: Over 1,400 of its employees have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Private equity hits the brakes amid coronavirus recovery uncertainties

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Private equity is still working on opportunistic deals when it can get a break from portfolio triage, but it's also boarding up the exits amid new questions about the speed of the coronavirus recovery.

The state of play: Sale processes are being shelved daily, even ones that already launched with investment bankers, data rooms, and interested suitors.

China's medical diplomacy is empowering euroskeptic leaders

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Chinese government has embarked on a highly publicized campaign to provide vital medical supplies to European countries as they fight coronavirus outbreaks within their borders.

Why it matters: Those efforts — and the perception that the European Union has done little to help — are providing fodder for politicians who are eager to hail China and criticize the EU. EU leaders may now have to worry about both Chinese and Russian overtures that weaken European unity.

Go deeperArrow1 hour ago - World