Don’t hold US-Russia ties hostage to internal politics

Donald Trump returned late Monday from his European tour to face ire in Washington, where US intelligence officials and senior Republicans were denouncing the president as ‘shameful’ and ‘disgraceful’ after he refused to challenge Russian President Vladimir Putin over interference in American elections.

Republican Senator John McCain said Trump’s seeming acceptance of Putin’s denial was a historical “low point” for the US presidency and the Helsinki summit between the two leaders a “tragic mistake.”

“Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump´s naivete, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate,” McCain said in a blistering statement.

“No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant.”

Taking direct issue with the president who appointed him, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said US spy agencies have been ‘clear’ and ‘fact-based’ in their assessment that Moscow interfered in the presidential race two years ago — an assessment that Trump refused to endorse in Helsinki.

Coats added that Russia remains behind “ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Helsinki, according to the ministry’s official twitter account. Earlier Pompeo stressed that a better relationship with the Russian government “would benefit all, but the ball is in Russia’s court.” The meeting comes on the sidelines of the much-anticipated summit between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump in the Finnish capital aimed at improving a sour relationship between the two nations.

Two Mi-8 AMTSh ‘Terminator’ helicopters have returned from Syria to their bases in Novosibirsk region, the Russian Defense Ministry said. “Crews and combat vehicles have returned home after successfully fulfilling special tasks to combat international terrorism,”the ministry’s statement read. Russian media counted that, all in all, Moscow has already pulled 35 planes and helicopters from Syria. Russia played a major role in the defeat of Islamic State, Jabhat Al-Nusra, and other terrorist groups in the country. Around 60,000 militants were eliminated during the operation, according to Defense Ministry estimates.

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