Return to Transcripts main page
Interview with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto on the Trump-Putin Summit; Interview with former US Ambassador to Russia William Burns on the Trump-Putin Summit; Interview with Russian Senator Alexey Pushkov on the Trump-Putin Summit; Stunning Day In Helsinki Where The Us President Donald Trump Met With The Russian President Vladimir Putin. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired July 16, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST, AMANPOUR: Coming up, an extraordinary scene here in Helsinki as President Trump hails his meeting with Vladimir Putin,
but sides with Russia over meddling in the 2016 election. My exclusive interview with the host of this special event, the President of Finland
Plus, all the latest reaction to today's happenings with William Burns, former US ambassador to Moscow, who joins me from New York, and from Moscow
itself, the Russian senator Alexey Pushkov.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in Helsinki, Finland where today it seemed the bedrock of diplomacy and national
interest were all upended in one press conference following the first proper meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President
Donald Trump of the United States.
After several hours, they came out to face the press. Predictably enough, both praised a new day in relations between their two countries, but it all
went awry over the issue of Russian meddling in the 2016 US elections.
When pushed by US reporters about the 12 Russian military intelligence officials indicted in this case, President Trump extraordinarily turned on
American institutions - the US Democratic Party and the FBI - while seeming to defend Mr. Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be, but I
really do want to see the server.
But I have confidence in both parties. I have great confidence in my intelligence people. But I will tell you that President Putin was
extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, the golden rule of American politics is that partisan attacks end at the frontiers and no high official ever sides with a
strategic competitor or rival.
Trump's attack, undermining his own intelligence agencies, comes after a week overseas where he's laid into America's closest allies, whether it was
NATO, Germany or in the UK and calling the EU a foe.
The setting for this summit, Helsinki, has a special history in Cold War politics, going back to 1975 and meetings between then Soviet and American
president. History will record the deep significance of this one.
In part, it was the brainchild of the Finish President, Sauli Niinisto. And he's joining me now for an exclusive interview. And there you are,
President Niinisto. Welcome to the program.
SAULI NIINISTO, PRESIDENT OF FINLAND: Thank you very much.
AMANPOUR: And we see you, of course, with the two presidents. Now, it's no secret that you really wanted, you believed that they should get
together, that relations between Russia, the US and the West were just too bad and they needed to talk.
NIINISTO: I'm not the only one. Actually, the whole West, if you want to call it that, has hoped that dialogue would continue or start again.
This was also - for example, two years ago in Warsaw when NATO had its meeting, it was one of the statesmen.
AMANPOUR: Were you surprised the way it ended up? I mean, you had met the two before they went into the meetings. You met them separately right?
NIINISTO: Yes. I met President Trump earlier and just after -
AMANPOUR: Right. You had breakfast with him.
AMANPOUR: And what did he say with you? What was his hope for this summit?
NIINISTO: I wanted to talk a bit about those fears that they had all over in Europe, also in Finland, speculations what is he going to do with NATO,
military exercises or something like that. Likely, now, you can say, they weren't at all at the table, which is I think positive.
AMANPOUR: That's a positive thing that came out of this. He didn't say anything undermining NATO or the -
NIINISTO: No fears actually came to truth.
AMANPOUR: And what did you get from President Putin? What was his desire from this summit?
NIINISTO: Yes, I heard afterwards. Well, he didn't so much actually talk about. I asked him something and I had the - well, I think that what he
wanted to say is that there are several different kind of issues open and they will continue.
And if they continue arms control, Syria, Ukraine even, well, that is good, but no concrete results. And I do not believe that anybody expected them
to suddenly have a deal over them.
[14:05:10] AMANPOUR: So, you watched the press conference. You, obviously, weren't at their bilateral meetings, but you watched the press
AMANPOUR: It sort of was OK. It was kind of on track for the first half. And then, as soon as the reporters started asking about the FBI - or
rather, the Muller investigation, the indictments and the election meddling -
AMANPOUR: It took a turn that everybody was really surprised by. There's a huge amount of criticism from the United States, including from the
president's own party.
Were you surprised by how it devolved?
NIINISTO: Unfortunately, I have to say that I leave that all for the investigation.
AMANPOUR: I just mean the press conference.
NIINISTO: Yes. But I mean the substance.
AMANPOUR: The substance, absolutely. I fully understand.
NIINISTO: Well -
AMANPOUR: Were you surprised to see a president, the US president, essentially exonerating Vladimir Putin and talking against his own domestic
NIINISTO: Well, except that I want to leave it to investigation. I'm also a diplomat. So, I'm not going to -
AMANPOUR: Respond to that.
NIINISTO: Yes. So, what message then do you think - what do you think Vladimir Putin left this summit with? Everybody said that, for him, this
was a good thing, obviously, because he was - he has been isolated over Ukraine, Crimea and there are sanctions on him. And here he is on an equal
footing with the president of United States in Helsinki. What do you think he left with?
NIINISTO: I think that, for him, it was important to be in equal foot with the American president. But, actually, he left also with a kind of burden,
those big issues if they continue. They should also be solved somehow. And Russia has (INAUDIBLE) for very many questions.
AMANPOUR: How worried are you still about Russia? Helsinki, Finland is not a member of NATO, but you are sort of in the Partnership for Peace.
You were at the NATO summit. Historically, you had a very special cold war role, as I indicated.
AMANPOUR: But the Cold War is over and you turned West.
NIINISTO: Well, actually, we have always felt us as Western nation. But, yes, we are member of EU. We are an enhanced partner of NATO. We have a
bilateral defense military cooperation with several countries, including USA. So, I did wonder naming us neutral.
AMANPOUR: So, if people say neutral, you take exception with that? You're not neutral?
NIINISTO: Well, I don't feel like.
AMANPOUR: There was wonderfully humorous sentence to describe Finland during the Cold War. You had to bow to the East, while not mooning the
NIINISTO: That might be true in some days in 50s maybe, but you have to remember also that Finland was the only country where Stalin attacked, but
AMANPOUR: And you have a massively long order.
NIINISTO: So, that is our history actually.
AMANPOUR: And, right now, over the last couple of weeks, there have been Russian military exercises, a mock sort of invasion on a piece of territory
that is Russian, but it happens to be in the Gulf of Finland.
NIINISTO: Gogland Island (ph), yes.
AMANPOUR: What do you feel, as the Finnish president, as the Finnish people, when those kinds of exercises go on? And should the Baltic nations
or other nations in that area worry about President Putin's intentions?
NIINISTO: I do not believe that Russia is going to attack Finland neither the Baltic countries. They realize very well that NATO presence in Baltic
countries means that any kind of military actions there that would lead to something totally else than just fighting in Baltics or in Finland.
No, that would mean something like Third World War. And everybody knows that there is not a winner. There might be somebody who is losing less,
but not a winner.
AMANPOUR: And do you think that after this week of diplomacy with allies and also with the competitor of Vladimir Putin, do you think that the NATO
allies, the Western allies feel confident of the commitment by President Trump of American leadership, an American support for these alliances that
have been underpinning the world order for the last 70 years?
NIINISTO: Two points. First, President Trump himself said, after Brussels meeting, that he is now satisfied. Well, hope he says his real feeling.
[14:10:00] But what comes to NATO countries, to some extent, I understand the demand of meeting what has been agreed - that is, 2 percent of your GDP
- and that is not only President Trump demand, it has been ongoing from 50s, I guess, but he has put, well, a bit more -
AMANPOUR: Spin on it. A bit more urgency on it.
AMANPOUR: And what does Finland come away from this summit with?
NIINISTO: Well, like I said, everybody thought that dialogue is important. When I was asked whether Finland is ready to host, surely, we are, because
we see that dialogue is important.
AMANPOUR: Well, let's hope this dialogue progresses in a constructive way.
NIINISTO: Otherwise, it's not important.
AMANPOUR: There you go.
AMANPOUR: President Sauli Niinisto, thank you so much for joining us.
NIINISTO: Thank you very much. Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Thanks. And hosting us all as well.
NIINISTO: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So, President Trump touted his accomplishments in what he considers a successful summit with Vladimir Putin today. Listen to what he
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed as of about four hours ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: But has it really changed? William J. Burns was America's Ambassador to Russia under President George W. Bush and he is a former
deputy secretary of state under President Obama and he joins me now from New York.
A very diplomatic host, the president of Finland, Secretary Burns, what do you think and how do you read what happened here today and you cannot avoid
the fireworks at that press conference?
WILLIAM BURNS, FORMER US AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Yes. Christiane, it's nice to be with you.
I mean, I think that press conference was the single most embarrassing performance by an American president on the world stage that I've ever seen
I mean, to stand alongside a foreign adversary and rival and basically give him a pass as he denied interference in our elections for which we have him
dead to rights, to stand alongside him and essentially throw your own law enforcement and intelligence community under the bus, to stand alongside
him while he argued that he should be the fire man in a place like Syria where, in fact, he's been one of the principal arsonists responsible for
large parts that human catastrophe, I think that's all pretty appalling.
AMANPOUR: So, you just heard the president of Finland saying that he hosted this because so many people believe that there was a need, a
necessity to try, again, to reset relations between the United States, the West and President Putin of Russia
Do you think anything was achieved? Do you think they have reset in any way whatsoever as President Trump says and also as President Putin said?
BURNS: I mean, I'm the last person who needs to be convinced that it's important to try to manage what is a very complicated and often adversarial
relationship with Russia in a sober and realistic way.
So, it's important to rebuild some guardrails of the relationship, the arms control architecture built up since the late Soviet period is beginning to
fall apart. We've got a New START treaty on strategic nuclear weapons that's going to expire in a couple years. It's a good thing to resume
conversations about that with the Russians.
But I just think we have to be realistic about this and we have to be honest about the profound differences that still separate us on a lot of
So, it's an argument for stepping out military-to-military context, diplomatic context, but it's also an argument to be realistic, and that's
what tough-minded diplomacy is about.
And what we saw today I don't think is really about diplomacy. Diplomacy is not just dialogue untethered to history and strategy. Diplomacy is not
just getting along with other countries. It's about the tough-minded promotion of American interests.
And diplomacy is definitely not about winging it, especially with Vladimir Putin who never wings anything.
AMANPOUR: Well, I want to play you this - well, perhaps, I'll even read it to you. No, it is actually a soundbite from President Trump when he was
asked about the state of relations before going into this summit between the two nations. This was his assessment. Just take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I hold both countries responsible. 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, a long time frankly before I got to office and I think we're all to blame.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, of course, that was the press conference. He is basically saying that all sides were to blame for the deterioration of the
What is - I mean, look, you were ambassador there. You were deputy secretary of state. What are the facts of this relationship, so people are
[14:15:03] BURNS: Well, it's been a complicated relationship for a long time, but I think what the president said is the misreading of recent
What we've seen in Russian behavior and Russian relations with the United States and with the rest of the world in the last few years, I think, has
been pretty clear record of taking aggressive steps - in Ukraine in 2014, Syria in 2015 and our own elections in 2016. So, I think it's a false
assumption to simply equate everybody in this picture as the president seemed to do.
And in his earlier tweet, earlier today, he seemed to suggest that this was all about American foolishness, which I think is an even more exaggerated
statement of the same thing.
AMANPOUR: Precisely. And I wonder what you make of the fact that he also, in an interview, called the EU a foe. He was talking about trade, but he
lumped the EU in with China, with Russia, with all sorts of other nations as well.
And to that point, Victoria Nuland, the former bipartisan US ambassador to NATO and other positions, said that this whole trip, this whole week abroad
would either cement American leadership of the alliances and the world order or sign the death knell for American leadership.
How do you assess now at the end of this week of President Trump's travels?
BURNS: It's been pretty depressing because I think what you've seen in President Trump's comments as well as his actions has been a tendency to be
totally dismissive of the institutions, the alliances, the partnerships that, in a way, set the United States apart from lonelier big powers like
China and Russia.
Those are our source of leverage in conducting diplomacy with important countries like Russia. And that dismissive attitude, I mean, calling the
European Union a foe, I think, is ridiculous.
And it not only is ridiculous on its face, but it undercuts American leverage on a very complicated international landscape.
AMANPOUR: And there was certainly an issue that I'm sure is very close to you, and that is the Iran Nuclear Deal.
You saw that President Putin robustly defended the Iran Nuclear Deal and told President Trump and the world that Iran has been living up to its
obligations under the deal.
And, of course, you heard President Trump say that they are trying to do everything they can to isolate Iran and they were talking about a potential
deal in Syria.
Where do you think that is going to go just on a separate issue, the Iran nuclear deal? Where is that going to end up?
BURNS: Well, I admire the efforts by our European partners as well as by the Russians and Chinese to hold that deal together.
My fear has long been, though, that once the United States pulled out of the deal in the absence of any evidence of Iranian non-compliance that what
we're going to see is kind of death by a thousand cuts as it becomes clearer and clearer to Iranians that there aren't economic benefits as
significant as they once had hoped, and their hopes were exaggerated to start with.
And you have a supreme leader and the people around him who are in some ways anxious to be able to say, I told you so, you couldn't trust the
Americans, this deal was not worth it.
And so, that's my concern that, over time, it becomes harder and harder to hold it together. And then, I think we put ourselves in a position where
you can see a drift toward the potential of not just increased tensions, but particularly conflict in a part of the world where we've seen more than
our share of conflicts in recent years.
AMANPOUR: And just finally, Ambassador Burns, what did the US, what did Donald Trump do for the United States and for the Western alliance that he
could take away and count as a success from today's summit?
Because everybody said, just by having it, Vladimir Putin emerges the winner.
BURNS: Yes. I think Putin came into the meeting in Helsinki already with the kind of political victory in part because this put him on the same
stage as a peer of the president of the United States.
It enabled him to say at home that you can't isolate Russia, that we're back at the table of great powers. I mean, it enabled him to argue that
we're turning the page in some ways.
But I think the only thing I could point to is, A, I do think having diplomatic contact, if it's well-managed and it's well thought through and
it's connected to strategy, is a good thing.
I think the resumption, which seemed to be indicated in the press conference of serious conversations about where we go next in arms control,
is important because the United States and Russia, as the world's two nuclear superpowers, do have unique capabilities as well as unique
responsibilities on those issues.
So, I'd say that's a modest step forward potentially. But as I said before, I think a lot of the rest of what we saw does real damage not just
to the United States, but also to the way in which our allies and partners look at us around the world and the way in which other arrivals and
adversaries will try to take advantage of us.
[14:20:01] AMANPOUR: Former ambassador, former Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, thanks for joining us from New York.
And now, the Russian President Vladimir Putin began today's press conference on an optimistic note. Listen to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA: The cold war is a thing of past. The era of acute ideological confrontation of the two countries is a thing of a
remote past, is a vestige of the past. The situation in the world has changed dramatically.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, is his optimism well-founded? Alexey Pushkov is a senior Russian senator and former chairman of the Duma's foreign affairs
He tweeted today that Russia and the United States decide the fate of the world and that "eyes of the world" are fixed on Helsinki today. And he's
joining me now from Moscow.
Alexey Pushkov, welcome. Tell me what you took away from today's summit, and especially that press conference? Who do you think came out the winner
if I might put it that way?
ALEXEY PUSHKOV, RUSSIAN SENATOR: Well, I think that both sides because, basically, both Russia and the United States were losing, to my mind, from
this extremely bad relationship which we're living through for the last year.
We were at a dead point in our relations. With the exception of some context between our military in Syria, I cannot even say what kind of
relationship we had.
Since the appointment of the new Secretary of State Mr. Pompeo in April, there was not a single conversation between him and Sergei Lavrov, the head
of the Russian Foreign Ministry for three or four months.
I don't think it's a normal situation between two leading powers, two nuclear superpowers. So, I think that both sides have won, that they have
moved from this dead point in the relation, which is a dangerous thing basically because both the United States and Russia play an extremely
important role in today's world.
And also, if they go to conflict, it will be a world conflict. So, I think it was a victory for both sides.
AMANPOUR: So, there is no doubt that they both play a really important role. I need to ask you, though. Even you, even the Russians must've been
surprised pleasantly, probably, that President Trump seemed to side with President Putin in the matter of the meddling in the US elections, siding
against his own intelligence and against the weight of evidence in the US.
What did you even think when you heard that in the press conference today?
PUSHKOV: Well, I think that it was the position of the president of the United States and I take it at face value. And, basically, that's it.
AMANPOUR: OK. Well, let me put it this way then. After this week, with the NATO summit, and you saw the sort of disarray there, you saw the piling
on Prime Minister May, you saw him calling the EU a foe, many in Russia, even on state television have said, we never believed we could see an
American president doing President Putin's work for him. You know what I mean, politically sort of questioning the alliance.
Do you feel that way?
PUSHKOV: Well, I feel that the question you're asking me is more for a debate in the United States. I'm definitely not the -
AMANPOUR: No, it's Russian state television.
PUSHKOV: (CROSSTALK) President Trump's statements - Russian state television can say a lot of things. I'm just - you're asking me. If
you're asking me, then I'm telling you that whatever Mr. Trump did in Brussels, what kind of relationship he's building with his NATO partners is
something we observe, of course, very closely.
But I will definitely not criticize him for this or support him in this. I think that this is between the United States and its allies, between Trump
and European leaders. And the kind of relationship they are building themselves is the Western alliance affair.
I'm quite ready to talk about the Russian position on numerous issues. But if you ask me whether the Western alliance looked today weaker than it used
to be, well, I think that the Western alliance has lived through difficult times a lot in history. And so, I don't think that NATO will apart, I
don't think the United States will go out - will leave NATO. I don't think that NATO will be dramatically weakened.
I think all this talk about this catastrophic consequences of the present development, I think they're largely overblown. It's something which
probably sells, but it does not correspond to reality.
NATO is a very strong alliance. The United States are very interested in NATO. Europeans are interested in the United States. Those are the
permanent things. And then, there are different fluctuations and personal relationships.
I'm not inclined really to give too much attention to this.
AMANPOUR: Well, that's a very good precis of your analysis on this. But can I ask you one thing? We were all surprised to hear President Putin,
when directly asked, say that, yes, I wanted President Trump to win in the election.
[14:25:07] So, my question to you is, what do you all see as President Trump's ability to maneuver? President Putin is very pragmatic. He's been
around the block for decades. He knows the lay of the land perhaps better than President Trump does. What can you expect in terms of bilateral
relations from the president?
PUSHKOV: Well, I think that they have tried to make a new start in the relationship. As I said, the relationship was at a dead point. The United
States closed a Russian consulate in San Francisco; we closed a consulate in St. Petersburg.
About 100 Russian diplomats were sent away from the United States. We cut the number of American diplomats in the embassy in Russia.
And so, frankly, I was asking myself where it will all go and when will it all end. What kind of de-structuring of our relationship will happen next.
And when something happens, which is bringing some normalcy to the relationship, at least that the presidents are speaking between themselves,
I think it's a very good thing.
So, if you're asking me whether those negotiations will be followed by some practical steps, this I think will become clear when Mr. Trump comes back
to the United States. They're hard to predict. But it changes the atmosphere. It changes the climate.
And that's why I think that we in Russia are quite happy with the summit.
AMANPOUR: All right. We will see where this leads to next. Alexey Pushkov, thank you so much for joining us from Moscow tonight.
And coming up, more analysis of that extraordinary meeting between President Trump and President Putin. I'm joined live by Radek Sikorski.
He's Poland's former foreign minister and an outspoken diplomat who is no stranger to dealing with the US or with Vladimir Putin. That's ahead.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. It was a stunning day here in Helsinki where the US President Donald Trump met with the Russian President
Vladimir Putin. Mr. Trump refused to blame Russia for meddling in the 2016 election, despite the unanimous assessment from his own intelligence
community and the recent indictments in this matter by the Justice Department.
Instead, the US President shocked the world by choosing to side with the Kremlin saying he doesn't quote, "see any reason why Russia would be
responsible for interfering in America's elections." But this isn't the first time Mr. Trump has rebuked allies. Before arriving in Helsinki, he
criticized fellow NATO members for not spending enough on military defense. He singled out Angela Merkel for her policies.
Now, Poland is in a unique position, once a former Soviet satellite state, it is now a fully paid up member of both the EU and NATO and has been for
decades. Many US-led NATO exercises are held in the country. This current government though has a very strained relationship with the EU.
Let's get some perspective now on all of this from my next guest, Radek Sikorski who is the former foreign minister of Poland. He also served as
Poland's Minister of National Defense and is now a senior fellow at Harvard University.
Radek Sikorski, welcome to the program. Thanks for joining me.
RADEK SIKORSKI, FORMER FOREIGN MINISTER OF POLAND: Hello.
AMANPOUR: Yes, we have a nice long delay, so I am going to get straight to it. Tell me, sir, what is your assessment of today's summit and then the
extraordinary press conference as it unfolded?
SIKORSKI: Frankly, I have been troubled because the alliance as it looks from our point of view is consistent in our trust in the United States that
if push comes to shove, if President Putin does to Poland what he has done to Ukraine or what he exercises namely a hybrid war and a tactical nuclear
strike against a NATO ally, we need to be certain that the President of the United States will threaten to intervene and if need be, to nuke him back.
Well, as you mentioned, the contrast, the toxicity of President Trump's relations with allies and his obviously, deferential attitude to President
Putin is making us wonder.
AMANPOUR: Well, you know what, to that point, let me just read you a tweet, which just sounds very similar to what you've just said from the
German Foreign Minister. This is from today, quote, "We can no longer fully rely on the White House," said the Foreign Minister, " ... in order
to recalibrate our partnership with the US, we need a united, confident and sovereign Europe," and all the hashtags there are as you can see them.
I mean, that's pretty dramatic from the German Foreign Minister and of course, it comes on the heels of President Trump singling out the German
Chancellor calling her a captive of Russia, totally controlled by Russia. Explain to me a little bit more about where you think this alliance is
heading and where you think American leadership of the alliance is right now?
SIKORSKI: There were doubts before because President Trump has spoken about NATO with doubt. He then got most of his facts wrong, for example,
it is not true that the United States spends more on Europe's defense than Europe does. It is not true that Europe doesn't contribute enough to the
It is true that we should be spending more on defense, but it's also true that we've helped the United States in its wars - Poland alone sent a
brigade to Iraq and a brigade to Afghanistan where we have no national interest.
We buy F16s, we buy Boeings, and we do it because we believe that when push comes to shove, the US will have our back and now, many people are asking
themselves, "Can we trust someone who trusts President Putin more than he trusts the FBI?" This is very serious because President Trump didn't have
to do it. He could have said, "Well, look the investigation is still continuing."
SIKORSKI: This is very serious because President Trump didn't have to do it. He could have said, "Well, look, the investigation is still
continuing. If it concludes that you Vladimir did interfere in our elections, there will be consequences." But that's not what President
Trump did or said.
So, he is persuading us that on issues such as defending Europe's southern border, we should rely on ourselves, and that he - we have no confidence in
what he will do in a crisis.
AMANPOUR: So, Radek Sikorski, do you even kind of try to figure out why this is happening? Why do you assess that the President of the United
States is behaving in this very, very consistent manner when it comes to poking holes in the Western defenses, in the alliance, and as you say,
acting deferential to rivals like President Putin?
SIKORSKI: Well, in Britain, he managed to offend Her Majesty, the Queen, the Prime Minister, the Mayor of London, the Irish, half of the
Conservative Party. You name it. Very hostile relationship to Germany. It is simply not true that the United States has a huge trade deficit with
Europe when you count both goods and services, plus of course, there are investments.
And I fail to see the strategic logic because if President Trump thinks and there are some reasons for it, that China is becoming a geostrategic rival,
then surely, we, Europeans should be allies in that, too, at least in the trade sphere.
Whereas your President seems to be picking fights with allies, and trusting Russia, a country that has poisoned people in the West that has
contradicted American interests in Syria, that has interfered in your elections, that has done many things that - for example, the US Congress
disapproves of. We are astonished.
AMANPOUR: Let me play you this sound bite because this also was an astonishing comment for the President to make to an American network about
how he considers the EU.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we have a lot of foes. I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade. Now
you wouldn't think of the European Union but they're a foe. Russia is a foe in certain respects. China is a foe economically certainly, they're a
foe. But that doesn't mean they are bad. It doesn't mean anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And then of course today, he did say that he called Russia a competitor but then immediately said, "I meant that as a compliment." It
goes to what you might wonder is a world view. Do you see a world view from the President and is he acting consistent with that world view and
therefore, as you've hinted, you, the ally, certainly, Europe has to take a different position going forward in terms of self-defense and self
SIKORSKI: It does seem to be a nationalistic world view, but it's based on a misreading of the facts and is, I believe contrary to American interests.
I've already said, we buy American, we buy F16s, we buy Boeing because we want to get closer to the United States and there are economic benefits
from having allies. And if you reject allies, if you start offending allies, I mean, to talk about us as a foe is offensive. Eventually, we
will have to draw consequences.
AMANPOUR: And I just want to play you also obviously this is what President Putin said in the press conference and this was about the great
big sort of elephant in the room when it comes to western-Russian relations and that is Ukraine and Crimea. This is what President Putin said about
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (Through a translator): Well, we discussed the internal Ukrainian crisis. We paid special attention to the
bonafide implementation of Minsk agreements by Kiev. At the same time, the United States could be more decisive in merging the Ukrainian leadership
and encourage it to work actively on this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, President Putin as you could see trying to urge President Trump to lay the sort of heavy hand on Ukraine.
AMANPOUR: What do you think President Trump got from that? Were you surprised that Crimea wasn't a big deal? Certainly, not from the press
conference, I don't know whether it was in the meeting.
SIKORSKI: I follow the events in Ukraine very closely, I led an EU delegation there in 2014 which put the stop to the bloodshed on the Maidan
and first of all, President Putin is not telling the truth when he says that it's an internal Ukrainian conflict. It's a Russian hybrid war in
Eastern Ukraine. But what I found even more astonishing was that in the latter part when President Trump was asked about his view of Ukraine, it
was President Putin who stated what the US position was. This is really astonishing.
AMANPOUR: Honestly, I noticed that as well. I found that actually very astonishing. Really very interesting. President Trump didn't get a look
in when it came to talking about Crimea, which is clearly a great interest and important to the Western alliance and to global politics.
Just finally, let me ask you about your own country. It seems that Poland, after a period of massively flourishing democracy is retrenching in certain
aspects whether it's law and order, justice, the press, sort of a rising nationalism there and we see some other so-called Eastern European, former
Eastern European nations, which are now part of the EU, retrenching somewhat. What is going on there? What impact is that going to have
particularly at this very moment?
SIKORSKI: Now, it's not an Eastern European phenomenon, it's part of the tsunami of populism that has taken a root in the United States, in Britain,
in Italy, also in Poland.
Poland is in a difficult spot, because we have a government that is ideologically aligned with the Trump administration, but Poland is in
between Germany, Russia, traditionally in a tough spot geopolitically and Poland doesn't have - doesn't want to have to choose between Europe and the
United States. We want to be good allies of the United States and responsible importing members of the European Union. And we don't want
President Trump to force us into making a choice.
AMANPOUR: Radek Sikorski, thank you so much for joining us tonight with that really great analysis, former Polish Foreign Minister and senior
fellow at Harvard, thanks so much.
Now, Russian media is quoting the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as saying that talks between Presidents Trump and Putin will quote,
"magnificent and better than super," so let's welcome now our next guest to this conversation, Julia Ioffe is in Washington. She is a Russian-American
journalist and here with me again is Arkady Ostrovksy who is the Russian editor for "The Economist" magazine. Thank you both very much indeed. So
look, let's get to the elephant in the room, which we've been trying to dissect and analyze ad nauseam. Let me ask both of you what you made of
that press conference, but particularly all of the sort of fireworks around the allegations of Russian meddling in the US elections.
We've had CNN reporting that the Ukrainian diplomat has told them that after the press conference, he felt like he was exploding and we've had the
State Department official tell CNN as well that this whole issue was frightening. So Julia, you have covered Russia so much, certainly from an
American point of view, what do you make of what happened here today?
JULIA IOFFE, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, it was - I don't know, it's kind of like suspecting somebody is cheating on you and then
finally finding it out like Putin just saying, "Yes, yes. I did want him to win." And Trump saying, "Yes, I believe Putin and not my own
intelligence agencies and my Justice Department or my special counsel." It was such a strange show and it also felt like a show and it also felt like
a lot of it was done for each President's internal base, their internal consumption and it also felt a little bit like they were trolling each
other's enemies and their own enemies as well.
AMANPOUR: And from the perspective where you are in Washington, I mean, what seems to be the take on what happened? I know, there's quite a lot of
criticism from even the President's own party?
IOFFE: Yes, well, the President's own party tends to get mad and tweet and then do nothing about it. I mean, it's quite astonishing how little the
President's own party has done even though we know so much more than we knew about Russian meddling since it was first revealed to us in the DNI
report in January 2017. But I think what's really stunning is that the things Putin let slip like, "I was an intelligence officer, I know how
these things are done. And yes, I did want him to win."
IOFFE: It was a kind the confidence bordering on arrogance on both of their parts, and the kind of love fest, especially after a week of slogging
all of our traditional allies. I think everybody expected it to be bad and when it was bad, it - yes, like the Ukrainian diplomat, people, I think
AMANPOUR: Arkady, we talked about this before we saw the meeting happened, before we saw the press conference about expectations, about who is the
relative winner and loser. Everybody said that Putin just by getting this summit meeting, was getting a lot on the international stage. I mean, what
must you have thought when you were watching the press conference?
ARKADY OSTROVKSY, RUSSIA AND EASTERN EUROPE EDITOR, THE ECONOMIST: So, I think the first thing to say is, if we just step back and we take a deep
breath and we do need to take a deep breath because these are all quite extraordinary times and politicians, we still don't know a lot. Basically,
we don't know what the two men talked about behind closed doors. I think most importantly, we don't know what Vladimir Putin Putin would have
inferred from what Donald Trump said and we don't know what Donald Trump said, so there is a lot of unknowns here.
And I think this is very important because I don't think Putin expected any breakthrough. He was testing Trump out. He would have been making - and
still would be making his analysis on the basis of the way he looked, the way he sounded, the intonation, all of these things.
I think we're also dealing with two separate issues here. And it's very easy to start kind of just - kind of tearing our hair out about what Trump
just did. But basically, I think we need to not fall into his trap and not to conflate two different stories.
AMANPOUR: And the two different stories?
OSTROVKSY: And the two different stories is one, there is a domestic US politics story and what is said about the Mueller investigation and about
the FBI and about the Democratic Party and this is whether we like it or not, it is a prerogative of the President of the United States of America.
He is a politician. This is not something that either his national security adviser and his defense secretary can actually control.
There is a separate story of actually US government interests in Russia and there, we don't know what actually happened and I think it's too early to
say that he is giving anything away. If I was in John Bolton's shoes, or Secretary Mattis' shoes, they had it much clearer just about what they
wanted. They wanted the talks about nuclear controls. They didn't want him obviously to recognize Russia's premier defense, and we don't know if
So, there is a domestic policy story and there is a foreign relations story in the traditional sense of the word. The fact that Trump is racking the
liberal post war or post Cold War order as we know it, we've known it for a long time. This is not news.
AMANPOUR: But is it not news when he does that standing shoulder to shoulder or side by side, somebody who the whole western alliance considers
a destructive force and more than a competitor, a rival and a foe, and when you say it's the prerogative of an American politician, politics stops at
the border in the United States and no one has heard an American politician talk like this on the foreign stage siding with a competitor over his own
intelligence and bringing up, slogging off the Democrats and Hillary Clinton.
OSTROVKSY: Christiane, I agree with you. This is a highly unusual situation where the - what the President says and what the President
represents does not ally with the government. Ultimately, with the civil servants, with the bureaucracy, with what Trump would call the deep state,
but that rift has been there for a very, very long time. It's now being revealed. It's very embarrassing and it's very unpleasant, but it is the
reality we have been dealing with for a long time.
The best the US institutions can do and we still believe and where the economists believe and hopefully, a lot of us believe in the power of the
American institutions is to limit the fallout, the damage from what a politician Donald Trump or anybody else can do to the ultimate interest of
the United States of America as a state.
And this is the rift which is obviously as what has been talked about, it has been revealed it's played to Putin's benefit. There is no doubt about
it. I don't know whether Putin really hopes that Trump would offer to lift sanctions, I don't think so.
And the reason ...
AMANPOUR: And where's the check and balance?
AMANPOUR: Let me just put that to Julia, actually. Julia, do you sitting in Washington feel the same sense of security and comfort that Arkady is
talking about that we've known all of this for a long time. We've known that he is the disruptor and that the institutions are strong enough to
contain and maintain America's vital national interests?
IOFFE: And we'll see about whether the institutions are strong enough. It's only been about a year and a half. I have to agree with both of you
with Arkady that we've known all of these for a long time since before Donald Trump was even elected. To some extent, nothing we heard today was
new from him, or from Vladimir Putin. Yes, this is why he wanted Donald Trump elected because Donald Trump wanted this kind of summit. He wanted
to buddies with Putin and to solve issues, just the two of them all over the world and this is why Putin wanted him to win, and in part, Donald
Trump I think understood that Putin wanted him to win and it's partly why he likes him because he sided with him pretty openly over Hillary Clinton.
But there's something like you said about seeing it or hearing it come out of the mouth of the President of the United States standing shoulder to
shoulder with Vladimir Putin who invades neighboring countries who interfered in our Presidential election, who is guilty of all kinds of
human rights abuses. I mean, nothing was said for example about the Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov who has been on hunger strike for, I
don't know, well over a month now. Nothing was said about human rights, they didn't even - Trump didn't even pretend to care about human rights,
Ukraine, Syria - it was just a photo op. It was just - and I think again, to kind of troll everybody, to make us all talk about what this all meant,
when I think all it meant is we're together against you - against the media, against the elite, against the transatlantic alliance, mano y mano.
AMANPOUR: Wow, it's very, very bleak, isn't it? And you just heard Radek Sikorski, the former Polish Foreign Minister saying, "We don't know whether
we can trust the United States anymore. We may have to go our own way to some extent."
OSTROVKSY: Right, let me be the devil's advocate again.
OSTROVKSY: Because I think this is important actually to stand back and not get sort of all excited because it's too easy, and it's actually not
going to help us. So, two points which I think are important to make, one is so far, what the Department of Justice has come out with is much more
solid, real and concrete that anything Donald Trump has said, there's been 12 people indicted, they were GRU officers, there's been a fantastic work
that's been carried out by the Mueller investigation ...
AMANPOUR: And just to be clear, just to be clear, GRU officers don't act independently. Twelve of them don't act independently.
OSTROVKSY: Well, I hope not. And probably Putin hopes not because this is a military structure, these are military intelligence officers. I think
the Mueller investigation deserves a huge credit for the work they've done. This is very solid. This is concrete and likely a lot of what Trump says,
which is creating noise, so that's point number one.
Point number two is of course, Putin - the Department of Justice also said Putin did not cause the election, at least, as far as we know, did not
cause the election of President Trump. There is an alliance, we don't know about the collusion. It's yet to be proven, and if we believe in
institutions, we should talk about sort of political analysis and all of that.
And thirdly, and this is where unfortunately, Trump actually has got a point, and we have to for the sake of honesty to recognize the fact that
the two military conflicts involving Russian former Republics - the Republic of Georgia, and Ukraine happened under the watch of George W. Bush
and President Obama who has reset relationship with Russia and this is true.
AMANPOUR: That is true, but that doesn't mean they created the wars.
OSTROVKSY: No, it doesn't mean they created the war, but it does mean that we cannot say that the traditional conventional diplomacy, the conventional
state affairs as we've had them until the election of President Trump had prevented Russia from acting as an aggressor towards its former republics.
This doesn't justify anything Trump is saying, it doesn't justify the line he is taking. All we are saying is that we can't say at this point, but
what we have before stopped Russia in doing what it did.
AMANPOUR: Julia, you wanted to jump in there?
IOFFE: Sure, I just wanted to say one more thing about - the point Arkady is making about the investigation and letting American institutions do
their work and strong as they are, and the good work they are doing notwithstanding, what does it mean to the American people and also to Putin
and to the Russian audience watching when the American President asked to say, "Sure, America has made mistakes, are there any Russian mistakes you
can point to?"
And what he does is to castigate the FBI, the American intelligence community, the Democrats, the press - nothing - anything about Russia but
castigating those very independent institutions that are supposed to hold him in check and to see our country through. I think that is really
troubling. We have not seen a US President do that, to attack his own country ...
IOFFE: ... standing shoulder to shoulder with a real foe unlike the European Union.
AMANPOUR: So, let me just ask you both, we've only got about a minute left, where do you think this leaves us now? The big question of course is
what happens after this summit in terms of Ukraine, Crimea, Syria? What do you see ...
OSTROVKSY: I don't think that anything actually so far changes. We will see, the proof will be in the pudding. I mean, it will depend as I said in
- I think everything will depend on what Putin would infer from it and what would actually - but look, Donald Trump's problems are ultimately not in
Russia there at home. Vladimir Putin's problems are ultimately not in America. They are at home. They have to do with the failing institutions
with the economy, with the fighting within - the problems are at home, that both men, both politicians are trying to placate them by doing the foreign
policy let's make America-Russia great again, but the problems lie at home.
AMANPOUR: All right, Julia, I'm sorry, we've run out of time. Julia Ioffe from Washington and Arkady Ostrovsky from here with me in Helsinki.
There's been an incredible day, a roller coaster day, and we will be trying to figure this out for several days and weeks to come. But that is it for
our program. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast, see us online at amanpour.com and you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter.
Thanks for watching and goodbye from Helsinki - the Allas Sea Pool in Helsinki.