Trump-Putin Helsinki summit, Russian perspective

The Putin-Trump Helsinki Summit

The 16 July Putin-Trump summit in Helsinki is by far the leading news in Russia this week. From a Russian perspective the summit is considered a big success as it confirmed the status of Russia as a global power on eyes-level with the USA, even if the concrete output of the meeting was minor. All eyes are now directed towards Washington where the summit seems to have caused a political turmoil, also against the background of the indictment of 12 GRU officers and the detention of the Russian citizen Maria Butina on charges of espionage. Indeed the view of the Russian MFA on both cases is that they were timed and are aimed at undermining the outcome of the Helsinki summit. Therefore, the Russian ambassador to the US Antonov [Antonov Anatoliy Ivanovich, 15.05.1955, Ambassador of Russia to the United States  – appointed 21.08.2017] called to wait until “the toxic dust of Russian non-acceptance in Washington has settled” to see whether and how far the US side would be ready to implement “the verbal agreements and understanding” that were reached in Finland.

Russia’s foreign interference

Shortly before the summit in Helsinki the Russian citizen Maria Butina [Butina Maria Valeryevna, 10.11.1988] was arrested in the United States. The investigation determined that, from as early as 2015, Butina worked at the direction of a high-level Russian official by developing “relationships with US persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation”. She has been indicted by a federal grand jury on two charges: engaging in conspiracy against the US and acting as an unregistered foreign agent of the Russian government.

The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), with which Butina is suspected to be linked, refrained from commenting on the arrest. The Russian MFA, however, is actively involved on the case, also launching a “#FreeMariaButina” campaign in social networks.

Unlike in the case of Butina, there was hardly any official reaction to the indictment of the 12 officers of Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff -GRU (save from allegations that their indictment aimed at undermining the Helsinki summit). Putin himself in Helsinki claimed that he “does not know about it yet” and has to find out what the US side is talking about.

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