Trump said on Thursday that he would be the “worst enemy” of Russian President Vladimir Putin if US-Russian relations did not work. The statement was given in an interview with the US network CNBC, in which he discussed the negative repercussion of the meeting with Putin this week in Helsinki.
Donald Trump also spared no criticism of his predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama, calling him naive about Russia.
The US president said he “has been tougher with Russia than any president over many, many years,” adding “perhaps the toughest of all time.”
Trump also said he values the opportunity to improve the relationship between the two countries, even under the accusations of “Russian interference” in the 2016 election, which has been denied by the Kremlin.
“Getting closer to President Putin, getting closer to Russia, is positive, not negative,” said the US president.
Donald Trump denied accusations that he was somehow under Putin’s influence, saying he had asked German Chancellor Angela Merkel to stop supporting a new gas pipeline that would carry gas from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea.
“I said, wait a minute, we should be protecting you from Russia and you will pay them billions of dollars? What is that?” said the president, adding that this would not be in any way positive for Russia.
“Now, do you think this is a good thing for Russia? I am giving advice so they [Germany] get out of something that would give them [Russia] billions of dollars,” the US president told CNBC.
Donald Trump also justified himself by reminding the CNBC reporter that he ousted 60 Russian diplomats from the United States in March after a scandal in the UK that accused Russia of poisoning Serguei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, with the nerve agent A234,despite no evidence being put forward that Moscow was responsible.
The interview comes as White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, posted on Twitter that Donald Trump asked National Security adviser John Bolton to invite President Putin to a meeting between the two leaders in Washington later this year.
Donald Trump’s comments come three days after his meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, for which he was criticized by Western media, who expected a tougher stance by the US president. The hardest criticisms came from within the Republican party itself.