President Donald Trump claimed on Tuesday afternoon that he has been incredibly tough on Russia and that everybody knows it.
“Nobody’s been tougher on Russia than I have,” he said at a press conference with three heads of state from Baltic nations when asked how he views his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Everyone agrees when they think about it.”
Trump praised Putin effusively during the 2016 campaign, and his presidential campaign faces multiple investigations into whether Trump associates colluded with Russia in its attempts to influence the election. Since taking office, Trump has dragged his feet on imposing sanctions on Russia in response to its election meddling and, on a phone call with Putin last month, suggested a meeting with, reportedly without first consulting his advisers.
Trump, however, on Tuesday declared that he has been tough on Russia, noting that his efforts to bolster U.S. fossil fuel production has had a negative effect on Russia’s own energy industry. He also pointed out that the U.S. recently expelled 60 Russian diplomats in response to Russia’s alleged role in poisoning a former spy in Britain.
After repeating that “nobody” has been tougher on Russia than he has, Trump also said that he could develop a good relationship with Putin.
“And with that being said, I think I could have a very good relationship with President Putin,” he said. “It’s possible I won’t. And you will know about it, believe me. This room will know about it before I know about it. It’s a real possibility that I could have a good relationship.”
“Getting along with Russia is a good thing,” he continued. “Getting along with China is a good thing. Getting along with other countries, including your three countries, is a good thing, not a bad thing. So I think I could have a very good relationship with Russia and with President Putin. And if I did, that would be a great thing. And there’s also a great possibility that that won’t happen. Who knows?”