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World

In Russia, Officials Declare Putin's Meeting With Trump A Success

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This morning, President Trump is back in the United States, where he is facing continued blowback after yesterday's press conference with Russia's President Vladimir Putin. Now, one of the most striking moments was when President Trump appeared to take Putin's word over the word of U.S. intelligence agencies about Russia's interference in the U.S. election.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: So 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.

GREENE: Now, for saying that, President Trump is facing criticism from both Democrats and Republicans. It is a different story for President Putin in Russia, where officials are declaring this meeting a success for that president. And for more on the view from Moscow, we turn to Dmitri Trenin. He is director of the Moscow Center at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He's a political analyst and historian, and you've heard him on this program.

Welcome back.

DMITRI TRENIN: Hi. Thank you. Glad to be on the program.

GREENE: So President Trump did not really grill Vladimir Putin over Russia's interference in the U.S. election, but Chris Wallace from Fox News certainly did. And Putin again denied any Russian involvement in the U.S. election. Let's just listen to Putin here, speaking through an interpreter.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: (Through interpreter) Russia, as a state, has never interfered with the internal affairs of the United States, let alone its elections.

GREENE: But last week, the Justice Department of the United States charged a dozen Russian intelligence officers with a litany of offenses related to Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee emails, other targets. I mean, can Putin really continue to deny that this happened?

TRENIN: Well, the important thing in Putin's comment that you played was that he denied that Russia, as a state, interfered. And then you have to imagine what Russia as a state means. He does not deny - and that, I think, is very salient in his remarks - that they were Russians who rooted for Donald Trump and who did whatever they thought they had to do to help Donald Trump. And Putin, during the press conference, also said that he favored Donald Trump to win the 2016 election.

So basically, Putin is saying that there is - there may have been a factor where there was interference in the elections. But this is on a par with various individuals, various groups in the United States and elsewhere in the world extending their reach into other countries and helping some worthy cause, in their view, beyond somebody's borders. That's the Putin argument.

GREENE: Was President Putin able, in a way, to manipulate Donald Trump into avoiding any direct criticism about Russian election meddling? Is that the way we should be seeing this?

TRENIN: I don't think that Mr. Putin's power is so vast, so big that he could have manipulated Donald Trump. Donald Trump has his own reasons, I believe, to say things, not to say things. Donald Trump is involved in a cutthroat competition or even worse than that with the bulk of the U.S. political establishment, including in his own party.

What happened in this Helsinki summit - and I think it's very important - is that Putin has not only cast his lot very publicly with Donald Trump but he has involved himself from now on in domestic political strife in the United States. So what I call hybrid war has become even more hybrid with the presidents of the United States and Russia building an alliance against Trump's political foes in the United States.

GREENE: Should people in the United States be worried about that if the president of Russia is trying to get involved in domestic politics in the United States?

TRENIN: Well, I think that it's something that makes the situation more complex. And certainly, I think that the hybrid war is a very new and very dangerous kind of confrontation.

GREENE: You're saying hybrid war. What makes it dangerous?

TRENIN: The thing that distinguishes the hybrid war from the Cold War to which it's often compared is that we now live in a borderless world. In the Cold War days, we had the Berlin Wall; we had the Iron Curtain. And essentially, it was static. This new conflict is so much more dynamic. And it's fought, you know, without much respect for borders. Borders have almost, in many ways, ceased to exist. And this is - well, this makes it more dangerous in my view.

GREENE: For a Russian president to be getting involved in trying to go after the political enemies of a U.S. president, you're saying, is dangerous.

TRENIN: When we start playing in other nations' political struggles, things become more complex. And the likelihood of conflict being exacerbated and escalated to a much higher level than before is getting greater.

GREENE: Dmitri Trenin is the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center - talking to us about the implications of the summit in Helsinki yesterday.

Always great to talk to you. Thanks so much.

TRENIN: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.