The Helsinki Summit
by Jack Conner
On July 16, 2018, in Helsinki, Finland, two of the most powerful men in the world, the president of the USA, Donald Trump, and the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, met one on one to discuss a variety of topics, ranging from the conflicts in Syria to the annexation of Crimea. In the weeks before the meeting, however, the American public was mainly focused on one topic of discussion in particular. The alleged involvement of Russia in the 2016 election, during which Trump was elected. The issue of Russian involvement in America’s elections is the subject of an ongoing investigation by Robert Mueller, one that has resulted in the indictment and guilty pleas of Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn. Because of this investigation, 65% of the American people (according to an NBC/WSJ poll) believe Russia interfered with the election. Which is 12% more than last year, showing that the Mueller investigation is having a profound impact on the public’s ideas about Trump and Russia.
Because so many people believe Russia had a role in the election’s outcome, Trump was expected to address this at the summit. Therefore, the summit was important to people of both parties; Democrats hoped the meeting would go terribly, so that Trump would look weak and possibly guilty of collusion, while Republicans hoped the meeting would be excellent, so that Trump’s public image would improve. As for Mueller, the summit could provide more evidence as to whether there was collusion between Trump and Russia.
The summit took place at 6:30 A.M., lasted for only two hours, and had Trump, Putin, and interpreters present. A press conference was held afterwards so that the public could be informed of the meeting’s discussions. People turned on their TVs to see what had happened, and whether Trump had addressed the election meddling problem. The answer was yes. However, instead of telling Putin that he suspected the election had been hacked, Trump told reporters that he believed Putin’s words more than his country’s own intelligence officers, saying “I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be”. In addition to disavowing the US’ intelligence operatives, Trump agreed with Putin that Russian agents should be allowed to help US agents interrogate the 12 Russians who were accused of hacking the DNC.
This sparked outrage from both parties, with critics calling the president “weak”, and others accusing Trump of collusion. Before the summit, Trump’s approval rating sat at 43%, while afterwards, it dropped to 38%. On the other side of the summit, Putin emerged victorious, having shown his influence over Trump and therefore America. Putin managed to make the US president look foolish and cowardly, proving to the rest of the world that his country can get away with seemingly anything. Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or independent voter, there is no denying that the Helsinki Summit was a key turning point in the Mueller investigation, as well as a major factor in the recent decline of Trump’s approval rating. However, despite the summit turning out horribly for Trump, this was indeed a historic meeting, and did see the first sign of positive US-Russia relations in almost a century. This hopefully indicates a more peaceful future for us all, Russian or American, and could set the precedent for more peaceful talks between the two superpowers.