President Donald Trump delivered one of his strongest statements on Russia yet during a speech in Warsaw, Poland on Thursday.
The president called on Russia to “cease” its efforts at “destabilizing” nations and discouraged the Kremlin from supporting the governments of Syria and Iran.
“Today, the West is also confronted by the powers that seek to test our will, undermine our confidence, and challenge our interests,” he said. “To meet new forms of aggression, including propaganda, financial crimes, and cyberwarfare, we must adapt our alliance to compete effectively in new ways and on all new battlefields.”
“We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere, and its support for hostile regimes — including Syria and Iran — and to instead join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and in defence of civilisation itself,” Trump continued.
The comments came just a day before Trump’s highly anticipated meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. It will be the first in-person meeting between the two leaders in Trump’s young presidency.
Trump’s speech differed from his comments on Russia at a joint press conference alongside Polish President Andrzej Duda earlier in the day.
Asked by NBC’s Hallie Jackson if he could “definitively say” Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, which multiple US intelligence agencies have concluded, Trump said he thought “it was Russia” but that “it could have been other people in other countries.”
“Could have been a lot of people interfered,” he said. “I’ve said it very simply. I think it could very well have been Russia. But I think it could well have been other countries. I won’t be specific. But I think a lot of people interfere. I think it’s been happening for a long time. It’s been happening for many, many years.”
He also took the opportunity to blast his predecessor, President Barack Obama, for doing “nothing about it” after finding out about the intelligence community’s conclusions in August.
“They say he choked,” Trump said. “I don’t think he choked. I think what happens is he thought Hillary Clinton was going to win the election and he said let’s not do anything about it. Had he thought the other way, he would have done something about it.”
Trump also compared the intelligence communities assessments to claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction prior to US involvement in the Iraq War.
“How everybody was 100% sure that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction,” he said. “Guess what — that led to one big mess. They were wrong. It led to a mess. So it was Russia, and I think it was probably also others.”
Watch Trump’s comments from his Thursday speech:
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