US President Donald Trump refused to say what his response would be to a recent wave of Russian military provocations in a testy exchange with
CBS News’ chief White House correspondent Major Garrett.
Garrett asked Trump at a press conference on Wednesday about three recent incidents involving the Russian military: a Russian spy ship loitering outside of a US submarine base, Russia developing and deploying treaty-violating Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces cruise missiles, and a Russian Su-24 attack aircraft buzzing a US destroyer in the Black Sea.
As Garrett detailed each of the three incidents, Trump interjected “Not good!”
Trump then interrupted Garrett to say that the reporter would criticise Trump if he was too tough on Russia, and that Russian president Vladimir Putin assumes that he and Trump will not be able to make a deal because it is “politically unpopular” in the US to do so, given the scandal surrounding former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s inappropriate contact with Russia.
When Garrett then asked Trump directly if he thought Putin was testing him with the military incidents, Trump said “No, I don’t think so. I think Putin assumes he can’t make a deal with me… I don’t know if we’re going to make a deal with Russia.”
“I wanna do the right thing for the American people, and to be honest, secondarily, I want to do the right thing for the people of the world,” Trump continued, stressing that Russia and the US have reasons to get along, and the US would benefit from improved relations between the two world powers.
“Nuclear holocaust would be like no other. [Russia is] a very powerful nuclear country and so are we. If we have a good relationship with Russia, believe me, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing,” said Trump
Garrett again tried to focus Trump on the specific events he listed, saying “Can we conclude there will be no response to these particular provocations?”
“I’m not going to tell you anything about what I do. I don’t talk about a military response,” said Trump, who then reiterated campaign points that he doesn’t make a practice of announcing his intentions militarily.
“I don’t have to tell you what I’m going to do in North Korea. I don’t have to tell you what I’m going to do with Iran. You know why? Because they shouldn’t know,” said Trump.
“When you ask me what I’m going to do with the ship, the Russian ship, I’m not to tell you…. but hopefully I won’t have to do anything,” said Trump.
Navy officials have told Business Insider that they respect Russia’s right to sail in international waters, and that they have no planned response to the spy ship off the coast of the US’s main East Coast submarine base. The US carries out similar data-gathering and surveillance missions near Russia frequently.
On the issue of Russia’s deployment of INF treaty-violating missiles, several GOP senators have called for the US to respond with missile deployments to Europe.
The US ship buzzed by Russian attack aircraft has not seen a response from the Trump administration or anyone beyond naval officials. A similar incident occurred in April of 2016 and the Obama administration’s response was muted.
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