U.S. President Trump met yesterday with Russian President Vladimir Putin for over 2 hours on the sidelines of a 2 day G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany during a closely watched bi-lateral meeting between the two world leaders whose countries have renewed cold war tensions following allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election that the U.S. intelligence community has roundly concluded was aimed at disrupting the democratic process and boosting Trump’s chances to become elected to the White House.
Speaking to reporters yesterday following their first bi-lateral meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Russian President Putin and U.S. President Trump agreed to explore building a foundation to better work together and handle cyber threats.
“The two leaders also acknowledged the challenges of cyber threats and interference in the democratic processes of the United States and other countries, and agreed to explore creating a framework around which the two countries can work together to better understand how to deal with these cyber threats both in terms of how these tools are used to in interfere with the internal affairs of countries, but also how these tools are used to threaten infrastructure, how these tools are used from a terrorism standpoint as well” Tillerson said.
U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson explained that President Trump opened his meeting with President Putin by raising the concerns of the American people regarding Russian interference and noted they had a “very robust and lengthy exchange on the subject.”
After pressing Russian President Putin over Russian involvement during the 2016 election, the Russian leader denied such involvement.
The two leaders agreed the Russian interference issue was a “substantial hindrance” in the ability to move the Russian-U.S. relationship forward which comes after the U.S. Senate recently voted overwhelmingly on June 14th to impose a new set of sanctions on Russia for its interference during the 2016 election and past aggressions in Syria and Ukraine.
While visiting Poland last week ahead of his speech to the Polish people, President Trump displayed some ambiguity over the question about whether he believes Russia was truly behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential election and e-mail leaks on WikiLeaks.
“Nobody really knows for sure” President Trump said.
President Trump’s renewed indifference over Russian interference allegations contrasts sharply with the findings from the U.S. intelligence community which stands united in their view that Russia’s intelligence services carried out cyber operations against targets associated with the 2016 U.S. presidential election, including targets associated with both major U.S. political parties, and Russia’s state-run propaganda machine contributed to the influence campaign.
The U.S. Office Of The Director of National Intelligence released a declassified intelligence community assessment on January 6th that assessed Russian President Putin ordered an influence campaign in the 2016 U.S. election.
The intelligence assessment concluded that Russia’s goals were “to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”
Agreement To Ceasefire In Southwest Syria
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reported yesterday that Russian President Putin and U.S. President Trump agreed to implement a ceasefire in southwest Syria between Jordan, the United States, and Russia.
Details of the ceasefire still need to be worked out, although Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov confirmed yesterday that the ceasefire will be entered on July 9th in the de-escalation zone of southwest Syria.
Secretary Tillerson made it clear that the Trump administration sees no long-term role for the Assad family or the Assad regime in the future government of Syria but admitted that how Assad leaves is yet to be determined.
“Even if they work through a successful political process, the international community simply is not going to accept a Syria led by the Assad regime” Secretary Tillerson said.
Secretary Tillerson said that he believes Russia has the same interest that the U.S. does in terms of having Syria become a stable place and unified place and where “we can facilitate a political discussion about their future, including the future leadership of Syria.”
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