Expert wonders if Putin exploited Trump in Helsinki summit

Penn's William Burke-White says Putin knew exactly what he was doing.

Steve Tawa
July 16, 2018 - 1:30 pm
American president Donald Trump (left) and Russian president Vladimir Putin (right) during the meeting. July 16, 2018. Finland, Helsinki.

Dmitry Azarov/Kommersant/Sipa USA

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A foreign policy expert wonders whether Russian President Vladimir Putin took advantage of President Donald Trump during their personal and private meeting — with only translators present. 

University of Pennsylvania professor William Burke-White, the director of the Perry World House on campus, says Putin, who is always "exceptionally well prepared," knew exactly what he was doing. Putin is a seasoned politician, unlike Trump, he said. "The danger," according to Burke-White, is that Trump "may have been woefully unprepared, and may have framed issues or revealed things that were counterproductive to U.S. national security."

He said, "The scariest part of this meeting was that Trump and Putin sat down for almost two hours with no one else in the room."

Burke-White says Putin would "look for every opportunity to exploit Trump," and it seemed as though Trump was touting their "interpersonal relationship."

"Both sides in the press conference wanted to reaffirm that they could have a good personal relationship, although that's a long way from saying there's good relations between the US and Russia today.

Trump defended Russia over claims of meddling the 2016 presidential election, and Putin reiterated that Russia had never interfered.

"At the same time, we've seen a series of indictments from the special counsel," Burke-White said. "Is it possible that Putin didn't know about it? Maybe. But he knows about everything that happens in Russia."

He also says "it's rather strange" how effusive Trump was in praising Putin during a handshake photo opportunity at their summit, yet the U.S. president has been so critical of other established world leaders.