President Donald Trump

Trump on Russia: In His Own Words

July 13, 2018
RM Staff

This evolving compilation of observations and ideas about Russia by U.S. President Donald Trump is part of Russia Matters’ “Competing Views on Russia” series, where we share prominent Americans’ takes on U.S.-Russian relations, Russia itself and America’s policies toward it. It has been updated ahead of Trump’s first official bilateral summit with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

With a few exceptions, this compilation covers a period beginning when Trump was competing to become the Republican candidate in the 2016 presidential race.

The entries below are divided into categories similar to those in Russia Matters’ news and analysis digests, reflecting the most pertinent topic areas for U.S.-Russian relations broadly and for drivers of the two countries’ policies toward one another.

Direct quotes are in quotation marks. An earlier version of this compilation was posted July 20, 2017.

I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda

Nuclear security and safety:

  • August 2017: “We must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us, or anywhere in the world, for that matter,” Trump said. (New York Times, 08.21.17)
  • June 2018: "I did it because nuclear [security] is always No. 1 to me," Trump said of his meeting with Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12. (USA Today, 06.13.18)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • September 2017: “It is time for North Korea to realize that the denuclearization is its only acceptable future. The United Nations Security Council recently held two unanimous 15-to-0 votes adopting hard-hitting resolutions against North Korea, and I want to thank China and Russia for joining the vote to impose sanctions, along with all of the other members of the Security Council,” Trump told the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 19. (The Washington Post, 09.19.17)
  • November 2017: “We have a big problem with North Korea. And China is helping us. And because of the lack of a relationship that we have with Russia, because of this artificial thing that's happening with this Democratic-inspired thing, we could really be helped a lot, tremendously, with Russia having to do with North Korea. …  I'm doing very well with respect to China. They've cut off financing; they've cut off bank lines; they've cut off lots of oil and lots of other things, lots of trade. And it's having a big impact. But Russia, on the other hand, may be making up the difference. And if they are, that's not a good thing… I did not speak to President Putin about it because we just had these little segments that we were talking about Syria. But President Putin would be tremendously helpful—tremendously helpful—if I had Russia and China helping us with North Korea, I think that would solve it.” (White House.Gov, 11.11.17)
  • December 2017: Trump says he has sought Russia's help in resolving the crisis over North Korea's nuclear weapons program but is not satisfied with Russia's efforts. Nonetheless, Trump said he’d had a "great" phone conversation with Putin in which they discussed the North Korean crisis. (RFE/RL, 12.16.17)
  • January 2018: “Russia is not helping us at all with North Korea,” Trump told Reuters. “What China is helping us with, Russia is denting. In other words, Russia is making up for some of what China is doing.” (Reuters, 01.17.18)

Iran’s nuclear program and related issues:

  • February 2017: Trump says it's not fair "the haters" tie him to Putin when Obama was the one who struck a deal with Iran. Trump tweeted Feb. 6: "I don't know Putin, have no deals in Russia and the haters are going crazy—yet Obama can make a deal with Iran, #1 in terror, no problem!" (AP, 02.07.17)
  • April 2018: Trump said Putin and Iranian leaders were responsible for backing Assad just hours after the Syrian government reportedly carried out a deadly chemical attack on a rebel-held area. “Big price … to pay,” Trump tweeted. (RollCall, 04.06.18)

Military issues, including NATO-Russia relations:

  • April 2016: An interview is published in which Trump says: “NATO's not really set up for terrorism. NATO is set up for the Soviet Union more than anything else. And now you don't have the Soviet Union.” (The Washington Post, 04.02.16)
  • May 2016: As a presidential hopeful, Trump described potentially dangerous maneuvers by Russian aircraft over U.S. ships as a “lack of respect” for America under Obama and said that if diplomacy fails they’ve got to be shot down “at a certain point.” (Newsweek, 05.03.16)
  • June 2016: At a campaign stop, Trump claimed he would be “the slowest with the [nuclear] button," adding, "but I would be the one who doesn't have to use it because they're going to respect us again. Nobody respects us now." (Washington Examiner, 06.29.16)
  • July 2016: Asked about Russia’s threatening activities, which have unnerved the small Baltic States that are among the more recent entrants into NATO, Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing whether those nations “have fulfilled their obligations to us.” (New York Times, 07.20.16)
  • September 2016:  Trump was asked to comment on reports that then-President Obama was considering changing longstanding U.S. nuclear policy by declaring a “No First Use” policy. “I would like everybody to end it, just get rid of it. But I would certainly not do first strike. I think that once the nuclear alternative happens, it’s over,” he said. “At the same time, we have to be prepared. I can’t take anything off the table.” (The Washington Post, 09.28.16)
  • January 2017: Trump called NATO “obsolete because it wasn’t taking care of terror” and said member organizations aren’t paying their “fair share.” (AP, 01.15.17)
  • April 2017: Trump backtracked on his NATO comment. “I said it [NATO] was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete. If other countries pay their fair share instead of relying on the United States to make up the difference, we will all be much more secure and our partnership will be made that much stronger,” he said. (AP, 04.13.17, Bloomberg, 04.12.17)
  • May 2017: Trump delivered a speech in Brussels to NATO leaders in which he did not explicitly back Article 5, the collective security provision of the NATO treaty, and he accused some members of not paying their fair share. “This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States.” (New York Times, 05.25.17)
  • July 2017: In a speech in Warsaw, Poland, Trump vowed to confront “new forms of aggression” targeting the West and called for Moscow to stop fomenting unrest around the world. He warned that Western interests were being tested by “propaganda, financial crimes and cyber warfare,” forcing NATO to adapt. “We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere, and its support for hostile regimes including Syria and Iran, and to join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and in defense of civilization itself,” he said. His speech included an explicit commitment to Article 5: “The United States has demonstrated not merely with words, but with its actions, that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the mutual defense commitment,” he said. Trump also described Poland as an exemplary ally in building defenses to counter Russian “destabilizing behavior.” (Bloomberg, 07.06.17, AP, 07.06.17, Reuters, 07.06.15)
    • Trump said he was willing to invite Putin to the White House, but only at the “right time.” “Folks, we have perhaps the second most powerful nuclear country in the world. If you don't have dialogue, you have to be fools,” he said. (CNN, 07.13.17, Reuters, 07.13.17)
    • "We are a tremendously powerful nuclear power, and so are they,” Trump said of Russia. “It doesn't make sense not to have some kind of a relationship." (RFE/RL, 07.12.17)
  • July 2018: Trump said that an upcoming summit with Putin might be easier than a gathering with NATO allies. "So I have NATO, I have the U.K.—which is somewhat in turmoil," Trump told reporters. "And I have Putin. Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all. Who would think? Who would think?" (The Washington Post, 07.10.18)
    • "We're protecting Germany. We're protecting France. We're protecting everybody," Donald Trump said during the NATO summit, adding that "it's very unfair to our country. It's very unfair to our taxpayers." Trump told allied leaders during the summit that if they didn't immediately meet the goal of spending 2% of GDP on defense, "I'll do my own thing." (Wall Street Journal, 07.12.18, RFE/RL, 07.12.18)

Missile defense:

  • January 2018: Asked whether he thought the U.S. needs more missile defense systems, Trump said, “Yes, yes I do. We’re ordering more missile defense and we’re ordering more missile offense also.” (Reuters, 01.17.18)

Nuclear arms control:

  • October 2016: “We're in very serious trouble, because we have a country with tremendous numbers of nuclear warheads—1,800, by the way—where they [Russians] expanded and we didn't, 1,800 nuclear warheads,” Trump said at the final presidential debate. (Real Clear Politics, 10.19.16)
  • December 2016: Trump tweeted: "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes." "Let it be an arms race," Trump said when asked to clarify the Twitter post. "We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all." (Twitter, 12.22.16, Reuters, 12.23.16)
  • January 2017: Trump said: "They have sanctions on Russia—let's see if we can make some good deals with Russia. For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that's part of it." Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov questioned whether Trump had really suggested he would be ready to drop U.S. sanctions on Moscow in exchange for nuclear arms cuts, but said Moscow wanted to start talks with the United States on nuclear weapons and on the balance of military power between the two former Cold War foes anyway. Lavrov said that specific topics of discussion could include hypersonic weapons, the missile shield the United States is building in Europe, space weapons and nuclear testing. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia never raises the issue of sanctions in talks with its foreign counterparts and doesn’t intend to do so because it’s not up to Moscow to scrap them. (The Washington Post, 01.17.17, The Moscow Times, 01.17.17, AP, 01.16.17, Reuters, 01.17.17, RFE/RL, 01.17.17)
  • February 2017: "We've fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity. … It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack,” Trump told Reuters on Feb. 23. (Reuters, 02.23.17)
  • Trump said the New START treaty is "a one-sided deal like all other deals we make. It’s a one-sided deal. It gave them things that we should have never allowed. … Just another bad deal that the country made, whether it’s START, whether it’s the Iran deal, which is one of the bad deals ever made. Our country only made bad deals, we don’t make good deals. So we’re going to start making good deals.” (Reuters, 02.24.17)
    • Commenting on allegations that Russia has violated the INF treaty: “To me, it’s a big deal… If I meet [Putin], if and when we meet, I would bring it up. It’s a big deal. Because it’s a violation of an agreement that we have.” (Reuters, 02.24.17)
  • March 2018: "If you want to have an arms race we can do that, but I'll win,” Trump reportedly said to Putin during a March 21 call congratulating the Russian president on his election victory. (The Moscow Times, 03.30.18,, 03.30.18)
  • July 2018: Donald Trump said it would be "tremendous" if the United States and Russia could make headway on nuclear nonproliferation. (RFE/RL, 07.13.18)


  • April 2016: In a much-anticipated foreign policy speech, Trump said: “Russia, for instance, has also seen the horror of Islamic terrorism. I believe an easing of tensions and improved relations with Russia—from a position of strength—is possible. Common sense says this cycle of hostility must end. Some say the Russians won't be reasonable. I intend to find out. If we can't make a good deal for America, then we will quickly walk from the table.” (Washington Examiner, 04.27.17)
  • March-October 2016: As a candidate, Trump repeatedly said that he saw Russia as a potential ally in the fight against terrorism, in particular ISIS. “Wouldn't it be nice if actually we could get along with Russia, we could get along with foreign countries, instead of spending trillions and trillions of dollars?,” he said during a Republican debate in March 2016. “Wouldn't it be nice if we got along with the world, and maybe Russia could help us in our quest to get rid of ISIS?” (New York Times, 03.04.16)
    • “I think we have to get rid of ISIS before we get rid of Assad… The other thing you have is, is Assad is backed by a country that we made a power, O.K.? Iran. And Russia, O.K.? So why didn't we do something about that before we made Iran rich, and before we gave them this tremendous power that they now have, that they didn't have and shouldn't have had?” (New York Times, 07.21.16)
    • Trump seemed to back the idea of closer cooperation with Russia in the battle against Islamic State and al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Nusra Front. "Wouldn't it be nice if we got together with Russia and knocked the hell out of ISIS?" he said. (Reuters, 07.25.16)
    • Trump said: "If we had a relationship with Russia, wouldn't it be wonderful if we could work on it together and knock the hell out of ISIS? Wouldn't it be wonderful?" (RFE/RL, 09.08.16)
    • “I think it would be great if we got along with Russia because we could fight ISIS together, as an example,” Trump said at the second presidential debate Oct. 9. “Iran now and Russia are now against us. So she [Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton] wants to fight. She wants to fight for rebels. There’s only one problem. You don’t even know who the rebels are. So what’s the purpose?” Trump said. “I don’t like Assad at all, but Assad is killing ISIS. Russia is killing ISIS. And Iran is killing ISIS. And those three have now lined up because of our weak foreign policy,” he said. (New York Times, 10.10.16)
  • November 2016: As president-elect, Trump reiterated his message about cooperating with the Russians on terror: “I'd say this in front of thousands of people … wouldn't it be nice if we actually got along with Russia, wouldn't it be nice if we went after ISIS together, which is, by the way, aside from being dangerous, it's very expensive, and ISIS shouldn't have been even allowed to form, and the people will stand up and give me a massive hand.” (New York Times, 11.23.16)
  • December 2016: Following the assassination of Russia’s ambassador in Ankara, Putin vowed to step up the fight against terrorism. Trump called the shooting “a violation of all rules of civilized order.” (Bloomberg, 12.20.16) 
  • February 2017: In an interview with Fox News, Trump said, “I say it’s better to get along with Russia than not, and if Russia helps us in the fight against ISIS—which is a major fight—and the Islamic terrorism all over the world, that’s a good thing.” (The Moscow Times, 02.06.17)
  • May 2017: In a speech on global terrorism he gave while visiting Saudi Arabia, Trump said: “Few nations have been spared the violent reach of terrorism. America has suffered repeated barbaric attacks… The nations of Europe have also endured unspeakable horror. So too have the nations of Africa and South America. India, Russia, China and Australia have all been victims. But in sheer numbers, the deadliest toll has been exacted on the innocent people of Arab, Muslim and Middle Eastern nations.” (The Washington Post, 05.21.17)
  • December 2017: Trump said that U.S. intelligence passed on to Russian authorities by the CIA foiled a terrorist attack that could have killed thousands of people in Russia. ''That's a great thing,'' he said, ''and the way it's supposed to work.'' (New York Times, 12.18.17)

Conflict in Syria:

  • October 2016: Trump said that Russia "broke the deal" with the United States to revive a cease-fire in Syria because Moscow has no respect for U.S. Democratic Party leaders. "Russia broke the deal, and now they're shooting, they're bombing," Trump said. “It should end and it should end fast. It's very sad." (RFE/RL, 10.05.16)
  • November 2016: Trump suggested a sharper focus on fighting Islamic State, or ISIS, in Syria, rather than on ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “My attitude was you’re fighting Syria, Syria is fighting ISIS, and you have to get rid of ISIS. Russia is now totally aligned with Syria, and now you have Iran, which is becoming powerful, because of us, is aligned with Syria. … Now we’re backing rebels against Syria, and we have no idea who these people are.” If the U.S. attacks Assad, Trump said, “We end up fighting Russia.” (Wall Street Journal, 11.11.16, New York Times, 11.11.16)
  • President-elect Trump said: “I had to listen to [Senator] Lindsey Graham talk about, you know, attacking Syria and attacking, you know, and it's like you're now attacking Russia, you're attacking Iran, you're attacking. And what are we getting? We're getting—and what are we getting? And I have some very definitive, I have some very strong ideas on Syria.” (New York Times, 11.23.16)
  • April 2017: Following Syria’s suspected use of chemical weapons, Trump spoke about Russia’s role in Syria: “I think it’s a very sad day for Russia because they’re aligned, and in this case, all information points to Syria that they did this. Why they did this, who knows? That’s a level—first of all, they weren’t supposed to have this. Obama said, ‘It’s all cleared away.’ Well, that’s another thing he didn’t do. This was a big moment, a big moment in the Middle East was when Obama drew the red line in the sand, and it was immediately violated, and did nothing. That was a big moment in the Middle East. I know you’re not going to report it, but—that was a big, bad moment in the Middle East.” (New York Times, 04.05.17)
    • Following his decision to launch a barrage of missiles at a Syrian airfield over Assad’s suspected use of chemical weapons, Trump said in an interview with the Fox Business Network: “I see them using gas ... we have to do something.” Trump called Assad “an animal” and “truly an evil person,” and he said that it is now up to Putin to withdraw his support for the Syrian regime. Trump also provided additional insight into his reasoning: “What I did should have been done by the Obama Administration a long time before I did it, and you would have had a much better—I think Syria would be a lot better off right now than it has been.” At the same time, Trump said he wouldn’t intervene militarily against Assad unless the Syrian leader resorts to using weapons of mass destruction again. “Are we going to get involved with Syria? No,” Trump said. (The Washington Post, 04.12.17, The Washington Post, 04.12.17, AP, 04.13.17)
    • Trump said he thinks it's "unlikely" Russia had no advance knowledge of Assad's chemical weapons attack on civilians. (Bloomberg, 04.12.17)
  • May 2017: The White House issued a statement on May 2, after Trump and Putin had their first phone call since the U.S. strike in Syria: "President Trump and President Putin agreed that the suffering in Syria has gone on for far too long and that all parties must do all they can to end the violence." (The Washington Post, 05.02.17)
  • July 2017: Trump touted a Syria cease-fire deal that came out of his first face-to-face meeting with Putin at the G20 summit in Hamburg. “We negotiated a ceasefire in parts of Syria which will save lives. Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!” Trump tweeted. (CNN, 07.08.17, Twitter, 07.09.17)
  • Trump said July 12 that the cease-fire deal brokered with the Russians in Syria is an example of the success he has achieved with Putin so far: "One thing we did is we had a cease-fire in a major part of Syria where there was tremendous bedlam and tremendous killing… The cease-fire has held for four days… That's because President Putin and President Trump made the deal." (RFE/RL, 07.12.17)
  • Trump said that he was in talks with Russia to extend the cease-fire across more territory in Syria. “By having some commutations and dialogue, we are able to have a ceasefire and it is going to go on for a while and frankly, we are working on a second cease-fire in a very rough part of Syria,” he said at a news conference in Paris. (CNN, 07.13.17)
  • November 2017: Trump said of the U.S.-Russian joint statement on Syria: “We agreed very quickly… We can save many, many, many lives by making a deal with Russia having to do with Syria, and then ultimately getting Syria solved and getting Ukraine solved and doing other things, having a good relationship with Russia is a great, great thing.” In a stream of Twitter posts Trump repeated the sentiment, adding: “I want to solve North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, terrorism and Russia can greatly help!" (RFE/RL, 11.12.17, White House.Gov, 11.11.17)
  • Putin and Trump reiterated their commitment to securing a settlement within the parameters of the U.N.-backed peace process in Geneva, as well as to ensuring a Syria free of “malign intervention”— a reference to Iran’s extensive influence there. “We’re talking very strongly about bringing peace for Syria,” Trump said. (The Washington Post, 11.21.17)
  • April 2018: Trump tweeted: “Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad.” (Twitter, 04.08.18)
    • Trump publicly warned Russia on April 11 of imminent military action in Syria over a chemical weapons attack. “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and 'smart!'," Trump tweeted. "You shouldn't be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!" Trump said, referring to Moscow's alliance with Bashar Assad. On April 12, however, he played down the possibility of an imminent military response: “Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!” (RFE/RL, 04.10.18, The Moscow Times, 04.11.18, RFE/RL, 04.11.18, The Moscow Times, 04.10.18)
    • When announcing the April 13 strikes on Syria, Trump said the main purpose of the attacks was to establish "a strong deterrent" against chemical weapons use. Trump called on both Russia and Iran to stop supporting Assad's "murderous" and "terrible regime." (The Washington Post, 04.15.18, New York Times, 04.14.18, RFE/RL, 04.14.18)

Cyber security:

  • July 2017: After his first meeting with Putin Trump tweeted: “Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded and safe.” (Reuters, 07.09.17)
    • Twelve hours later Trump clarified, again via tweet: “The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn't mean I think it can happen. It can't-but a ceasefire [in Syria] can,& did!" Trump's top aides—including then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin—had touted the agreement to cooperate with Russia on cybersecurity as one of the key wins that came out of Trump's meeting with Putin on the sidelines of the G20 in Hamburg. (CNN, 07.10.17)

Elections interference:

  • July 2016: After Wikileaks released some 20,000 emails from a breach of the Democratic National Convention’s computers, which the DNC blamed on Russia, Trump said: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails [of Hillary Clinton] that are missing. … They probably have them. I’d like to have them released.” He later said he was being “sarcastic,” but repeatedly said that allegations about his close ties to Russia were untrue and were being spread by Democrats angry over their candidate’s loss. On July 27 Trump tweeted: “Funny how the failing @nytimes is pushing Dems narrative that Russia is working for me because Putin said ‘Trump is a genius.’ America 1st!” (The Washington Post, 06.01.17, AP, 07.28.16)
    • "I have nothing to with Russia. I have nothing to do with Russia—for anything,” Trump said at a news conference. “What do I have to do with Russia? You know the closest I came to Russia, I bought a house a number of years ago in Palm Beach, Florida. Palm Beach is a very expensive place. There was a man who went bankrupt and I bought the house for $40 million and I sold it to a Russian for $100 million including brokerage commissions. So I sold it. So I bought it for 40, I sold it for 100 to a Russian. That was a number of years ago. I guess probably I sell condos to Russians, okay?” (The Washington Post, 07.28.16)
  • September 2016: Trump told RT, a Russian state-funded television network, that "it's probably unlikely" that Russia is trying to influence the U.S. election. Asked about reports that U.S. intelligence agencies are investigating whether Russia is trying to disrupt the election through cyberattacks, Trump said, “I think maybe the Democrats are putting that out… If they are doing something, I hope that somebody's going to be able to find out, so they can end it, because that would not be appropriate at all." (RFE/RL, 09.09.16)
  • October 2016: Speaking at a presidential debate—two days after U.S. intelligence agencies said they were “confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of emails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations”—Trump said: “I notice anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians are—she [Hillary Clinton] doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking. But they always blame Russia.” (The Washington Post, 10.09.16, 06.01.17)
  • December 2016: As president-elect, Trump said in an interview that he did not believe American intelligence assessments that Russia had intervened to help his candidacy: "I don't believe they interfered. That became a laughing point—not a talking point, a laughing point. Any time I do something, they say, 'Oh, Russia interfered.’ It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey. I think the Democrats are putting it out because they suffered one of the greatest defeats in the history of politics in this country,” Trump said. (The Washington Post, 12.09.16, The Washington Post, 12.09.16, The Washington Post, 12.09.16. New York Times, 12.11.16, New York Times, 12.11.16)
    • Later Trump tweeted: “If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?” he tweeted. (New York Times, 12.15.16)
    • Hours after the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 suspected Russian spies and issued sweeping new sanctions against Moscow on Dec. 29, Trump said it was “time for the country to move on to bigger and better things” but also promised to study the related allegations more closely: “[I]n the interest of our country and its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation,” the president-elect said in a statement. When Putin surprised U.S. officials the following day by saying he would not retaliate with a tit-for-tat expulsions, Trump tweeted: “Great move on the delay” and, in reference to the Russian president, “I always knew he was very smart.” (The Washington Post, 12.29.16, The Washington Post, 02.09.17)
  • January 2017: A declassified version of a report by the U.S. Intelligence Community said that “Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election,” that “Putin and the Russian Government [had] developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump” and that they used various means—including cyber and disinformation—in pursuit of their goals. After getting briefed on the classified version of the report, Trump acknowledged that Russia may have been behind the election-related hacks, but offered no indication that he had accepted the conclusions that Moscow sought to help him win: "While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations, including the Democrat[ic] National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election, including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines," Trump said in a statement after the meeting. (The Washington Post, 01.06.17, CNN, 02.07.17)
    • An unverified dossier accusing Russia of gathering sexually explicit material to blackmail Trump was published online by Buzzfeed. Trump vigorously denied the swirl of allegations, calling it “fake news” and praising Putin for saying it was false. Trump said that “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me” and criticized intelligence agencies, saying they “should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public.” “One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?” Trump said. (RFE/RL, 01.07.17, The Moscow Times, 01.09.17, RFE/RL, 01.07.17)
    • Trump conceded for the first time that Russia was behind the hacking of Democrats’ computer systems during the presidential election. “I think it was Russia,” Trump said at a press conference. He vowed to take aggressive action to stop cyberattacks and said his administration would produce a full report on hacking within the first 90 days of his presidency, accusing “my political opponents and a failed spy” of making “phony allegations” against him. (Bloomberg, 01.13.17, RFE/RL, 01.07.17, The Moscow Times, 01.09.17, RFE/RL, 01.07.17)
    • Trump called for a congressional investigation of NBC News for reporting the contents of a classified intelligence report about alleged Russian computer hacking targeting U.S. elections and criticized media for suggesting he agrees with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has maintained he didn't receive hacked information from the Russian government. (RFE/RL, 01.06.17, The Moscow Times, 01.04.17, Bloomberg, 01.03.17, Wall Street Journal, 01.05.17, RFE/RL, 01.06.17)
  • February 2017: Trump says it's not fair "the haters" tie him to Putin when former U.S. President Barack Obama was the one who struck a deal with Iran. Trump tweeted Feb. 6: "I don't know Putin, have no deals in Russia and the haters are going crazy—yet Obama can make a deal with Iran, #1 in terror, no problem!" About a week later, Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, stepped down amid allegations that he had met with Russia’s ambassador before Trump’s inauguration and discussed ending sanctions against Moscow. A day after Flynn resigned, Trump defended him on Twitter, saying he was “a wonderful man” who was “treated very, very unfairly by the media.” Later Trump said Flynn "was just doing his job." (AP, 02.07.17, CNN, 02.15.17, Newsweek, 05.18.17, Bloomberg, 02.16.17)
    • In a string of tweets Trump responded to a news report that his campaign aides and associates “had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before” the November 2016 election: “Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?,” one of them said. "This Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton's losing campaign," Trump wrote in another.  (Bloomberg, 02.15.17, Reuters, 02.15.17)
    • "The whole Russia thing--that’s a ruse," Trump said Feb. 16 at a news conference at the White House. "I didn’t do anything for Russia." (Bloomberg, 02.16.17)
  • March 2017: As FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee and confirmed the bureau is probing potential ties between Trump’s associates and Russia during the 2016 campaign, Trump tweeted: “Comey refuses to deny he briefed President Obama on calls made by Michael Flynn to Russia.” Trump also said that claims that his campaign colluded with Russia were no more than a political ploy by disenchanted Democrats. Former director of national intelligence “James Clapper and others stated that there is no evidence Potus colluded with Russia. This story is FAKE NEWS,” Trump tweeted on March 20. (Bloomberg, 03.20.17)
    • In a series of tweets Trump said the committee should be investigating his Democrat opponent Hillary Clinton's ties to the Kremlin. "Trump Russia story is a hoax," he tweeted. “Why isn’t the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill & Hillary deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia, Russian speech.” Trump called the probe a “witch hunt” by the media and Democrats. (AP, 03.28.17, The Washington Post, 03.28.17, New York Times, 03.31.17)
  • April 2017: Trump said that “the Russia story is a total hoax” and that Flynn had been vetted by the Obama administration. He also resumed publicly casting doubt on U.S. intelligence assessments that Moscow had hacked the emails of Democratic officials to meddle with the 2016 presidential election. “Knowing something about hacking, if you don't catch a hacker, okay, in the act, it's very hard to say who did the hacking. With that being said, I'll go along with Russia. Could've been China, could've been a lot of different groups.” (New York Times, 04.05.17, Politifact, 05.02.17, Reuters, 05.01.17, CBS News, 04.30.17)
  • May 2017: Trump tweeted: "The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?" The next day he fired FBI director Comey and later told NBC: "When I decided to [fire Comey], I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story." The day after the firing he met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in the Oval Office. According to the White House, the meeting took place because “Putin did specifically ask” for it during an earlier telephone conversation with Trump. During the meeting the U.S. president reportedly called Comey “crazy, a real nut job,” adding: “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” After reports surfaced that he may have revealed classified information about intelligence sources during the meeting, Trump said he had the “absolute right” to share security information on terrorism and aviation safety with the Russians and the White House defended the conversation as “wholly appropriate.” (NBC, 06.07.17, Politico, 05.10.17, CNN, 05.17.17, New York Times, 05.19.17)
  • June 2017: Trump on June 22 called Russia's meddling in the 2016 election "all a big Dem HOAX" and accused Obama of not doing enough last year to "stop" Russian interference. (The Washington Post, 06.22.17, Bloomberg, 06.23.17)
  • July 2017: Ahead of his first face-to-face meeting with Putin Trump said he believes Russia meddled in the 2016 election but maintained that the U.S. may never know for sure. “I think it was Russia, but I think it was probably other people and/or countries,” Trump told reporters in Warsaw. Asked whether he planned to discuss election meddling with Putin, Trump demurred, and said only ''three or four'' of the United States' 17 intelligence agencies had concluded that Russia interfered in the presidential election. (Bloomberg, 07.06.17, Bloomberg, 07.06.17, New York Times, 07.07.17)
    • Following the meeting with Putin Trump’s official Twitter account retweeted a State Department tweet: “Sec. Tillerson: @POTUS and Russian President Putin’s meeting was constructive. This is an important relationship.” Trump also tweeted that he “strongly pressed” Putin “twice” on claims of Russian interference in the 2016 election: “He vehemently denied it. I've already given my opinion.....” (Twitter, 07.07.17, Twitter, 07.09.17)
    • After the New York Times reported that Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump, Jr., had met during the presidential campaign with a Russian lawyer after learning that the Russian government would supply information damaging to Hillary Clinton, the president jumped to his son’s defense, tweeting: “My son, Donald, … is a great person who loves our country!” and “This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!” Trump later said on several occasions that the information on offer was standard political opposition research and “anyone” would have taken the meeting. (Twitter, 07.11.17, Twitter, 07.12.17, Twitter, 07.12.17)
    • Returning from the G20 summit, Trump said: “I'm not saying it wasn't Russia. … [W]e have to protect ourselves no matter who it is. You know, China is very good at this. I hate to say it, North Korea is very good at this. Look what they did to Sony Studios. … [W]e're dealing with highly sophisticated people.” (CNN, 07.13.17)
    • The topic of the younger Trump’s meeting resurfaced in the president’s description of his second, dinnertime conversation with Putin on the sidelines of the G20 meeting, in an interview with the New York Times: “I actually talked about Russian adoption with him [Putin], which is interesting because it was a part of the conversation that Don had in that meeting. As I’ve said—most other people, you know, when they call up and say, ‘By the way, we have information on your opponent,’ I think most politicians—I was just with a lot of people, they said [inaudible], ‘Who wouldn’t have taken a meeting like that?’” Trump said he hadn’t known about the meeting at the time it took place and called it “very unimportant”; he also said his promise shortly before the scheduled meeting to reveal damaging information against Hillary Clinton was simply part and parcel of his campaign. When a reporter asked him, repeatedly, to describe what he had thought of the offer of Russian government help to his campaign as described in the emails made public by his son, Trump said: “Well, I thought originally it might have had to do something with the payment by Russia of the D.N.C. Somewhere I heard that. Like, it was an illegal act done by the D.N.C., or the Democrats. That’s what I had heard. … [W]hen you look at the kind of stuff that came out, that was, that was some pretty horrific things came out of that. But that’s what I had heard. But I don’t know what it means. All I know is this: When somebody calls up and they say, ‘We have infor—’ Look what they did to me with Russia, and it was totally phony stuff.” (New York Times, 07.19.17)
    • In reference to the unverified dossier on Trump’s Russia ties compiled by a former British spy, Trump said: “That was totally made-up stuff, and in fact, that guy’s being sued by somebody. … I have witnesses, because I went there [to Russia] with a group of people. You know, I went there with Phil Ruffin… Keith [Schiller] was there. He said, ‘What kind of crap is this?’ I went there for one day for the Miss Universe contest, I turned around, I went back. It was so disgraceful.” (New York Times, 07.19.17)
    • Trump further discussed the dossier in the context of former FBI director James Comey and his firing: “When he [Comey] brought it to me, I said this is really made-up junk. I didn’t think about anything. I just thought about, man, this is such a phony deal.” Asked why he thought Comey shared the dossier with him, Trump said: “I think he shared it so that I would … think he had it out there.” “As leverage,” one of the reporters interviewing the president asked. “Yeah, I think so. In retrospect. In retrospect. You know, when he wrote me the letter, he said, ‘You have every right to fire me,’ blah blah blah. Right? He said, ‘You have every right to fire me.’ I said, that’s a very strange—you know, over the years, I’ve hired a lot of people, I’ve fired a lot of people. Nobody has ever written me a letter back that you have every right to fire me.” Trump once again denied that he had asked Comey to go easy on his ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn: “[Comey] said I said ‘hope’—‘I hope you can treat Flynn good’ or something like that. I didn’t say anything. … Even if I did, that’s not—other people go a step further. I could have ended the whole thing just by saying—they say it can’t be obstruction because you can say: ‘It’s ended. It’s over. Period.’” Trump seemed to be implying that he could have shut down the investigation into Flynn outright. (New York Times, 07.19.17)
    • Regarding the Justice Department’s ongoing Russia probe led by Robert Mueller Trump said: “Nobody has contacted me about anything. … Because I have done nothing wrong. A special counsel should never have been appointed in this case. … The Russian investigation—it’s not an investigation, it’s not on me—you know, they’re looking at a lot of things.” Asked whether he would consider a probe by Mueller into his and his family’s finances a breach of the investigation’s mandate or a “red line” that shouldn’t be crossed, Trump replied: “I would say yeah. I would say yes. … I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows? I don’t make money from Russia. … I don’t have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia. I don’t. They said I made money from Russia. I don’t. It’s not my thing. … Over the years, I’ve looked at maybe doing a deal in Russia, but I never did one. Other than I held the Miss Universe pageant there eight, nine years [ago]… Look, this is about Russia. So I think if he [Mueller] wants to go, my finances are extremely good, my company is an unbelievably successful company. And actually, when I do my filings, people say, ‘Man.’ People have no idea how successful this is. It’s a great company. But I don’t even think about the company anymore. … I have no income from Russia. I don’t do business with Russia. The gentleman that you mentioned [presumably Aras Agalarov], with his son, two nice people. But basically, they brought the Miss Universe pageant to Russia to open up, you know, one of their jobs. Perhaps the convention center where it was held. It was a nice evening, and I left. … It wasn’t [even in] Moscow, it was outside of Moscow.” (New York Times, 07.19.17)
    • Regarding Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who heads the Justice Department and recused himself from Russia-related investigations due to undisclosed meetings he had had with Russian officials during the presidential campaign, when he was a high-level member of Trump’s team, Trump said: “Look, Sessions gets the job. Right after he gets the job, he recuses himself. … Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else. … It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president.” Trump also said that Mueller had interviewed for the attorney general’s job: “Talk about conflicts [of interest].” (New York Times, 07.19.17)
    • Trump on July 25 blasted the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in last year's U.S. election and raised questions about Ukrainian support for Hillary Clinton. (Ukrinform, 07.25.17, Reuters, 07.25.17)
  • August 2017: Trump said that Russia did not help him win the 2016 election and accused Democrats of pushing what he asserted was a "hoax" and "totally made-up Russia story." He also said he hopes for a “truly honest” outcome from the Russia investigation. (RFE/RL, 08.04.17, AP, 08.03.17)
  • September 2017: Trump said on Twitter: "The Russia hoax continues, now it's ads on Facebook." (The Washington Post, 09.22.17)
  • October 2017: Trump alleged that Hillary Clinton colluded with Russia while claiming it’s “commonly agreed” that his associates didn’t work with the Kremlin to tilt the election in his favor. (Politico, 10.27.17)
  • Trump downplayed the significance of Russian-bought Facebook ads intended to influence last year’s campaign and divide Americans. “Keep hearing about ‘tiny’ amount of money spent on Facebook ads,” Trump said on Twitter. (The Washington Post, 10.21.17)
  • November 2017: Trump, asked about a meeting in which Papadopoulos suggested arranging a meeting with Putin, told reporters Nov. 3: “I don’t remember much about that meeting. It was a very unimportant meeting.” (Reuters, 11.03.17)
  • Trump said: “You have President Putin very strongly, vehemently, says he had nothing to do with that [meddling]. Now, you're not going to get into an argument. You're going to start talking about Syria and the Ukraine… Putin said he did not do what they said he did… He just—every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn't do that.’ And I believe—I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it. But he says, ‘I didn't do that.’ I think he's very insulted by it, if you want to know the truth.” (White House.Gov, 11.11.17)
    • Trump said “there was no collusion” between his campaign and Russia and called the so-called Steele dossier “phony.” (The Washington Post, 11.13.17)
    • Trump said: “I believe very much in our intelligence agencies,” but he didn’t want to “stand and start arguing” with Putin during their meeting, adding that it was “very important” to get along with Russia, China and other countries to address global problems. (Bloomberg, 11.11.17)
  • December 2017: “And by the way, I didn't deal with Russia. I won because I was a better candidate by a lot,” Trump said. “There was tremendous collusion on behalf of the Russians and the Democrats. There was no collusion with respect to my campaign,” he said. (New York Times, 12.28.17)
  • January 2018: Trump said “the only collusion is with Hillary Clinton and the FBI/Russia” and suggested Clinton had a financial arrangement with the Russian government. (New York Post, 01.05.18, Politico, 01.11.18)
  • “We're going to be very careful. We're going to be very, very, careful about Russia—and about anybody else, by the way,” Trump said when asked whether and what concrete steps the administration is taking to make sure Russia doesn't interfere in the 2018 elections. “We are looking at all sorts of failsafes and we are going to make sure that no country including Russia can have anything to do with the result of the midterms or any other election.” (Wall Street Journal, 01.12.18)
  • Trump said he “would love to” talk under oath to special counsel Robert Mueller. (Bloomberg, 01.24.18)
  • February 2018: Trump tweeted: “I never said Russia did not meddle in the election, I said ‘it may be Russia, or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer.’ The Russian ‘hoax’ was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia - it never did!” (Twitter, 02.18.18)
  • After the indictment of 13 Russian nationals in connection with election interference, Trump tweeted that ''the results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong—no collusion!'' He later asked in a tweet why Obama didn’t “do something about Russian meddling?” and suggested the Justice Department look into this. Trump has argued that he has been tougher on Russia than Obama was. (Bloomberg, 02.19.18, Wall Street Journal, 02.21.18, New York Times, 02.17.18, The Washington Post, 02.22.18)
  • March 2018: Trump said he’s not worried that Moscow will meddle in the upcoming midterm elections because the U.S. will take steps to prevent it. “Whatever they do, we’ll counteract it very strongly,” he said. (AP, 03.06.18)
  • April 2018: According to James Comey’s memos, Trump said he was going to sue Christopher Steele, the British ex-spy who compiled an unverified dossier alleging links between Russia and Trump and his associates. The memos also say Trump claimed that Putin told him Russia had “some of the most beautiful hookers in the world.” A March 2017 memo states that Trump told Comey he had “a letter from the largest law firm in DC saying he has gotten no income from Russia.” Trump has repeatedly called Comey a liar and disputed the contents of the memos. (Bloomberg, 04.19.18, Bloomberg, 04.19.18, Financial Times, 04.20.18)
  • Trump twice gave Comey an alibi for why a salacious report about the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow couldn’t be true, according to Comey’s memos: He never spent the night in Russia during that trip. However, Trump accused Comey of lying in the memos detailing their conversations. "I went to Russia for a day or so," Trump said in an interview on Fox & Friends. "Of course I stayed there." (Bloomberg, 04.24.18, The Hill, 04.26.18)
  • Trump said the hands-off approach he has taken to the U.S. Justice Department given the probe into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia could change, comments that could reignite concerns that he might move to impede the investigation. (Reuters, 04.26.18)
  • May 2018:  Trump said his lawyers had advised him against talking to special counsel Robert Mueller, even though he would like to speak with him as part of the Russia probe. (Reuters, 05.04.18) 
  • Trump sought to undercut a central focus of the Russia investigation, tweeting that he didn't fire former FBI director James Comey to shut down the probe. "Not that it matters, but I never fired James Comey because of Russia!" Trump wrote. (Wall Street Journal, 05.31.18)
  • June 2018: Trump blamed Attorney General Jeff Sessions for the ongoing investigation into Russian election interference, suggesting in a tweet that the probe could have been shut down by now if Sessions had not recused himself. Trump also said that a special counsel was not needed to investigate Russian election interference and asserted unprecedented bias among the lawyers conducting what he termed a "Witch Hunt Hoax." (The Washington Post, 06.07.18, The Washington Post, 06.05.18) 
  • Trump said Russia continues to deny interference in the U.S. presidential election shortly before the White House and Kremlin simultaneously announced his first bilateral summit with Putin. “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!” Trump said on Twitter. (Bloomberg, 06.28.18)
  • ​​​​​​​July 2018:  Trump pledged that he will "of course" raise the issue of Russia's meddling in the 2016 election at his summit with Vladimir Putin, but he insisted there was little he could do if—as expected—Putin denies that Russia interfered. "Look, he may. What am I going to do? He may deny it," Trump said. "All I can do is say, 'Did you?' And, 'Don't do it again.' But he may deny it. You'll be the first to know." (The Washington Post, 07.12.18)

Energy exports:

  • July 2017: Speaking in Poland, Trump pitched U.S. natural gas exports to leaders of 12 Central and Eastern European nations and vowed never to use U.S. energy exports to coerce other nations, a thinly veiled reference to Russia. (CNBC, 07.06.17)
  • January 2018: "I am for massive oil and gas and everything else, and a lot of energy,” Trump said. "Putin can't love that. I am for the strongest military that the United States ever had. Putin can't love that." (The Washington Post, 01.11.18)
  • April 2018:  Trump said: “We're now exporting oil and gas. This is not something that Russia wanted." Trump added that "just about everyone agrees" getting along with Russia is a good thing "except very stupid people." (CNN, 04.03.18)
  • July 2018: Trump began his visit to Brussels by accusing Germany of being "captive to Russia" because of its support for Nord Stream 2, an offshore pipeline that would bring gas directly from Russia via the Baltic Sea. Trump called Germany's support for the project "very sad," and said, "We're supposed to be guarding against Russia, and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia." Trump said Germany “will be getting 60 to 70 percent of their energy from Russia.” Trump also criticized Germany's military spending as "inappropriate." (Wall Street Journal, 07.11.18, NYT, 07.11.18, Wall Street Journal, 07.11.18)

Bilateral economic ties:

  • No significant comments.

U.S. general policies toward Russia and other bilateral issues:

  • March 2014: In a series of interviews, Donald Trump singled out Russia as the United States' "biggest problem" and greatest geopolitical foe. In the interviews reviewed by CNN from March 2014, which aired on NBC News and Fox News, Trump goes as far as to suggest imposing sanctions to hurt Russia economically and then later says he supports such sanctions. Trump also expressed his agreement with Mitt Romney's 2012 assessment that Russia is the United States' number one "geopolitical foe." (CNN, 01.17.17)
  • March 2016: As a candidate, Trump said he would keep sanctions imposed on Russia over Ukraine, even though “I don't see other people doing much about it.” (The Washington Post, 03.22.16)
  • July 2016: “I would love to have a good relationship where Russia and I, instead of, and us, and the U.S., instead of fighting each other we got along. It would be wonderful if we had good relationships with Russia so that we don't have to go through all of the drama,” Trump said. (New York Times, 07.21.16)
  • September 2016: “Only the out-of-touch media elites think the biggest problems facing America—you know this, this is what they talk about—facing American society today is that there are 11 million illegal immigrants who don't have legal status. And, they also think the biggest thing, and you know this, it's not nuclear, and it's not ISIS, it's not Russia, it's not China, it's global warming,” Trump said in a speech on immigration. (Cox Media, 09.01.16)
  • October 2016: “I know nothing about Russia. I know—I know about Russia, but I know nothing about the inner workings of Russia. I don’t deal there. I have no businesses there. I have no loans from Russia,” Trump said at a presidential debate. (New York Times, 10.10.16)
  • November 2016: In their first direct phone call, lasting 30 minutes, Trump and Putin reportedly discussed the “highly dissatisfactory” state of U.S.-Russian relations, as well as the need to take steps to “normalize” ties and undertake “constructive cooperation on a wide range of issues,” including the fight against international terrorism and extremism, according to an official statement released by the Kremlin. The two men also reportedly discussed the armed crisis in Syria. Trump's office later said that Putin had called to "offer his congratulations" and that they had discussed shared threats and challenges, "strategic economic issues" and the long-term relationship between the two nations. Trump told Putin "that he is very much looking forward to having a strong and enduring relationship with Russia and the People of Russia." The Kremlin said Trump and Putin both agreed to remain in regular telephone contact, and begin planning for a future meeting in person. (The Moscow Times, 11.15.16, Reuters, 11.15.16, Wall Street Journal, 11.11.16, The Moscow Times, 11.14.16, The Washington Post, 11.14.16, Wall Street Journal, 11.17.16, Bloomberg, 11.17.16)
    • When asked if he will have a reset with Russia, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said: “I wouldn't use that term after what happened, you know, previously. I think—I would love to be able to get along with Russia and I think they'd like to be able to get along with us. It's in our mutual interest.” (New York Times, 11.23.16)
  • December 2016: As president-elect, Trump expressed his appreciation to Putin after the Russian president said, as a gesture to the incoming administration, he would not expel American diplomats in response to new U.S. sanctions. “Great move on delay (by V. Putin),” Trump tweeted. “I always knew he was very smart!” (The Washington Post, 12.30.16)
  • January 2017: U.S. sanctions would be kept in place against Russia "at least for a period of time," Trump said in an interview, adding that he would consider lifting them once Putin proves he can be an ally. "If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?" Trump said. (RFE/RL, 01.15.17)
    • Trump said it remains "very early to talk about" lifting U.S. sanctions against Russia, a step he has signaled he would consider. "We will see what happens," he said, adding he hopes to have "a great relationship" with Putin. The comments came ahead of Trump’s first scheduled phone call with the Russian leader. (Bloomberg, 01.27.17, Bloomberg, 01.27.17, Bloomberg, 01.23.17)
  • February 2017: Trump denied his administration is rolling back sanctions on Russia after the Treasury Department announced a change to penalties enacted by former President Obama in response to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. “I haven't eased anything,” Trump told reporters. (The Hill, 02.02.17,RFE/RL, 02.02.17)
  • “Probably Putin assumes that he’s not going to be able to make a deal with me because it’s politically not popular for me to make a deal,” Trump said. (The Washington Post, 02.16.17)
  • Trump made no references to Russia in his Feb. 28 address to Congress. (White House, 02.28.17)
  • March 2017: Trump again accused Obama of being too weak on Russia, saying Moscow “got stronger and stronger” during his tenure. “For eight years Russia 'ran over' President Obama, got stronger and stronger, picked-off Crimea and added missiles. Weak!” Trump tweeted. (The Hill, 03.07.17)
  • April 2017: Trump acknowledged that relations between the U.S. and Russia “may be at an all-time low,” but said he remained optimistic that the U.S. and its allies “could get along with Russia.” “Based on everything I’m hearing, things went pretty well, maybe better than anticipated,” he said of Rex Tillerson’s Moscow visit, in which the then secretary of state and his Russian counterpart vented deep disagreements during hours of talks. “Things will work out fine between the U.S.A. and Russia,” Trump tweeted. “At the right time everyone will come to their senses & there will be lasting peace!” (Bloomberg, 04.12.17)
  • July 2017: Trump was asked whether he backed bills in Congress that would impose new sanctions on Russia over its alleged interference in the 2016 election. His administration has opposed a new round of sanctions. “Well, I'm not talking about new, I'm talking about the old sanctions,” Trump said. “We have very heavy sanctions on Russia right now. I would not and have never even thought about taking them off. Somebody said, Donald Trump wants to—I don't want to take them off.” (Bloomberg, 07.11.17)
  • In a lengthy interview with the New York Times, Trump also mentioned:
    • Allegations of the Clintons’ relationship with Russia: “Hillary did the reset. Somebody was saying today, and then I read, where Hillary Clinton was dying to get back with Russia. Her husband made a speech, got half a million bucks [from Russia] while she was secretary of state. She did the uranium deal, which is a horrible thing, while she was secretary of state, and got a lot of money.” (New York Times, 07.19.17)
    • Russia’s history of war: Napoleon’s “one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they [the French] froze to death. How many times has Russia been saved by the weather? … Same thing happened to Hitler. Not for that reason, though. Hitler wanted to consolidate. He was all set to walk in. But he wanted to consolidate, and it went and dropped to 35 degrees below zero, and that was the end of that army. … But the Russians have great fighters in the cold. They use the cold to their advantage. I mean, they’ve won five wars where the armies that went against them froze to death. … It’s pretty amazing.” (New York Times, 07.19.17)
    • Trump claimed that Hillary Clinton had been against sanctioning Russia: “She was opposing sanctions. She was totally opposed to any sanctions for Russia.” When a journalist asked, to clarify, whether this was “post-Crimea,” Trump replied: “I don’t really know. … But in that time.” (New York Times, 07.19.17)
  • ​​​​​​August 2017: Trump signed legislation imposing sanctions on Russia and limiting his own authority to lift them, but asserted that the measure included ''clearly unconstitutional provisions'' and left open the possibility that he might choose not to enforce them as lawmakers intended. Trump protested that Congress was improperly interfering with his power to set foreign policy, in this case by imposing waiting periods before he can suspend or remove sanctions. ''Yet despite its problems,'' Trump added, ''I am signing this bill for the sake of national unity.” (Reuters, 08.03.17, New York Times, 08.02.17, CNN, 08.02.17, AP, 08.02.17) 
  • Trump said Washington's relationship with Russia is at an "an all-time and very dangerous low," and blamed Congress for the situation. (Reuters, 08.03.17)
  • Asked how he felt about Putin’s order to greatly reduce the U.S. diplomatic mission in Russia, Trump said, “I want to thank him because we're trying to cut down our payroll.” “As far as I'm concerned, I'm very thankful that he let go a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll. We're going to save a lot of money.” (The Moscow Times, 08.11.17, New York Times, 08.10.17)
  • October 2017: Trump is claiming that an Obama-era uranium deal with Russia is a scandal on par with Watergate. The deal involves the purchase of American uranium mines by a Russian-backed company in 2010. Trump says that sale—reached while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state—was “so underhanded” and that it’s “Watergate modern age.” (AP, 10.25.17)
  • Trump said that Russia was having a negative impact on the U.S. (Reuters, 10.26.17)
  • November 2017: “We may have a meeting with Putin,” Trump said. “And, again, Putin is very important because they can help us with North Korea. They can help us with Syria. We have to talk about Ukraine.” (The Washington Post, 11.03.17)
  • “I feel that having Russia in a friendly posture, as opposed to always fighting with them, is an asset, not a liability,” Trump told reporters. (Bloomberg, 11.12.17)
  • “We had a great call with President Putin,” Trump said. He noted that they covered topics ranging from “peace in Syria,” North Korea and Ukraine. (The Moscow Times, 11.22.17)
  • December 2017: Trump earlier this year offered to sell the two diplomatic compounds the U.S. seized from Russia in 2016 outside of Washington D.C. and New York. "I told Rex [Tillerson] we're not giving the real estate back to the Russians," Trump said at one point. Later, Trump marveled at the potential of the two sites and asked, "Should we sell this off and keep the money?" (The Moscow Times, 12.15.17, The Washington Post, 12.14.17)
  • January 2018: Trump reportedly expressed his interest in establishing talks between the U.S. and Russia in a bid to restore relations. When asked by TASS if he wished to build a dialogue with Russia, Trump replied, "We hope so." (Newsweek, 01.26.18)
  • February 2018: Trump tweeted: “I have been much tougher on Russia than Obama, just look at the facts. Total Fake News!” (Twitter, 02.20.18)
  • Trump tweeted: “Thank you to @foxandfriends for the great timeline on all of the failures the Obama Administration had against Russia, including Crimea, Syria and so much more. We are now starting to win again!” (Twitter, 02.20.18)
  • March 2018: Trump congratulated Putin on his reelection and said they would likely meet soon, even as relations between the two countries grow more strained over allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. electoral system. "I congratulated him on the victory, the electoral victory," Trump told reporters. (The Moscow Times, 03.21.18)
    • In response to criticism of the congratulations Trump tweeted: “I called President Putin of Russia to congratulate him on his election victory (in past, Obama called him also). The Fake News Media is crazed because they wanted me to excoriate him. They are wrong! Getting along with Russia (and others) is a good thing, not a bad thing.......” (Twitter, 03.21.18)
  • April 2018: Trump declared "nobody has been tougher on Russia" during a meeting with the heads of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. "Getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing," Trump said. "Now maybe we will and maybe we won't. Probably nobody's been tougher on Russia than Donald Trump. If you take a look at our military strength now, which probably wouldn't have happened if the opponent had won... We're now exporting oil and gas. This is not something that Russia wanted." Trump added that "just about everyone agrees" getting along with Russia is a good thing "except very stupid people." (CNN, 04.03.18)
  • Trump tweeted: “Much of the bad blood with Russia is caused by the Fake & Corrupt Russia Investigation, headed up by the all Democrat loyalists, or people that worked for Obama. Mueller is most conflicted of all (except Rosenstein who signed FISA & Comey letter). No Collusion, so they go crazy!” (Twitter, 04.11.18)
  • Trump tweeted: “Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War. There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?” (Twitter, 04.11.18)
  • Trump tweeted: “Russia and China are playing the Currency Devaluation game as the U.S. keeps raising interest rates. Not acceptable!” (Twitter, 04.16.18)
  • June 2018: Trump said that Russia should also be attending a Group of Seven nations summit. "You know, whether you like it or not, and it may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run and the G7, which used to be the G8, they threw Russia out, they can let Russia come back in, because we should have Russia at the negotiating table. I think it's better to have Russia in than to have Russia out. Because just like North Korea, just like somebody else, it's much better if we get along with them… I think it would be good for Russia. I think it would be good for the United States. I think it would be good for all of the countries of the current G7. I think the G8 would be better. I think having Russia back in would be a positive thing.” (The Moscow Times, 06.08.18, The Washington Post, 06.15.18, The Washington Post, 06.10.18)
  • Trump expressed enthusiasm for his upcoming summit with Putin. "I've said it from day one, getting along with Russia and with China and with everybody is a very good thing," Trump said. "It's good for the world, it's good for us, it's good for everybody." He said they would discuss Syria, Ukraine and "many other subjects." (The Washington Post, 06.28.18)

II.  Russia’s domestic developments, history and personalities

Russia’s domestic developments:

  • No significant comments.

Defense and aerospace:

  • April 2016: As a candidate, Trump said: “I would love to see a nuclear-free world. Will that happen? Chances are extremely small that will happen. Look, Russia right now is spending a tremendous amount of money on re-doing their entire nuclear arsenal.” (The Washington Post, 04.04.16)
  • June 2016: Trump said: "Frankly, Putin has built up their military again and again and again. Their military is much stronger. He's doing nuclear, we're not doing anything. Our nuclear is old and tired and his nuclear is tippy-top from what I hear. Better be careful, folks, okay? You better be careful." (CNN, 06.15.16)
  • September 2016: During the presidential debates, Trump said the U.S. needs to upgrade its nuclear arsenal as part of having a strong military. “Russia has been expanding their—they have a much newer capability than we do. We have not been updating from the new standpoint,” Trump said. (New York Times, 09.26.16)
  • October 2016: At the second presidential debate on Oct. 9, Trump said, “Russia is new in terms of nuclear. We are old. We’re tired. We’re exhausted in terms of nuclear. A very bad thing.” (New York Times, 10.10.16)

Vladimir Putin:

  • For Trump’s comments on Putin prior to March 2016, including mention of a present sent to him by Putin during the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, see this impressive round-up by CNN.
  • March 2016: During a Republican presidential debate, Trump said of the Russian president: “As far as Putin is concerned, I think Putin has been a very strong leader for Russia. I think he has been a lot stronger than our leader, that I can tell you. … I don’t say that in a good way or a bad way. I say it as a fact.” (CNN, 03.15.16)
    • Trump said at a rally that the media falsely claims he admires Putin: “Putin said good things about me. He said, ‘he’s a leader and there’s no question about it, he’s a genius.’ So they all said, the media, they said—you saw it on the debate—they said, ‘you admire President Putin.’ I said, I don’t admire him. I said he was a strong leader, which he is. I mean, he might be bad, he might be good. But he’s a strong leader.” (CNN, March 2017)
    • Speaking at the Old Post Office, Trump said, “Putin says very nice things about me. I think that's very nice and it has no effect on me other than I think it's very nice.” (CNN, March 2017)
  • April 2016: Trump said that Putin had “said Trump is brilliant and Trump is going to be the new leader and all that. And some of these clowns said, you should repudiate Putin. I said, why would I repudiate him? … Wouldn't it be nice if we actually could get along with Russia? … I feel that I will get along well with Putin.” (The Washington Post, 04.02.16)
  • "I'm saying that I'd possibly have a good relationship. He's been very nice to me," Trump told Bill O’Reilly. "If we can make a great deal for our country and get along with Russia that would be a tremendous thing. I would love to try it." (CNN, March 2017)
  • May 2016: Asked if he’s ever spoken to Putin, Trump gave a “no comment” to Bret Baier of Fox News. When Baier pressed him, he said: “Yeah, but I don’t want to comment because, let’s assume I did. Perhaps it was personal. You know, I don’t want to hurt his confidence. But I know Russia well. I had a major event in Russia two or three years ago—Miss Universe contest—which is a big, incredible event, and incredible success. I got to meet a lot of people. And you know what? They want to be friendly with the United States.” Later that month, Trump again called Putin “a strong leader” at a rally. (CNN, March 2017)
  • June 2016: At a rally in California, Trump mocked those who wanted him to “disavow” Putin’s praise of him. “Putin said, ‘Donald Trump is a genius, he’s going to be the next great leader of the United States.’ No, no, think of it. They wanted me to disavow what he said. How dare you call me a genius? How dare you call me a genius, Vladimir? Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along with Russia? Wouldn’t that be good?" (CNN, March 2017)
  • July 2016: As questions cropped up around Russia’s suspected involvement in hacking Democratic Party computers, Trump tweeted: “The new joke in town is that Russia leaked the disastrous DNC e-mails, which should never have been written (stupid), because Putin likes me.” Within the next few days, in several settings, Trump backtracked (not for the first time) on earlier claims that he’s had “a relationship” with Putin: “I never met Putin,” Trump said at a press conference. “I don’t know who Putin is. He said one nice thing about me. He said I'm a genius. I said thank you very much to the newspaper and that was the end of it. I never met Putin.” He also said, "I would treat Vladimir Putin firmly, but there's nothing I can think of that I'd rather do than have Russia friendly, as opposed to the way they are right now, so that we can go and knock out ISIS with other people.” In the same news conference, Trump called on Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails. “I have no relationship with Putin,” Trump said in an interview with ABC News. “He said very nice things about me, but I have no relationship with him.” (CNN, 07.31.16, CNN, March 2017)
  • September 2016: At a forum with Hillary Clinton, Trump said Putin “has been a leader far more than our president [Obama] has been.” Trump has said that Clinton would be unable to stand up to tough adversaries like Putin. “Hillary likes to play tough with Russia. Putin looks at her and he laughs,” Trump said. “If he [Putin] says great things about me, I'm going to say great things about him. I've already said, he is really very much of a leader. I mean, you can say, 'Oh, isn't that a terrible thing'—the man has very strong control over a country,” Trump said. “Now, it's a very different system, and I don't happen to like the system. But certainly, in that system, he's been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader.” (RFE/RL, 09.07.16, The Washington Post, 09.08.16, CNN, March 2017)
  • October 2016: Trump backed off from praising Putin, saying at a campaign stop that he was unsure of his relationship with the Russian president: “I don't love [Putin], I don't hate [him]. We'll see how it works. We'll see. Maybe we’ll have a good relationship. Maybe we’ll have a horrible relationship. Maybe we’ll have a relationship right in the middle," Trump said. (Reuters, 10.05.16, RFE/RL, 10.05.16, CNN, March 2017)
    • Trump suggested that Hillary Clinton was too ''tough'' in her language about Russia, and said that, if he won the election, he might meet with Putin before being sworn in. ''They insult him constantly—I mean, no wonder he can't stand Obama and Hillary Clinton,'' Trump said, calling the tensions a ''very serious problem.'' (New York Times, 10.18.16)
    • Trump reiterated his criticism of Clinton at a campaign stop days before the election: “She speaks very badly of Putin, and I don’t think that’s smart,” Trump told a crowd of thousands, noting that Russia has nuclear weapons. (AP, 10.27.16)
  • December 2016: Trump tweeted: “Vladimir Putin said today about Hillary and Dems: ‘In my opinion, it is humiliating. One must be able to lose with dignity.’ So true!” (CNN, March 2017)
  • January 2017: After saying more conclusively than before “I think it was Russia” that hacked the DNC in 2016, Trump added that Putin "should not be doing it” and “he won't be doing it. Russia will have much greater respect for our country when I am leading it than when other people have led it,” Trump said, adding that he believes a good relationship with Putin would be an asset: "If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability, because we have a horrible relationship with Russia. Russia can help us fight ISIS, which, by the way, is, number one, tricky. I mean if you look, this administration created ISIS by leaving at the wrong time. The void was created, ISIS was formed." (CNN, March 2017)
  • February 2017: In his first call with Putin since his inauguration, President Trump reportedly talked about his own popularity and said the New START treaty was a bad deal negotiated by his predecessor. (Reuters, 02.09.17)
    • In an interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, Trump said that he respects Putin, adding: “Will I get along with him? I have no idea.” O’Reilly challenged Trump's characterization, calling Putin a killer. The president appeared unperturbed by the remarks, replying, "There are a lot of killers. We've got a lot of killers. What do you think, our country's so innocent?" (The Moscow Times, 02.06.17)
    • At a news conference later that month Trump said: “I don't have any deals in Russia. President Putin called me up very nicely to congratulate me on the win of the election,” adding: “I would love to be able to get along with Russia. Now, you've had a lot of presidents that haven't taken that tack. Look where we are now. … So, if I can—now, I love to negotiate things, I do it really well, and all that stuff. But—but it's possible I won't be able to get along with Putin.” (CNN, March 2017)
  • March 2017: Trump was asked by Fox News to give short descriptions of several political and business leaders. When asked about Putin, he replied: "Don’t know him, but certainly he is a tough cookie." (YouTube, 03.18.17)
  • July 2017: Trump and Putin had their first face-to-face official meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg. Trump said it was an "honor" to meet Putin for the first time and said he looked forward to "positive things" in the relationship between the former Cold War rivals. The mood was genial at the beginning of the meeting as Putin and Trump, sitting side by side, addressed reporters. “We’ve had some very, very good talks. We're going to have a talk now and obviously that will continue,” Trump said. “We look forward to a lot of very positive happenings for Russia and for the United States and for everyone concerned.” (The Washington Post, 07.07.17, Reuters, 07.07.17)
    • On the flight back from the summit, Trump said he was open to a White House visit from Putin. “I would say yes, yeah. At the right time. I don't think this is the right time, but the answer is yes I would [invite him],” he said. (Time, 07.13.17)
    • Trump had a second lengthy chat with Putin during a dinner at the G20 summit that came to light more than a week after the gathering. Trump said concerns raised about their chat, which involved only him, Putin and a Russian translator, were overblown.Fake News story of secret dinner with Putin is ‘sick.’ All G 20 leaders, and spouses, were invited by the Chancellor of Germany. Press knew,” Trump tweeted, adding in a second tweet: “Even a dinner arranged for top 20 leaders in Germany is made to look sinister!” (Twitter, 07.18.17, Twitter, 07.18.17)
    • In an interview with the New York Times Trump said that the dinner chat, which had reportedly lasted as long as an hour, lasted perhaps 15 minutes and that he and Putin discussed adoption: “We sat at this really long table, which held, has to be at least 60, 65 people with room. O.K., it’s a very big table, big room. But there was nothing secretive about it. … [My wife] Melania was sitting on the other side of the table, way down on the other end, very far away. She was sitting next to Putin… So the meal was going, and toward dessert I went down just to say hello to Melania, and while I was there I said hello to Putin. Really, pleasantries more than anything else. It was not a long conversation, but it was, you know, could be 15 minutes. Just talked about—things. Actually, it was very interesting, we talked about adoption. … We talked about Russian adoption. Yeah. I always found that interesting. Because, you know, he ended that years ago. And I actually talked about Russian adoption with him, which is interesting because it was a part of the conversation that Don [Donald Trump, Jr., Trump’s eldest son] had in that meeting.” (New York Times, 07.19.17)
  • November 2017: Trump tweeted: “Does the Fake News Media remember when Crooked Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, was begging Russia to be our friend with the misspelled reset button? Obama tried also, but he had zero chemistry with Putin.” (Twitter, 11.11.17)
  • January 2018: “He can do a lot,” Trump said of Putin. “But unfortunately, we don’t have much of a relationship with Russia, and in some cases it’s probable that what China takes back [from North Korea], Russia gives. So, the net result is not as good as it could be.” (Reuters, 01.17.18)
  • March 2018: Trump issued a rare rebuke to Putin, criticizing the Russian leader as “irresponsible” for showing off new “invincible” nuclear weapons during his annual state-of-the-nation address, some of which appeared to target the U.S. in animated videos. (Bloomberg, 03.05.18)
  • July 2018:
    • Asked whether he considers Putin a friend or a foe, Trump said: I really can’t say right now.  As far as I’m concerned, a competitor. A competitor. I think that getting along with Russia, getting along with China, getting along with others is a good thing, not a bad thing. I’ve said that many times for many years. So we’ll see. We’re meeting with Vladimir Putin on Monday. We’ll see how that goes.” He added that by comparison to meetings with NATO and the U.K. “Putin may be the easiest of them all. Who would think?” (White House, 07.10.18)
    • Asked to comment on his upcoming meeting with Putin, Trump said: “Well, he’s a competitor. He’s been very nice to me the times I’ve met him. I’ve been nice to him. He’s a competitor. You know, somebody was saying, ‘Is he an enemy?’ No, he’s not my enemy. ‘Is he a friend?’  No, I don’t know him well enough… I hope we get along well. I think we get along well. But ultimately, he’s a competitor. He’s representing Russia. I’m representing the United States. So in a sense, we’re competitors. Not a question of friend or enemy. He’s not my enemy. And hopefully, someday, maybe he’ll be a friend. It could happen.” (White House, 07.12.18)

III. Foreign affairs, trade and investment

Russia’s general foreign policy and relations with “far abroad” countries:

  • March 2018: In a joint statement with the U.K. issued in Berlin, Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron said they were “horrified” by the attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter and that there’s “no plausible alternative explanation” to Russia being responsible. "It sounds to me like it was Russia based on all the evidence they have," Trump said about the attack. Trump then said "it looks like" Russia was behind the poisoning. (AP, 03.14.18, Reuters, 03.16.18, Bloomberg, 03.15.18, Bloomberg, 03.13.18)
  • July 2018: “Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia because it’s getting so much of its energy from Russia,” Trump said. (The Washington Post, 07.11.18)


  • April 2016: In a much anticipated foreign policy speech, Trump expressed hope about the potential for improvement in American-Russian relations: “We desire to live peacefully and in friendship with Russia and China. We have serious differences with these two nations, and must regard them with open eyes. But we are not bound to be adversaries. We should seek common ground based on shared interests.” (Washington Examiner, 04.27.17)
  • January 2018: “Around the world, we face rogue regimes, terrorist groups and rivals like China and Russia that challenge our interests, our economy and our values. In confronting these dangers, we know that weakness is the surest path to conflict, and unmatched power is the surest means of our defense. For this reason, I am asking the Congress to end the dangerous defense sequester and fully fund our great military,” Trump said in his State of the Union address. Trump did not mention any other post-Soviet republic in his address. (Russia Matters, 01.30.18)


  • March 2016: As a presidential candidate, Trump expressed wariness about U.S. involvement in the Ukraine conflict. “I look at the Ukraine situation and I say, so Ukraine is a country that affects us far less than it affects other countries in NATO, and yet we are doing all of the lifting, they're not doing anything. And I say, why is it that Germany is not dealing with NATO on Ukraine? Why is it that other countries that are in the vicinity of the Ukraine not dealing with—why are we always the one that's leading, potentially the third world war, okay, with Russia?” (The Washington Post, 03.22.16).
  • During a Republican debate, Trump said: “You have countries that surround Ukraine. They don't talk. They don't seem to have a problem. I'm not saying go in. I'd say be very strong,” he said. (CNN, 03.29.16)
  • July 2016: During a campaign stop, Trump was asked whether he would recognize Crimea as Russia's territory and if he would consider lifting anti-Russian sanctions. Trump said, "We'll be looking at that. Yeah, we'll be looking." He did not elaborate. (The Washington Post, 07.27.16)
    • In an interview, Trump was asked about Putin’s military actions in Ukraine. "He's not going into Ukraine, OK, just so you understand. He's not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down. You can put it down. You can take it anywhere you want," Trump said. "Well, he's already there, isn't he?" his interviewer, George Stephanopoulos, responded. Trump: "OK—well, he's there in a certain way. But I'm not there.” (CNN, 07.31.16)
  • August 2016: At a campaign stop, Trump said the U.S. would trigger a third world war if they were to retake Crimea for Ukraine. “I know it [the annexation] exactly. That was two years ago. I mean, do you want to go back, do you want to have World War III to get it back?" he said. (Newsweek, 08.02.16)
  • November 2016: When campaigning, Trump said that if elected he would “be looking at” whether to recognize Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and whether to lift economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. in response to Russia’s covert military intervention in eastern Ukraine. He has also suggested the U.S. should fulfill its Article 5 commitment to defend NATO’s Baltic members only if they "pay what they're supposed to be paying." (Bloomberg, 11.09.16, Financial Times, 11.09.16, Wall Street Journal, 11.09.16)
  • February 2017: President Trump said he did not take offense at the outbreak of a lethal bout of fighting in Ukraine that began within a day of his phone conversation with Putin, saying of the recent clashes, “We don’t really know exactly what that is.” In a Fox News interview, Trump said of the Ukrainian separatists, “They’re pro forces… We don’t know, are they uncontrollable? Are they uncontrolled? That happens also. We’re going to find out; I would be surprised, but we’ll see.” (New York Times, 02.06.17).
  • March 2017: Following a White House meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump told reporters he appreciated her advice and partnership in efforts “to resolve the conflict in Ukraine, where we ideally seek a peaceful solution.” (Agence France Presse, 03.17.17)
  • May 2017: Trump tweets an image of separate, side-by-side photos of himself with the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine: “Yesterday, on the same day- I had meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the FM of Ukraine, Pavlo Klimkin. #LetsMakePeace!” (Twitter, 05.11.17)
  • June 2017:  Following a White House meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Trump said Ukraine is a “place that we’ve all been very much involved in.” He added, “We’ve had some very, very good discussions. It’s going to continue throughout the day and I think a lot of progress has been made.” The meeting coincided with the decision of the U.S. Treasury Department to expand existing sanctions on Russia over its military involvement in Ukraine, which, the department said, “will remain in place until Russia fully honors its obligations under the Minsk Agreements,” while measures “related to Crimea will not be lifted until Russia ends its occupation of the peninsula.” (Bloomberg, 06.20.17)
  • July 2017: In a speech in Warsaw, Trump urged Russia to “cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine.” (White House, 07.06.17)
    • In an interview with the New York Times he said: “Don’t forget, Crimea was given away during Obama. Not during Trump. … Crimea was gone during the Obama administration, and he gave, he allowed it to get away.” (New York Times, 07.19.17)
  • September 2017: Trump said of Ukraine: “I wouldn't say it's the easiest place to live,” but “it's getting better and better on a daily basis. I do hear very good things. Ukraine is coming along pretty well.” (RFE/RL, 09.21.17, Reuters, 09.21.17)
  • Trump decried threats to sovereignty in Ukraine and the South China Sea, but did not explicitly mention Russia or China. “We must reject threats to sovereignty, from the Ukraine to the South China Sea,” Trump said. (AFP, 09.19.17)
  • June 2018: "President Obama lost Crimea, because President Putin didn't respect President Obama," Trump said. Trump did not directly answer whether he considers Crimea to be a part of Russia. Earlier Trump told G7 leaders that Crimea is Russian because everyone who lives there speaks Russian, according to two diplomatic sources. Trump also seemed to question why the G7 leaders were siding with Ukraine, telling leaders that "Ukraine is one of the most corrupt countries in the world," a source said. (BuzzFeed, 06.14.18, The Washington Post, 06.15.18)
  • July 2018: Asked by reporters on Air Force One whether reports about him dropping Washington's longstanding opposition to the annexation of Crimea were true, Trump said, "We're going to have to see." (RFE/RL, 07.01.18)

Russia’s other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • December 2016: Trump made his first overture to former Soviet Central Asia, speaking with Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president of Kazakhstan. The pair talked counterterrorism, nuclear nonproliferation and ways the Trump administration could mend fences with Moscow. The Kazakh government, in its account of the conversation, said Trump had lavished praise on the president for his leadership of the country over the last 25 years: ''D. Trump stressed that under the leadership of Nursultan Nazarbayev, our country over the years of independence had achieved fantastic success that can be called a 'miracle.''' (Foreign Policy, 12.01.16, New York Times, 12.01.16)
  • January 2018: Trump hosted Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev at the White House Jan. 16, praising the relationship between the two nations. Trump thanked Kazakhstan, which last month became the chair of the U.N. Security Council, for "providing crucial support" to U.S. forces in Afghanistan and for backing U.S. efforts to roll back North Korea's nuclear-weapons program. (Wall Street Journal, 01.16.18)
  • May 2018: Trump and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev pledged a close partnership on trade and military ties, as the two leaders met in Washington and conferred on Uzbekistan’s strategic position near Afghanistan. (AP, 05.16.18, RFE/RL, 05.17.18)

Photo by Gage Skidmore, distributed via WikiCommons under a CC-BY-SA-2.0 license.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.