President Donald Trump

Trump on Russia: Insights and Recommendations

July 20, 2017
RM Staff

This evolving compilation of observations and policy 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.

With a few exceptions, this compilation covers a period beginning when Mr. Trump was competing to become the Republican candidate in the 2016 presidential race. During his campaign against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, he stood out as a proponent of improved relations with Russia. Since his victory, several investigations have been opened into various aspects of Russia’s possible involvement in the election—one probe by a Justice Department-appointed special counsel and three more in Congress.

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. All sections may be updated after the original posting of July 20, 2017.

Military issues, including NATO-Russia relations:

  • April 2016: In an interview published in early April 2016, Trump said: “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: 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)
    • 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: During the presidential debates, Trump said the U.S. need 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)
    • Later, 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)
  • 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)
    • “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 on Oct. 19. (Real Clear Politics, 10.19.16)
  • December 2016: On Dec. 22, President-elect 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." The tweet alarmed non-proliferation experts. "Let it be an arms race," Trump said in an interview with MSNBC when asked to clarify the Twitter post. "We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all." The comments came after Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said there would not be an arms race because the president-elect would ensure that other countries trying to step up their nuclear capabilities, such as Russia and China, would decide not to do so. (Twitter, 12.22.16, Reuters, 12.23.16)
  • January 2017: Trump called NATO “obsolete because it wasn’t taking care of terror” and said member organizations aren’t paying their “fair share.” Trump also said that the “U.K. was so smart in getting out” of the EU, which he described as “a vehicle for Germany.” Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Trump's comments had aroused concern across the 28-member alliance. NATO reacted on Jan. 16 to Trump's statement by saying it has full confidence in the U.S. security commitment to Europe. In contrast, Moscow has welcomed Trump calling NATO "obsolete.” Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on Jan. 16 that "NATO is indeed a vestige [of the past] and we agree with that." (AP, 01.15.17, Reuters, 01.17.17, RFE/RL, 01.16.17, Slate, 01.16.17)
  • 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)
  • April 2017: Trump backtracked on his NATO comment. “I said it was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete,” he said at a news conference with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg after they met in the Oval Office. “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. “Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they’re supposed to be paying for their defense,” he said. “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, 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, which came ahead of the G20 summit meeting in Hamburg, 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. In the speech, Trump also described Poland as an exemplary ally in building defenses to counter Russian “destabilizing behavior.” (Bloomberg, 07.06.17, AP, 06.07.17, Reuters, 07.06.15)
  • July 2017: Speaking on Air Force One on his way home from the G20 summit, 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)

Arms control:

  • 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)
  • January 2017: Shortly before his inauguration, 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 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: In an interview with Reuters, 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)

Conflict in Syria:

  • October 2016: Ahead of the 2016 election, 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 told a rally in Arizona on Oct. 4. "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)
  • November 2016: 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)
  • April 2017: Following his decision to launch of 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)
  • 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 ceasefire 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 that he was in talks with Russia to extend the ceasefire 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 ceasefire in a very rough part of Syria,” he said at a news conference in Paris. (CNN, 07.13.17)

Counterterrorism:

  • 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 host Bill O’Reilly, 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)

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? … And I say to myself—and I say to people—wouldn't it be nice if we actually could get along with Russia? And if we could get along with these people? … 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. Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got with somebody?” 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 on July 25: “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 also has charged 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 as he campaigned in Virginia. “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 tweets: “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 on July 7 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 PutinSo 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)

Allegations of Russian interference in U.S. elections:

  • 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 the story about his close ties to Russia was untrue and was 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, on Sept. 8 that "it's probably unlikely" that Russia is trying to influence the U.S. election. When RT’s Larry King 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 on Oct. 9 at the second 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 a Dec. 11 interview that he did not believe American intelligence assessments that Russia had intervened to help his candidacy, casting blame for the reports on Democrats, who he said were embarrassed about losing to him. "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. His transition team said: “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’” (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)
    • Trump returned to the topic on Twitter on Dec. 15: “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 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” whose “goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.” The intelligence officials further assessed that “Putin and the Russian Government 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 by top U.S. intelligence officials, 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 has been published online by Buzzfeed. Trump vigorously denied the swirl of allegations, calling it “fake news” and praising Putin for saying it was false. Trump called BuzzFeed “a pile of garbage” for publishing the allegations. In comments made before a Jan. 11 news conference, 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 the Jan. 11 press conference. Trump and most fellow Republicans in Congress had concluded that while Russia may have hacked the November election, it had no influence on the outcome. Trump also vowed to take aggressive action to stop cyberattacks, but prior to seeing the classified intelligence report on Jan. 6, insisted in an interview with the New York Times that the storm over Russian hacking was a "political witch-hunt." Trump said on Jan. 13 that his administration would produce a full report on hacking within the first 90 days of his presidency and accused “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. (NBC reported that the document concludes, among other things, that the hacks were payback for the Obama administration's questioning of Putin's legitimacy as Russia's president.) Trump earlier quoted WikiLeaks founder and fugitive Julian Assange questioning the Russians’ role in hacking Democrats’ emails. However, Trump then wrote that it was "wrong" for media reports to suggest he agrees with Assange, who has maintained he didn't receive the stolen 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, as I call it, the fake media in many cases.” (AP, 02.07.17, CNN, 02.15.17, Newsweek, 05.18.17)
    • At the same time Trump responded to a New York Times report that his campaign aides and associates “had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before” the November 2016 election. In a string of tweets Feb. 15 Trump took aim at targets ranging from “the fake news media” to “Hillary Clinton’s losing campaign” to “the intelligence community (NSA and FBI?),” which he said was “just like Russia.” “Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?” Trump tweeted. “The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy. Very un-American!” "This Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton's losing campaign."  (Bloomberg, 02.15.17, Reuters, 02.15.17)
  • 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 during the campaign 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. “The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign. Big advantage in Electoral College & lost!” (Bloomberg, 03.20.17)
  • April 2017: Trump said in an interview that “the Russia story is a total hoax. There has been absolutely nothing coming out of that.” (New York Times, 04.05.17)
    • Later that month Trump told CBS that the “phony” story about Trump associates’ ties to Russia was being manipulated by the media, which were ignoring the fact that Michael Flynn had been vetted by the Obama administration. “I just heard where General Flynn got his clearance from the Obama administration," Trump said. "And when he went to Russia, I didn't realize this, when he went to Russia, it was 2015, and he was on the Obama clearance." (Politifact, 05.02.17)
    • In the same CBS interview Trump also reverted to doubting U.S. intelligence assessments that Moscow hacked the emails of Democratic officials to meddle with the 2016 presidential election, saying China may have done it instead. “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.” (Reuters, 05.01.17, CBS News, 04.30.17)
  • May 2017: On May 8 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 latter comment came in reference to testimony that the DNC, after it was hacked, declined an offer of help from the Department of Homeland Security. (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, likening the matter to intelligence that had incorrectly said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. “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, saying of Obama: “They say he choked. Well, I don’t think he choked… I think he thought Hillary Clinton was going to win the election, and he said, ‘Let’s not do anything about it.’” Trump also 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 at the G-20 summit meeting in Hamburg, 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 said he pressed Putin on claims of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump tweeted: “I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it. I've already given my opinion.....” Later that day, Trump signaled a willingness to cooperate closely with Russia on cyber security. “Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded,” he tweeted. A few hours later, following harsh criticism of the idea of such a unit, including some from top Republican lawmakers, Trump appeared to backtrack, tweeting: “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 [Syria] ceasefire can,& did!” (Twitter, 07.07.17, Twitter, 07.09.17, Twitter, 07.09.17, Twitter, 07.09.17, Reuters, 07.09.17, Bloomberg, 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 on the basis of promises that the Russian government would supply information damaging to Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton, the president jumped to his son’s defense, tweeting: “My son, Donald, will be interviewed by @seanhannity tonight at 10:00 P.M. He is a great person who loves our country!” and then “My son Donald did a good job last night. He was open, transparent and innocent. 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)
    • Speaking on Air Force One on his return from the G20 summit, Trump said: “And I'm not saying it wasn't Russia. What I'm saying is that we 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. They were the ones that did the whole deal to Sony. You know, we're dealing with highly sophisticate 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, given in a far-reaching 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. Now, I don’t know where I heard it, but I had heard that it had to do something with illegal acts with respect to the D.N.C. Now, you know, when 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 controversial, 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. … And he’s dying with the lawsuit. I know a lot about those guys, they’re phony guys. They make up whatever they want. Just not my thing—plus, I have witnesses, because I went there [to Russia] with a group of people. You know, I went there with Phil Ruffin… [Bodyguard] 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. 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. … I said, this is—honestly, it was so wrong, and they didn’t know I was just there [in Russia] for a very short period of time. It was so wrong, and I was with groups of people. It was so wrong that I really didn’t, I didn’t think about motive. I didn’t know what to think other than, this is really phony stuff.” 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, peoples 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.” Asked whether he’d been given a heads-up about Sessions’s intentions or potential perceived conflicts of interest, Trump said: “Zero. So Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have—which, frankly, I think is very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I can’t, you know, I’m not going to take you. It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president.” The president also said that Mueller had interviewed for the attorney general’s job: “Talk about conflicts [of interest].” (New York Times, 07.19.17)

Sanctions:

  • March 2016: As a candidate, Trump said in an interview with The Washington Post that 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)
  • December 2016: As president-elect, Trump on Dec. 30 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 over hacking. “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)
  • 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, 07.11.2017)
    • In a far-reaching interview with the New York Times, Trump claimed that his Democratic rival, 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.” He then changed the subject and began enumerating what he saw the weaknesses of the previous administration. (New York Times, 07.19.17)
  • See also “Ukraine” section below.

Ukraine:

  • 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, you can be strong without necessarily even being (inaudible) or the money we spend,” 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)
  • 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)
  • See also “Counterterrorism” section above.

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)

Bilateral relations and Russia in general:

  • 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)
  • 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. 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)
  • 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 the second presidential debate Oct. 9. (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)
  • February 2017: Trump makes no references to Russia in his Feb. 28 address to Congress. (White House, 02.28.17)
  • March 2017: Trump again accused former President 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: At a news conference at the White House, 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 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: In a far-reaching 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: Napolean’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)

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