President Donald Trump pushed back against characterizations that Vladimir Putin is testing the new administration following the buzzing of a Navy vessel by one of Russia’s fighter jets, missile tests that the U.S. government considers a violation of an arms treaty and the deployment of a spy ship off America’s East Coast.
Asked about the incidents during a wide-ranging White House press conference, Trump said several times “not good,” but was coy when pressed to discuss how he would respond to the developments, saying he wants to keep that kind of activity secret.
“I don’t want to be one of these guys that say, ‘Yes, here’s what we’re going to do,'” Trump said. “I don’t have to do that.”
The questions were in response to reports that emerged this week that Russia secretly deployed two batteries of what U.S. officials call SSC-X-8 cruise missiles, one to southern Russia near Volgograd and another to an area defense officials wouldn’t reveal, according to The New York Times. At the time of Trump’s press conference, a Russian intelligence-gathering ship was still 30 miles off the coast of Connecticut near a U.S. submarine base but in international waters. Earlier on Thursday, the Defense Department released photos of a Russian Su-24 fighter jet buzzing the USS Porter in the Black Sea last week.
“It would be much easier for me to be tough on Russia, but then we’re not going to make a deal,” Trump said. He noted that the incidents have taken place since a series of recent news reports regarding contacts between his administration and Russian interests, and he suggested those reports have made it difficult for him to negotiate politically with Vladimir Putin.
“He’s sitting behind his desk and he’s saying, ‘You know, I see what’s going on in the United States. I follow it closely. It’s going to be impossible for President Trump to ever get along with Russia because of all the pressure he’s got with this fake story,'” Trump said.
Trump did not specify what kind of deal he hoped to broker with Moscow but said Putin probably assumes it is not popular for Trump to make a deal with Russia.
“The tougher I am on Russia, the better. But you know what? I want to do the right thing for the American people, and to be honest, secondarily, I want to do the right thing for the world,” he said.
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