‘Russia ties have never been worse’

House before his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin opened, U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday fired a Twitter broadside at his domestic opponents, blaming the diplomatic chill on the investigation into alleged Russian election meddling.

"Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!” Mr. Trump tweeted.

‘We agree’

Russia’s Foreign Ministry tweeted in response: “We agree.”

Mr. Trump’s U.S. opponents tried, in turn, to gain traction for the sarcastic hashtag lampooning his reluctance to criticise the Kremlin: #BAF (Blame America First).

After a stormy NATO summit in Brussels last week, Mr. Trump was accused by critics of prioritising his ties to Mr. Putin over the transatlantic alliance.

But over breakfast with Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto, he insisted NATO “has never been stronger” and “never been more together”, thanks to his insistence on all allies paying their fair share.

In a weekend interview with CBS News, Mr. Trump admitted that Russia remains a foe, but he put Moscow on a par with China and the European Union as economic and diplomatic rivals.

Protesters have been on the streets of Helsinki to denounce the policies of both Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin. Greenpeace draped a giant banner down a church tower urging: ‘Warm our hearts not our planet.’

As they sat down for their first formal one-on-one summit, the American and Russian leaders seemed almost theatrically sour. Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin did not shake hands when they entered, sullenly, but only when they began a lengthy closed-door meeting that had the diplomatic world on edge.

And when White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders tweeted out a picture, she chose a sombre black and white showing Mr. Putin’s eyes lowered and Mr. Trump looking dully angry.

Awkward body language

The body language was awkward, but television footage later showed Mr. Trump offering a stone-faced Mr. Putin a reassuring wink.

But after the talks, both leaders welcomed the meeting as a “good start” and a “very successful” one. Issues from the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, the Ukraine crisis and Syrian civil war all appeared in the discussions.

In response to a question about whether he had wanted Mr. Trump to win the election, Mr. Putin said he did, because the businessman had pledged to improve ties between Washington and Moscow.

Mr. Putin praised cooperation between Russian and U.S. security services, adding that he favoured continued cooperation in “the fight against terror and ensuring cyber security”.

The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said separately that the talks were “better than super” in comments reported by Russian news agencies.

Talks were better than super

Sergei Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister

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