Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

How Russians Are Reacting To Putin Invitation


All right. So there was a lot of news about Russia this week, and it doesn't seem like it's letting up, especially now that President Trump wants to meet with Vladimir Putin in the United States. For the view from Russia, I'm joined now by veteran Russian journalist Vladimir Posner. He's on the line from France.

Good, morning sir.

VLADIMIR POSNER: Good morning.

KING: All right. So we've learned that Russia's ambassador to the U.S. says Moscow is open to Putin visiting Washington, which is remarkable. But it's remarkable in different ways for each country. What do you think it means for the U.S.? And what do you think it means for Russia?

POSNER: Well, for Russia, it's kind of like a continuation of what happened in Helsinki. You know, the reaction in Russia has been surprisingly subdued. There's been news, but the general view has been that, well, maybe, hopefully, this may be a step in the direction we all want, which is to say an improvement of relations with the United States. The vast majority of Russians, both official and unofficial, would be that kind of a reaction. We do want better relations with the United States.

Now, the United States - well, that's a big question. The idea of Putin visiting Washington seems to me to strike a very negative chord among United - not only among just regular people - perhaps less so among regular people - but definitely among officials, who have been, as I take it, extremely surprised by this invitation.

Of course, I'm not in the States right now, so I can't say that I can feel the situation. But insofar as Russia's concerned, again, it's a positive note. Maybe finally, after so many years of contentious relations, we are moving in a better direction.

KING: But you say people are still relatively subdued about the whole thing, so maybe waiting to see how it plays out. You mentioned U.S. officials. Republican Congressman Will Hurd wrote an op-ed in The New York Times with the headline "Trump Is Being Manipulated By Putin. What Should We Do?" Congressman Hurd writes, by playing into Vladimir Putin's hands, the leader of the free world actively participated in a Russian disinformation campaign that legitimized Russian denial and weakened the credibility of the United States. Strong words - what do you make of them?

POSNER: Well, sadly enough, it seems to be the generally accepted view in the United States. You know, I follow the American media as well as what the politicians say, and what I found quite - almost amazing is that mainstream media has given absolutely no room for opinions of a different matter. Take an ambassador like Jack Matlock, one of the most outstanding American ambassadors to, first, the Soviet Union and then when the Soviet Union was no longer there. He's been very critical of this whole story about Russian hacking and manipulating or breaking into or trying to impact American elections. He's written a lot about it, but only in very small publications that reach a small number of people.

KING: But, sir, U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia did interfere in the...

POSNER: I know that.

KING: ...U.S. election.

POSNER: I would always say, look - give me the proof. I'm perfectly happy to accept that view if you can prove it.

KING: Did you have a chance to look at the indictments of the 12 Russian...

POSNER: Yes, I did.

KING: ...Intelligence officers?

POSNER: And, again, when I have asked that question, I've been told, we cannot furnish the proof because if we do, we will open certain secrets that we don't want to open. So it puts you in a weird position. If you can't furnish the proof - and, of course, the burden of the proof is on the accuser, not on the accused - then my question is, well, how can I believe that?

KING: I guess we'll have to see as those indictments play out and as this investigation continues.

POSNER: Yes, I agree.

KING: Let me ask you, how would you describe Vladimir Putin's approach to President Trump?

POSNER: Look. I haven't spoken to President Putin about that. I've tried to interview him on several occasions. He's refused.


POSNER: So it's hard for me to make a judgment. I really don't know what he thinks about President Trump. It's a tough call. But the way he speaks to him, the way he looks at him, the body language seems to me to be pretty positive. Now, again, you know, it's a tentative statement. I'm not saying more than that because I really don't know.

KING: There have been a lot of questions about what went on behind closed doors between these two men. Putin says they reached useful agreements. Just quickly, what would he be looking for from Trump and the U.S. top line?

POSNER: Well, I think he'd be looking for - trying to reach some kind of agreement on the main issues that separate the two countries - A, Syria - B, Ukraine - and, C, Crimea - finding some way of getting over that - perhaps, say, some kind of referendum in East Ukraine.

KING: So a lot of the geopolitical stuff and a lot of specifics.


KING: Veteran Russian journalist Vladimir Posner. Thank you, sir.

POSNER: You're very welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.