Trump: I’m Not Being Tough On Russia Because I Want to Make A Deal

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington.

AP Photo / Pablo Martinez Monsivais

AA Font size + Print

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington.

The president, who joked about sinking Moscow’s spy ship off the Atlantic coast, didn’t say what kind of deal he wants.

President Donald Trump joked that he might order the U.S. military to sink the Russian spy ship traveling south off the Atlantic coast, then later said he wouldn’t, and then said he hoped he would not have to retaliate in any form. Whatever option he chooses, he said, he won’t announce it ahead of time.

The greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that’s 30 miles offshore right out of the water,” Trump told reporters in a Thursday press conference. He was responding to questions about his administration’s relations with Russia and to allegations that he had so far responded weakly to evidence of Moscow’s interference in American politics. “Everyone in this country’s going to say, ‘Oh, it’s so great.’ That’s not great. That’s not great. I would love to be able to get along with Russia.”

Trump was referring to the Russian intelligence ship Viktor Leonov, spotted by the U.S. Navy some 30 miles off the coast of Connecticut, as Fox News first reported Wednesday. Its likely interest was the U.S. submarine base at Groton. On Thursday morning, Pentagon officials said the ship was traveling south past Atlantic Fleet headquarters in Norfolk, Va.

The Russian ship’s presence is the latest in a series of military provocations by President Vladimir Putin since the new year. Trump said he did not think Putin was testing him.

“No, I don’t think so. I think Putin probably assumes that he can’t make a deal with me anymore because politically it would be unpopular for a politician to make a deal,” Trump said. “Because, look, it would be much easier for me to be tough on Russia, but then we’re not going to make a deal.”

Trump did not specify what such a deal might be about. His administration reportedly is interested in renegotiating U.S. sanctions on Russia.

The president declined to say what, if anything, he planned to do about the spy ship, echoing a declaration on the 2016 campaign trail that he would not have announced in advance the U.S.-led coalition’s invasion of Mosul.

“I’m not going to tell you anything about what response I do. I don’t talk about military response,” Trump said. “I don’t say I’m going into Mosul in four months. ‘We are going to attack Mosul in four months.’ Then three months later, ‘We are going to attack Mosul in one month.’ ‘Next week, we are going to attack Mosul.’”

“In the meantime, Mosul is very, very difficult. Do you know why? Because I don’t talk about military, and I don’t talk about certain other things. You’re going to be surprised to hear that. And by the way, my whole campaign, I’d say that. So I don’t have to tell you. I don’t want to be one of these guys that say, ‘Yes, here’s what we’re going to do.’ I don’t have to do that. I don’t have to tell you what I’m going to do in North Korea.”

“Wait a minute,” Trump continued, as a reporter tried to ask a follow-up question. “I don’t have to tell you what I’m going to do in North Korea. And I don’t have to tell you what I’m going to do with Iran. You know why? Because they shouldn’t know. And eventually, you guys are going to get tired of asking that question. So when you ask me what am I going to do with a ship, the Russian ship as an example, I’m not going to tell you. But hopefully, I won’t have to do anything, but I’m not going to tell you.”

Related: Expect the Russians to Keep Buzzing American Navy Ships

Related: Top Admiral Asks US Allies to Help Buzz China’s Fake Islands

Last year, Trump criticized the Obama administration’s response to military provocations by Russia and Iran. Already, in his first month there have been several incidents of Russian and Iranian military actions testing their boundaries, with no apparent American military responses.

Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn this month said Iran was being put “on notice” after alleging Iran was behind a Houthi suicide attack on a Saudi ship in the Yemen conflict, but he and White House officials left that warning purposefully vague. He also condemned Iran’s medium-range missile test in January. For that, one day later the Trump administration issued additional sanctions on about a dozen people and organizations the Treasury Department said were related to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Russian Su-24 fighter jets buzzed the destroyer USS Porter in the Black Sea on Friday. Russia also has increased fly-bys and similar activity U.S. allies, including stepped up bomber patrols out of the north, around Norway, Defense One reported last month. And Russian forces also recently deployed a ground-based cruise missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon.

Close [ x ] More from DefenseOne
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from DefenseOne.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

    Download
  • Military Readiness: Ensuring Readiness with Analytic Insight

    To determine military readiness, decision makers in defense organizations must develop an understanding of complex inter-relationships among readiness variables. For example, how will an anticipated change in a readiness input really impact readiness at the unit level and, equally important, how will it impact readiness outside of the unit? Learn how to form a more sophisticated and accurate understanding of readiness and make decisions in a timely and cost-effective manner.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

    Download
  • Information Operations: Retaking the High Ground

    Today's threats are fluent in rapidly evolving areas of the Internet, especially social media. Learn how military organizations can secure an advantage in this developing arena.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.