Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) criticized President Trump’s flattery of Russian President Vladimir Putin during a Senate floor speech on Thursday, calling it “simply bizarre” and “unconscionable.”
“Singing his praises for no good reason sends a terrifying message to our allies. … Flattering such a man … is simply bizarre. That the admiration comes from an American president, well, that is unconscionable,” Flake said.
Flake questioned why the two were meeting one-on-one without staff, noting that the “world seems to be hanging in the balance.”
“If the White House is as confused about the nature of the threat we face from Mr. Putin as it seems to be, a meeting between our president and his Russian counterpart for which there is no record could not be more concerning. It is vital that even the most private meetings between leaders not be lost to history,” Flake said.
Trump told reporters on Tuesday that his meeting with Putin in Helsinki could be the “easiest” of his weeklong trip, which includes a visit to the United Kingdom as well as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit.
“Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all,” Trump said.
Flake questioned why Trump continues to “entertain” Putin’s denial of Russia election interference, while creating “conflict” within NATO.
“Why … does the president’s complaint about our closest friends on the global stage unnervingly echo the Russian position? Mr. Putin’s singular foreign policy goal is to weaken democracies and destroy the Western alliance. Could we possibly be helping him any more in his quest than by baselessly attacking our own allies?” Flake asked.
The Hill added:
Trump’s meeting with Putin comes after he alarmed allies for his rhetoric at the NATO summit. Trump said Germany was “captive” to Russia, citing an energy pipeline, and used the summit to repeat calls for allies to increase their defense spending.
Congress took symbolic shots at Trump’s rhetoric this week, with the House passing a resolution supporting NATO and the Senate using a procedural vote to signal its support.
Flake added that “antipathy and hostility” toward allies is “simply inexplicable.”
“Any counter-narrative about NATO is willfully destructive, and does real and lasting damage to us in the world,” he said. “…Sometimes, if I didn’t know better I might say that we purposefully trying to destabilize the western alliance and to turn the world upside-down.”