Mutual admiration: US President Donald Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shake hands as they met in Helsinki, Finland on July 16. Putin says forces in US trying to undermine the relationship will not succeed. Picture: REUTERS
Mutual admiration: US President Donald Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shake hands as they met in Helsinki, Finland on July 16. Putin says forces in US trying to undermine the relationship will not succeed. Picture: REUTERS

Moscow — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday accused forces in the US of trying to undermine the success of his first summit with US President Donald Trump, but said the two leaders had begun to improve US-Russia ties anyway.

Putin and Trump sat down for their first summit in Helsinki on Monday, an event that sparked a storm of criticism in the US after Trump refused to blame the Russian leader for meddling in the 2016 US election, something Putin denies.

Trump later said he had misspoken and accused "some people" of hating the fact that he got along with Putin. The White House has been struggling to contain a political outcry and confusion over the summit.

Speaking to Russian diplomats from around the world assembled in Moscow, Putin said the Helsinki summit had been successful.

"It was successful overall and led to some useful agreements. Of course, let’s see how events will develop further," he said, without elaborating.

'Sacrifice Russian-US relations'

However, Putin said "powerful" US forces were trying to sabotage the summit’s achievements. "We see there are forces in the US that are prepared to casually sacrifice Russian-US relations, to sacrifice them for their ambitions in an internal political battle in the US."

Those forces appeared ready to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of US jobs and hurt US business and security while waging a divisive battle, he said.

Putin did not name names, but spoke of US politicians who put their "narrow party interests" above the best interests of the US and were powerful enough to be able to foist their questionable "stories" on millions of Americans. He said it would have been naive to expect that the Helsinki summit could have resolved problems that had built up over many years.

"Despite the difference in opinions [with Trump], we did agree that Russian-US relations are in an extremely unsatisfactory state. In many respects, they are even worse than during the Cold War," he said.

But the two leaders had at least made a start when it came to improving relations. "The path to positive changes has all the same begun," said Putin. "It’s important that a full-scale meeting has finally taken place allowing us to talk directly."

Putin warned, however, of the dangers of Moscow and Washington failing to continue to mend ties, saying the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty would expire soon unless both countries took action.

"If today, right now, work on extending it is not begun it will simply expire in a year and a half."

Reuters