Corporate Watch

It was the first-ever formal one-on-one summit between a US President, Donald Trump, and the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, held July 16 in Helsinki. At the joint news conference afterward, the final question from the US went to Jonathan Lemire from the AP (, July 16, 2018, transcript courtesy of Bloomberg Government):
“Just now, President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every US intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did.
What — who — my first question for you, sir, is who do you believe?
My second question is would you now, with the whole world watching, tell President Putin, would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you warn him to never do it again?”
Trump’s short answer: “My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia.”
“I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”(Ibid.).
Bipartisan outcry furled and rose like a tornado in the US why Trump would cling to Putin’s denial and embarrass the US and its intelligence agencies internationally. The US Director of National Intelligence himself, Dan Coats, whom Trump publicly disbelieved, issued a statement saying that the intelligence community had been clear about Russia’s “ongoing, pervasive attempts” to undermine US democracy (BBC News, July 16, 2018).
Still, in Helsinki, Trump was asked from the floor:
US House Speaker Paul Ryan (Republican) said Mr.Trump “must appreciate that Russia is not our ally…There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals,’ he said, adding that there was ‘no question’ Moscow had interfered in the 2016 election.”
At the end of that disastrous Q&A with media in Helsinki, Putin ceremoniously rewarded Trump with a tournament football, a symbolic “turnover” of the successful hosting of Russia of the recently played FIFA World Cup football tournament to the US co-hosting with Canada and Mexico of the 2026 games. Could be, or couldn’t be (who knows?) — a symbolic “carrot” reward for good behavior by Trump at the now-notorious Helsinki summit.
An article in the New York Times alleged that Trump’s fear (according to one of his closest aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity) is that any admission of even an unsuccessful Russian attempt to influence the 2016 vote raises questions about the legitimacy of his presidency (, July 18, 2018). Two weeks before his inauguration, Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had personally ordered complex cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election (Ibid.).
That Trump had “misspoken” on loyalties deemed traitorous and pathetically tried to backtrack on demonstrated bespoken allegiance sends a chill to the democratic world. But the real sting comes from Putin: “I believe that Russia is a democratic state, and I hope you are not denying this right to your own country, you’re not denying that United States is a democracy. Do you believe United States is a democracy? And if so, if it is a democratic state, then the final conclusion in this kind of a dispute can only be delivered by a trial, by the court, not by the executive, by the law enforcement.” This alludes to the rule of law in democratic countries that should have by now settled the politically-clouded issue of foreign meddling in the US elections, and the participation of schemers and victims (Washington Post, July 16, 2018, from Bloomberg transcript of Helsinki summit).
Inevitably, and quite instinctively, the rest of the world watching this most disturbing tableau of changing leadership styles directed by changing principles must anticipate coming pain from disenchanted expectations.
“I simply love Xi Jinping,” President Rodrigo Duterte said at a press briefing just before leaving for China, referring to his Chinese counterpart. “He understands my problem and he’s willing to help. And I’d like to say, ‘thank you, China.’” (The Philippine Star April 10, 2018). The declaration of love for Communist China sounds so much in line with the “sleeping with the enemy” romantic hero that Trump sees himself to be, vis-à-vis Russia.
“Don’t believe that I didn’t do anything about the (West Philippine Sea) issue, that I just let it be. I told him (Xi) this straight the first time I said, ‘I’m going there to dig my oil.’ And then he said… ‘We have just become friends and we have just begun to get to know each other. Let’s not ruin the relationship that we have,’” Duterte said, quoting the Chinese leader (The Philippine Star, May 21, 2018). Analysts have stressed that the United Nations-backed 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling allows the Philippines to assert its sovereign rights in the South China Sea, with international support, without resorting to war.
Xi sounds so like Putin, and Putin like Xi, as Duterte sounds so like Trump and Trump like Duterte — spoken, misspoken, and bespoken.
Amelia H. C. Ylagan is a Doctor of Business Administration from the University of the Philippines.