tv Washington Week PBS July 7, 2017 7:30pm-8:01pm PDT
>> face to face with vladimir putin, president trump engages his russian counterpart and delivers a warning to the west. i'm robert costa. we examine the trump's administration disruptive turn on the world stage, this week on "washington week." president trump: whether the west has the will to survive. do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost. robert: in europe, president trump defiantly defends the west and send a message to moscow. president trump: we want destabilizing activities and support for hostile regimes
including syria and iran. robert: the president remains skeptical about russia's meddling. president trump: i think it was russia and other people and/or countries. nobody really knows for sure. robert: putin denied the charges and mr. trump is looking for a way to move forward. what does that mean? meanwhile, world leaders discuss terrorism and what to do about north korea's latest missile launch. we explore how trump's america first agenda is being received with peter baker and yeganeh torbati and nancy youssef and doyle mcmanus. >> celebrating 50 years, this is "washington week." funding is provided by --
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contributions to your pbs stations from viewers like you. thank you. once again, live from washington, moderator, robert costa. robert: president trump opened his first meeting with vladimir putin by pressing the russian president about russia's meddling. it lasted more than two hours. secretary of state rex tillerson, who participated in the huddle, told reporters that putin denied trying to influence the election. president trump wanted to talk about how the two nations could go forward rather than spending time on disagreements over meddling. russian foreign minister had a different take. he told reporters that trump accepted putin's assurances that russia did not intervene in the election. a lot of jockeying going on, but peter, it seems like that this exchange today, this lengthy
exchange was perhaps a fall. peter: if you are going to be a fly on the wall anywhere in the world, be in hamburg, germany. the most anticipated meeting in president trump's administration and we are getting contrary versions of what actually happened in the room. you did see good chemistry and the two presidents do share a certain outlook on the world, a certain kind of masculine approach to politics. but the differences in the outlooks, the differences in the readouts from secretary tillerson and minister lavrov were different. and and immediately stirred the horn et s' nest.
as you showed in your introduction, earlier in the week, he cast doubt on this. there is every reason to believe he is not sure about russia's meddling. >> and for those of us and those elsewhere who are close observers is because that meeting was so small. you would have expected the u.s. national security adviser, the top u.s. national security official on russia to be part of that meeting, but it was the two leaders, the two foreign ministers and a couple of translators. you only have those two takes to go on. and aren't going to be a lot of readouts. robert: doyle, what are we supposed to make about the dueling accounts? i think the big picture as well
perhaps is president trump did engage on the question of russia meddling, is that a stride for president trump? is that a significant change or not? doyle: that depends on how they shake out. it is to find the sweet spot where they intersect. president trump had to bring this up in that meeting. imagine what we would be talking about tonight if he hadn't brought it up. washington would be on fire. he would be taking flack not just from democrats and critics but half of his own party, so he had to bring it up. it is clear what lavrov and tillerson said, he had no appetite of going over the details of what happened in the 2016 election. they set up a working group to make sure that nobody did this ever again. he wanted to talk about cyber warfare in europe. he didn't want to talk about
2016. and that lack of appetite is very clear. and rex tillerson had to effectively admit that. what i think probably happened if i had to put 20 bucks down, why is lavrov correct? putin pushed back and said it never happened and i didn't do it and i expect there is no response. >> you pointed out this went over two hours and it was intented to be less than an hour. and this is ancillary to the and putin who was standing up to syria and came out and potentially interfering in the elections and came out of this as a more legitimatized leader by virtue of the fact that the president of the united states sat down with him one-on-one for more than two hours. robert: we have to move forward and have this intract i believe
disagreement. tillerson is underscoring there may be no resolution. >> there may be no resolution but this is a divisive political issue and something they worry about in the 2018 and 2020 elections. and the intelligence communities have come back and said there was interference and there isn't a need to relegitimate but look at the security measures that the united states has to put in place going forward. when tillerson said about going forward, arguably, parts of the united states are looking going forward than he is spelling out. robert: president trump is saying, could have happened, i think it happened, but nobody can be sure. and his sort of indifference about this equates, that's what the democrats are saying, the american intelligence agencies are saying it happened. and democrats are saying this
week to senator schumer said that's a grave dereliction of duty to equate these two versions of events. and tillerson this is who knows, let's forget about it. there were so many mixed messages. you had the agreement on what may be a short lived ceasefire in syria and this discussion about a cybersecurity working group. but then you had the president say in poland, he wasn't going to put up with russian destabilization of the ukraine and announced the appointment of a russian hawker who will be president trump's personal emis sear to discuss the dispute. what do you make about the ceasefire agreement with regard to syria?
the administration is touting it in this area of southwest syria beginning sunday there is going to be a lilted ceasefire, is that a significant foreign policy moment or not? >> we have to wait and see. just in and of itself and the ceasefire is a repetition of a pattern that we saw in the last couple of years in the obama administration and even in the last few months of the last administration. there have been cease fires before, one that u.s. has been involved. turkey has been the other partner and they fall apart and have fallen apart basically because the russians are either unwilling or unable to get their main clients of assad, who is the leader of syria, to refrain from breaking the ceasefire from bombing civilians, from taking part in actions that violate those agreements. the big question we all have right now for the u.s.
government that says they have reached this ceasefire in a small part of syria is what's changed? why is russia now suddenly able and why are they going to be able to guarantee this goes forward. and we are learning today that certain major aspects of the ceasefire and who is going to be monitoring these enforcements, these key questions have not been hashed out. >> one of the key points that one looks at in this situation, there was a ceasefire in existence then. assad was allowed to go in and reclaim the city. when you talk to people about a ceasefire, it is met with pestism because it was a krimming attack. who will enforce it? will the russians --? the assad regime is not a signatory to this ceasefire and
they become the enforcers of this. what incentive do they have to crack down on their client? >> two small reasons to see a glimmer of hope for the process now. one is, as secretary tillerson said, the united states and its allies are about to take raqqa. who administers this territory? that is a practical problem that they have been addressing. the trump administration has drifted way away from the obama administration assistance that assad has to go. assad can stay for a while. that said, i think my colleagues are right. secretary tillerson sounded like john kerry when he said, gee our objectives look awfully similar. robert: when you step back and think about this exchange between putin and trump, is this
a re-imagination. is this something that the u.s. is going in a different direction in everything you have seen? >> no. each of the last three presidents has determined to re-set the relationship with russia. president clinton, president bush and president obama and they found it frustrating in different ways. president putin has been frustrating to the last two presidents and i don't think he is going to become our best friend just because donald trump who said as a candidate he would be. there are areas where we have room for agreement. there are areas where we have shared interests. and that's what this administration is going to focus on. politics at home probably wouldn't allow it. but there are areas where we could have a constructive relationship and the question whether or not president putin wants to make concessions.
robert: is there one person you think that is driving trump, shaping policy on russia? >> donald trump shapes his own policy. if you look at general mcmaster, his top russia adviser, you hear more skepticism about putin and russia's role in the middle east east and europe. the difference between a scripted speech and what he said hours later at a press conference where he didn't have what his staff puts in front of him, that's where you heard the contrast. robert: let's get to that g20 speech that kicked off the entire week for president trump. he was speaking to thousands of people in poland, and you saw the president being cheered, but
there is a class of protestors and that theme was echoed in the speech. and there was a clash of civilizations and warned that the united states is being threatened. president trump: there are dire threats to our security and to our way of life. do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and zoy it? robert: it raises the question how much is the president who campaigned on america first, disrupting these traditional expectations often found at the global summit? it came again as we listened to this speech. doyle: the speech sounded like president trump's dark inaugural address. american civilization is threatened, in this case western civilization is threatened. and instead of talking as
previous presidents have about democracy and human rights as the values that knit the western alliance together, he went to a different source. he said it's culture, it's faith and family. he talked about faith in god which is unusual for donald trump. that was a little bit jarring. it was a steve bannon speech. robert: talking about the white house chief strategist. doyle: exactly, with a couple of important paragraphs from general mcmaster. three parts of bannon and one part mcmaster. robert: the national security adviser more of a hawkish traditional voice, he did talk about article 5, the article in the nato agreement that if any nation is attacked, he embraced it in his speech. is that the traditional side
peeking out? nancy: he didn't mention it a month ago when he was in europe. he had asked repeatedly during the campaign why is the u.s. so invested in nato and defending european troops and didn't mention article 5. robert: he mentioned it this week. nancy: it was a reachout by him and his staff. it was something they needed to hear directly because his visit last month added so many questions. he talked about issues in a country that is being run by a country that is swirling in controversy. robert: in poland. nancy: the position of the government and he embraced poland. robert: as the president is stepping out, peter, he has this nationalist theme, but a lot of western european leaders are
distancing themselves from the trump approach on trade and on climate change. peter: that's one of the things this meeting was to be about. you have a 19-1 kind of dynamic where angela merkel is leading the 19 and president trump is isolating himself as the one. the venue is important, it's a rightist government that itself is nationalist in its orientation. on the other hand, it is meant as a signal to russia we are standing with our allies. the civilization theme of this speech is echoing also vladimir putin. putin sees the world of us against them. civilization is on the hook and islamic radical terrorism is on the hook and we have shared values. but church, family, western history and we are together in
fighting these bad guys. robert: is that how western europe saw it? >> that is a theme that was overriding but if you watched the speech, if you are in western europe, you would get comfort of president trump's statement about the western world united in the same way that doyle mentioned. about these issues of religion or god rather than the democratic values. i wanted to add to peter's point about russia and the west that that being sort of alliance echoing when it comes to syria. that is the sort of alliance that secretary tillerson is pointing out when he says we have very common interests when it comes to syria. robert: after all the cold war tensions between the u.s. and soviet union, you think trump sees russia as part of the west? >> when it comes to, some of his advisers talked about this, when it comes to fighting jihadism or
what they call radical islamic terrorism, in syria, fighting the threat of isis, they see them as a partner and they say it's more important to fight this together as opposed to being opposed to russia. >> the bigger picture here, though, that group of 20, g20 summit and donald trump, the great disrupter has been the great disrupter of world politics. those countries used to think of the united states as the stabilizer and it is about 20 countries talking about climate change and trade and pandemics. that's not america first. he is absolutely the odd man out. it is 19 against one. robert: all the reporting echoed this question, america first
mean america alone? that's not the only issue that is coming up. another big topic is north korea. this week's launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile and they wonder if the u.s. is going to war. nikki haley raised the specter of using military force. what are the options for the u.s.? nancy: militarily no good one. any military action you take puts the ball in north korea's court to escalate it. we saw a dance this week and saw president trump go forward and say he was looking at some pretty serious options. that was an attempt by him to rattle china and encourage china to mitigate the threat. the next day, secretary of defense mattis comes out and he says this puts us no closer to war with north korea, which was his attempt to calm the fears of
south korea. when they hear threats, that was a direct threat to them. that was a needle they were trying to thread. robert: what is the role of china, peert? peter: and president trump has gambled and his relationship that he forged with president ki would create engagement in the issue and leverage on north korea and hasn't happened. and president trump has conceded that it hasn't happened. if you are going to ramp up the pressure, you are going to have to go after china. 80% of the trade is through china and going to push these sanctions. two weeks ago, the trum administration sanctioned a chinese bank. robert: what's the prospect of that? >> it's a difficult process. these sanctions brought iran to
the negotiating table over its own nuclear table. it bars other countries doing business with the target country, at risk of u.s. sanctions. if the u.s. actually wants to go after north korea in a serious way a lot of people say the next big option is for them to sanction. which means china. it's a huge part of the world economy and the u.s. doesn't want to wreck its relationship with china and the trump administration does not seem ready for that. robert: what do you make of the president boxing out china with the north korea question, with trade, dealing with south korea and japan when talking about north korea, does it signify growing relationships? >> it does, the china relationship has always been the most difficult in foreign policy, a huge economic relationship, a big military
confrontation and regional issues like the south china sea. how do you get these to work together in some kind of sync. and this administration, you have a bunch of trade hawks running the trade policies and military hawks but no sign that they are in sync with each other. robert: what about kim jong-un? >> he has the good luck to have a simple policy. robert: we have to leave it there, doyle. thanks everybody. we'll get to it another time. our conversation as always will continue online at the "washington week" extra and talk about the fascination with president trump in europe and surprised resignation of the government ethics watchdog. friday night and all week long. i'm robert costa.
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