During a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin in March, President Donald Trump reportedly called his own staff “stupid people.” This report from The New York Times comes ahead of a scheduled NATO summit in Brussels today.
Trump is also expected to attend the first official summit and a one-on-one meeting with Putin in Helsinki, Finland, next week.
After Putin complained that White House officials tried to stop their phone call from happening, Trump told Putin, “Those are stupid people; you shouldn’t listen to them,” according to NYT via The Hill.
The unnamed White House aides reportedly attempted to stop President Trump from congratulating Putin on his election victory. Trump ignored his national security advisers and a briefing in which they left the instruction “DO NOT CONGRATULATE.”
International observers charged Putin with fraud in his landslide re-election victory. Footage also allegedly showed election fraud taking place during the Russian elections.
Last month, Trump called for Russia to be readmitted to the G-7 after it was expelled for the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Despite the friendly rhetoric, U.S.-Russia relations have soured since Trump’s presidency. In April, Trump said on Twitter that the U.S. relationship with Russia is worse than the Cold War after Russian officials blocked a resolution at the U.N. Security Council to condemn chemical weapons attacks in Syria.
“Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War. There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?”
Ahead of the Helsinki summit later this month, Putin also commented about the souring relationship with the U.S.
“I regret to say that Russian-American relations are not in the best shape,” Putin told John Bolton, according to Russia’s TASS news agency.
Trump’s relation with NATO countries has been strained since he assumed office. As with past U.S. presidents, Trump has criticized NATO countries, particularly Germany for not contributing its fair share to the defense budget.
Several critics of Trump’s rhetoric against NATO claim that it could threaten the alliance that was created to counter the Soviet Union of which Russia is primarily made of. Opponents state that Trump is furthering Putin’s agenda to break up the Western alliance.
However, U.S. senior administration officials told Reuters that President Trump will likely declare U.S. support for NATO’s mutual defense agreement while pushing for increased spending commitments from NATO allies.
Trump tweeted ahead of the meeting about his frustrations with NATO allies falling short on their military spending commitments.
Trump has also complained about Germany’s oil and gas deal with Russia.