U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a press conference after the meeting of U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo

Russia appears to mock Trump over canceled meeting with Putin

Yesterday morning, the Kremlin announced that Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin would have a one-on-one meeting at the G-20 summit in Argentina. Russian officials said that U.S. officials had “confirmed” that the presidential encounter would happen.

Soon after, during a brief Q&A with reporters, the American leader said, “I probably will be meeting with President Putin. We haven’t terminated that meeting. I was thinking about it, but we haven’t. They’d like to have it. I think it’s a very good time to have the meeting.”

An hour later, however, Trump reversed course, publishing a tweet canceling the meeting, and blaming “the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia.”

This morning, Russia seemed to mock the White House’s official explanation.

Russian officials believe President’s Trump’s decision to cancel a meeting with President Vladimir Putin may have been based on a “domestic political situation” – like Michael Cohen’s Thursday guilty plea – and not Russia’s actions after a naval clash with Ukraine last week, CNN reported, citing the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

During a press conference on Friday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova questioned President Trump’s rationale, which he explained in a tweet en route to the G-20 summit in Argentina on Thursday, about two hours after the Cohen news broke.

“Was the provocation organized by Kiev in this region the real reason for cancellation?” Zakharova reportedly said. “Publicly, we heard just such an explanation, we took note of it. Is this a reality?”

Well, no, it probably isn’t. Trump said, “I think it’s a very good time to have the meeting” an hour before he said he no longer wanted to have the meeting. The circumstances surrounding Moscow’s seizure of Ukrainian assets and personnel hadn’t changed. Nor had conditions in the Kerch Strait.

What had changed was Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleading guilty to lying under oath about his former boss’ efforts to build a Trump Tower Moscow.

Perhaps the most salient point, however, isn’t that the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson is right, but rather, that he’s comfortable mocking the American president and publicly questioning his credibility.

It’s almost as if Moscow is confident it can get away with trying to embarrass Trump during an international gathering.

Postscript: It’s not yet clear exactly what’ll happen in Argentina, but a Kremlin spokesperson claimed today that Trump and Putin will have an impromptu meeting during the G-20 summit. A White House official denied this.