Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, made clear the US’s firm position against Russia but admitted diplomatic communication between the two world powers “are things that have to happen.”
“We don’t trust Russia, we don’t trust Putin, we never will,” Haley told the Christian Broadcasting Network on Monday. “They’re never going to be our friend. That’s just a fact.”
“What I do think is, whether it’s the president sitting down with [North Korean leader] Kim or whether the president sits down with [Russia President Vladimir] Putin, those are things that have to happen,” Haley added. “You can’t get to the end of the other side if you don’t have those conversations.”
Haley described President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and “face-to-face” meetings with Chinese and Russian leaders — countries typically viewed as the US’s economic and military adversaries — as hallmarks of his negotiation tactic.
“He’s done it with other leaders,” Haley said. “He did it with President Xi of China and that’s just his way. He feels like he can get more out of them if he goes one-on-one like that. It’s his style. It’s the way he does it.”
Haley has been a staunch critic of the Kremlin throughout the Trump presidency. In May, she described Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea as “a textbook example of [a] direct violation,” and unequivocally held it responsible for the attempted assassination of a former Russia spy.
Haley’s pointed remarks on Monday come one week after Trump held a controversial joint press conference with Putin at the summit in Helsinki, Finland. During the press conference, Trump cast doubt on the US intelligence assessment that concluded Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election and appeared to side with Putin’s denial.
After sparking bipartisan outrage, Trump walked back his remarks the very next day and claimed he misspoke. Shortly after returning to the US, he embarked on a week-long media blitz and voiced his stance against Russia’s exploits.
“I let him [Putin] know we can’t have this, we’re not going to have it, and that’s the way it’s going to be,” Trump said to CBS News on Wednesday.
“If that doesn’t work out, I’ll be the worst enemy he’s ever had,” Trump said, referring to Putin, in another interview with CNBC Thursday. “The worst he’s ever had.”