Two days after President Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian officials offered a string of assertions about what the two leaders had achieved.
“Important verbal agreements” were reached at the Helsinki meeting, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, told reporters in Moscow Wednesday, including preservation of the New START and INF agreements, major bilateral arms control treaties whose futures have been in question. Antonov also said Putin had made “specific and interesting proposals to Washington” on how the two countries could cooperate on Syria.
But officials at the most senior levels across the U.S. military, scrambling since Monday to determine what Trump may have agreed to on national security issues in Helsinki, had little to no information Wednesday.
At the Pentagon, as press officers remained unable to answer media questions about how the summit might impact the military, the paucity of information exposed an awkward gap in internal administration communications. The uncertainty surrounding Moscow’s suggestion of some sort of new arrangement or proposal regarding Syria, in particular, was striking because Gen. Joseph Votel, who heads U.S. Central Command, is scheduled to brief reporters on Syria and other matters Thursday.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis did not attend Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting with Trump and has not appeared in public this week or commented on the summit.
“When we are able to provide more details, we will, but rest assured, the U.S. Department of Defense remains laser focused on the defense of our nation,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.
Current and former officials said it is not unusual for it to take at least several days for aides to finalize and distribute internal memos documenting high-level conversations. Adding to the delay in the case of Trump’s Russia summit is the fact that the president’s longest encounter with Putin, a two hour-plus session, included no other officials or note-takers, just interpreters.