At Chautauqua, Former Ambassador Questions Trump’s Diplomacy

Former Deputy Secretary of State and U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation William Burns continued the theme of “Russia and the West” at the Chautauqua Institution on Tuesday. Burns detailed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rise to power and his relationship with the United States since then. P-J Photos by Jordan W. Patterson

CHAUTAUQUA — William Burns, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State and Ambassador to the Russian Federation, urged audience members at the Chautauqua Institution to not lose hope with the future of Russia just yet.

On the heels of stark criticism from Democratic and Republican leaders regarding President Donald Trump’s summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Burns continued Chautauqua Institution’s week four theme of “Russia and the West” by detailing Putin’s relationship with the U.S. since his rise to power.

The meeting between Trump and Putin followed 12 indictments of Russian agents by the Justice Department on June 13.

Burns described Trump’s response to the indictments following the meeting with Putin as an embarrassment. He explained that diplomacy is much larger in scope than simply “getting along” with foreign leaders and adversaries. Burns further explained that U.S. diplomacy should advance the country’s interests, something he felt Trump eluded on Monday.

“President Trump’s concluding press conference was, at least in my view, the single most embarrassing performance of an American president on the world stage that I’ve ever seen,” Burns said to applause from the audience.

Burns said Trump’s inability to properly condemn Putin for his involvement in the Syrian Civil War and election meddling gave the Russian leader a “political victory.”

Burns compared Trump’s handling of foreign affairs — especially with Putin — to how he managed his real estate empire detailed in the book “The Art of the Deal.”

Burns’ career is comprised of much experience involving foreign and political affairs. His resume includes service as the undersecretary for political affairs from 2008 to 2011, the ambassador to Russia from 2005 to 2008, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs from 2001 to 2005, ambassador to Jordan from 1998 to 2001, executive director of the State Department and special assistant to former secretaries of state.

Burns currently serves as the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Burns argued that the indictments announced last Friday were clear evidence that Russia meddled in the 2016 election. He said any “reasonable person” having read the documents would be hard pressed to come to any other conclusion that doesn’t include Putin intentionally interfering with the previous U.S. election.

While Burns was concerned with the current U.S.-Russia relationship, he offered an optimistic perspective for the future. He said in order to move forward, Russia should no longer interfere with U.S. elections. Burns also said both countries should restore regular communication among both countries’ diplomats and militaries to avoid “inadvertent collisions.” He remained hopeful that relations with Russia could be improved upon in the near future.

“Do not give in to Putin, but don’t give up on Russia,” he said.