It’s been two days since President Trump’s historic summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the administration has not made clear what Trump agreed to or how it will be carried out, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.
There’s nothing unusual about this, as the Post reported. But the piece still said that since it’s Trump, it represents chaos.
Russia is saying “important verbal agreements” were reached on arms control agreements, Syria and other matters, according to the piece.
“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 in Helsinki, had little to no information Wednesday.”
Press officers at the Pentagon “remained unable to answer media questions about how the summit might impact the military,” and 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.”
Votel may not be in the know, but Defense Secretary James Mattis is out of sight, the piece said. Votel did not attend Wednesday’s cabinet meeting with Trump “and has not appeared in public this week or commented on the summit.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders “listed a number of topics that had been discussed, including ‘Syrian humanitarian aid, Iran’s nuclear ambition, Israeli security, North Korean denuclearization, Ukraine and the occupation of Crimea, reducing Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals, and of course your favorite topic, Russia’s interference in our elections.’”
Trump told lawmakers there has been “significant progress toward addressing” these issues and others, but “neither Sanders nor any other U.S. official from Trump on down has offered specifics on what was accomplished on those subjects beyond what she called ‘the beginning of a dialogue with Russia.’”
The U.S. won’t provide details on the summit, according to the piece. But Anatoly Antanov, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., said there many specifics, calling the meeting, “important, comprehensive, productive and constructive.”
The Post would not have imposed such time constraints for ultimate clarity on the Obama administration, as was made clear later in the story.
Military officials had become “accustomed a year and a half into the Trump administration to a decision-making process that is far less structured than it was under President Barack Obama” and thus “appeared unfazed by the lack of clarity.”
“Unlike Obama, who oversaw a national security process that was famously meticulous and often slow, Trump has presided over a more fluid, less formally deliberative system.” The shift “while welcome by those frustrated by the pace of decision-making under Obama, may provide top military officials less regular access to their commander in chief and fewer opportunities to influence the policy process.”
As “nonmilitary officials who were provided minimal, indirect readouts expressed confidence that no agreement had been struck with Putin on Syria and that Trump … made clear to Putin that no American departure was imminent.”
“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,” it wrote. “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, including no other officials or note-takers, just interpreters.”