President Donald Trump is “subservient” to Russian president Vladimir Putin, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden alleged on Monday, calling Trump’s unusual relationship with the Russian leader “humiliating and embarrassing” for the United States.
“Never before has an American president played such a subservient role to a Russian leader,” Biden said during a major campaign speech in Pennsylvania. “It’s not only dangerous, it’s humiliating and embarrassing for the rest of the world to see. It weakens us.”
“Not even American troops can feel safer under Trump,” he said.
Biden criticized Trump for failing to raise the issue of reported Russian bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan during multiple phone calls with Putin. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly raised the issue with his counterpart in a call earlier this month, but Trump has said publicly that he has not addressed it with Putin.
“That was a phone call to discuss other things, and frankly, that’s an issue that many people said was fake news,” Trump said in an interview with “Axios on HBO” in July, referring to a recent call with the Russian leader. “If it reached my desk, I would have done something about it.”
Officials included intelligence on the bounty program in Trump’s daily briefing in February, according to the New York Times, but Trump seldom reads his written briefing.
Biden also rebuked Trump for failing to publicly address an altercation between U.S. and Russian troops in Syria last week. A Russian vehicle struck a U.S. convoy vehicle near Dayrick, leaving U.S. troops with concussion-like injuries.
“It’s been reported that Russian forces just attacked American troops in Syria, injuring our service members. Did you hear the president say a single word? Did he lift one finger?” Biden said.
Videos of the encounter appear to show the Russian vehicle ramming the U.S. vehicle.
Pentagon leaders have spoken to their counterparts about the incident, according to a statement from Defense Department spokesman Jonathan Hoffman.
“We have advised the Russians that their behavior was dangerous and unacceptable,” Hoffman said on Thursday. “We expect a return to routine and professional deconfliction in Syria and reserve the right to defend our forces vigorously whenever their safety is put at risk.”
Trump’s consistent defense of Putin has raised eyebrows in Washington, with critics accusing him of cozying up to the autocratic leader. In one particularly shocking incident, Trump publicly sided with Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies, saying that he believed the Russian president when he said that Russia had not interfered in the 2016 election.
“President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be,” Trump said on stage at the 2018 Helsinki summit between the two leaders.
Obliquely addressing the criticism that Trump has been “soft” on Russia, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien argued in an August column in the Washington Post that Trump has used sanctions and indictments to penalize Russia for malign behavior. But he praised Trump for striving for “good relations” with Moscow.
“Like Reagan, President Trump strives for good relations with all nations, including Russia,” O’Brien wrote. “But no nation, including Russia, should doubt the president’s commitment to defending the United States and our allies.”
A recent report from the GOP-led Senate Intelligence Committee found that the Trump campaign had numerous interactions with Russian intelligence services during the 2016 presidential election that posed a “grave” counterintelligence threat.