Trump laments Russia's "destabilizing behavior" before meeting Putin

Last Updated Jul 6, 2017 8:40 AM EDT

WARSAW -- Speaking only about 700 miles from Moscow and just a day before his first encounter with Vladimir Putin, President Trump on Thursday criticized what he called Russia's "destabilizing behavior," and said the U.S. remained committed to deterring conflict in Europe.

In the strongest terms he has used to date, Mr. Trump called on Russia to halt its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere. He also called on Moscow to drop its support for "hostile regimes" in Syria and Iran. Mr. Trump then extended an invite to Russia to join the community of responsible nations to defend against terrorism -- a line which may resonate with Putin, who has long suggested interest in partnering with the U.S. to fight extremism in places like Syria.  

But as CBS News chief White House correspondent Major Garret reports, Mr. Trump also refused to blame Moscow -- as top U.S. intelligence agencies have done -- for alone carrying out cyber meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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Ahead of his first face-to-face meeting with the Russian president, to come on Friday at a G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, Mr. Trump injected doubt into U.S. intelligence assessments that Putin himself directed Russia's unprecedented cyber meddling in the election.

"I think it was Russia, but I think it was probably other people and or countries and I see nothing wrong with that statement. Nobody really knows," Mr. Trump said.

One issue the U.S. will raise with Russia, says Garrett, is next steps in Syria. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson -- echoing Obama-administration policy -- said Wednesday that the U.S. goal is to cooperate with Russia on Syria's political future after ISIS is defeated.

"We have begun an effort to rebuild confidence between ourselves and Russia, at the military-to-military level, but also the diplomatic level," Tillerson said. "But we're at the very beginning and I would say at this point it's difficult to say what Russia's intentions are in this relationship."

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Speaking soon after Mr. Trump gave his remarks in Warsaw, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia disagreed with the U.S. view of Moscow as a "destabilizing" force.

"We disagree with such an approach," Peskov said on a conference call with reporters, adding that the Kremlin also lamented the lack of mutual understanding at present between Washington and Moscow.

"This is exactly why we are waiting for the first meeting of the two presidents," Peskov said.

In his address to the Polish people later Thursday, President Trump praised Poland as an example of courage in the face of oppression, and how best to defend Western civilization.

Trump addresses Polish people ahead of G20 summit

"Our citizens are confronted by yet another danger, one firmly in our control," Mr. Trump said. "This danger is invisible to some, but familiar to the Poles: the steady creep of government bureaucracy that drains the vitality and wealth of the people."   

The Polish government's tough approach on immigration, and recent crackdowns on press freedom and the courts, leave it out of step with many of the European leaders Mr. Trump will soon meet at the G-20 summit.

Following North Korea's July 4 test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), Mr. Trump offered no specific roadmap or timetable for any next steps in dealing with the rogue nation.

"What happens over the next weeks and months with respect to North Korea… it's a shame that they are behaving this way, but they are behaving in a very, very dangerous manner, and something will have to be done about it," he said, after noting that his administration was considering some "pretty severe things" in response.

President Trump's vague remarks left uncertain how the U.S. might bolster its efforts to deter North Korea's pursuit of ballistic missile technology to enable a theoretical nuclear strike against the U.S.

Current administration options include pressuring China and other nations to limit North Korea's access to capital and labor. Before leaving for Europe, Mr. Trump asked the Pentagon for fresh military options to deal with North Korea.