President Trump might have just gotten done telling the world how much he believes Vladimir Putin when he says he didn’t mess with the U.S. election, but other world leaders aren’t so sure. Theresa May has come out swinging against Putin, and has accused the Kremlin of attempting to “undermine free societies” with the barrage of fake news stories coming out of Russia targeting not on the Brexit vote and the U.S. election, but also campaigns in France and Germany. May laid out exactly what she thinks of Moscow’s meddling in her latest speech on foreign policy:
“I have a very simple message for Russia. We know what you are doing and you will not succeed, because you underestimate the resilience of our democracies, the enduring attraction of free and open societies, and the commitment of Western nations to the alliances that bind us. …[Russia] is seeking to weaponize information, deploying its state-run media organisations to plant fake stories and Photoshopped images in an attempt to sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions.”
In her remarks at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet at London’s Guildhall, May went on to explain that “Russia has repeatedly violated the national airspace of several European countries and mounted a sustained campaign of cyber espionage and disruption.” She also noted that in addition to interference with Britain’s affairs, “This has included meddling in elections and hacking the Danish Ministry of Defence and the Bundestag among many others.”
Her comments are a sharp contrast to those made by President Trump after a private meeting with Putin during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Vietnam. “Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” Trump said of the accusations made against Putin. Trump hinted at his perspective on how best to handle the Russian leader, appearing to advocate for warming ties with Moscow rather than freezing them out.
“I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country,” Trump said of how Putin has reacted to all the talk of election hacking. “I just asked him again. He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did.”
Theresa May had no such reassurances or sympathies. “Russia can, and I hope one day will, choose this different path,” she told the banqueters. “But for as long as Russia does not, we will act together to protect our interests and the international order on which they depend.”