(CNSNews.com) - The White House on Monday called Russia’s nerve agent attack on a former spy and his daughter “brazen” and “reckless,” but added President Donald Trump remains open to working with Russia on “areas of mutual concern.”
As CNSNews.com reported, Trump expelled dozens of Russian diplomats from the U.S. in response to the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, and ordered the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle due to its proximity to a U.S. submarine base and Boeing.
“Regarding the Russia actions that were announced earlier today, the president has not personally said anything about the expulsion of these 60 diplomats, and in his phone call last week with President Putin, he decided not to confront Putin about the attack despite the advice he was given from his national security advisers, and he went on to congratulate Putin on that phone call,” a reporter said.
“So how do you square the aggressive actions that the administration is taking with an entirely different approach from the president?” a reporter asked White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah.
“Well I think there was a statement coming out from the press secretary on this, and the last sentence basically outlined our approach to this, which is our relationship with Russia is frankly up to the Russian government and up to Vladimir Putin and others in senior leadership in Russia. We want to have a cooperative relationship,” Shah said.
The press secretary said Trump wants to work with Russia, “but their actions sometimes don’t allow that to happen.”
“The poisoning in the UK that has kind of led to today’s announcement was a very brazen action. It was a reckless action,” Shah said.
“It endangered not just two individuals who were poisoned, but many civilians, many innocent civilians, and this is not the kind of conduct that the United States or allies can accept, but the president still remains open to working with the Russians on areas of mutual concern - counterterrorism, for example, and others, but that’s really up to the Russians to decide,” he added.
When pressed on why Trump didn’t tell Putin that the nerve agent attack was “a reckless and brazen action” when he spoke with the Russian leader on the phone, Shah said, “Well he raised a number of issues, and we did secure with Putin on that call some positive interaction when it comes nuclear arms, so there are certainly positive developments from that call.
“And the president will continue diplomacy with Russia and with Putin, but this action by the president was very clear. We’re very heartened that it comes in conjunction with over a dozen allies both in NATO and EU,” the press secretary added.
When asked whether Russia’s “attack on the soil of a valued ally” rises to “the level of an act of war,” Shah said, “We’ve been joined at the hip with the UK on this matter. We stand firmly with our ally. Again, I’ll classify this action as both brazen and reckless. And, I don’t want to get ahead of the president may or may not announce or declare later on.”