JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump faced dramatically different crowds as he made his way across Europe today. His second overseas trip began in Poland, before he moved on to Hamburg, Germany, the site of the summit of leaders of the major industrialized nations.
Special correspondent Ryan Chilcote reports.
RYAN CHILCOTE: President Trump kicked off his second trip to Europe by doing something he was criticized for not doing on his first: offering America’s full commitment to the NATO alliance.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The United States has demonstrated not merely with words but with its actions that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the mutual defense commitment. Words are easy but actions are what matters.
RYAN CHILCOTE: Mr. Trump was addressing a friendly crowd of some 15,000 in Warsaw, Poland, some of the spectators bused in by the country’s center-right governing party. To the delight of Poles concerned about Russia, their neighbor to the east, he declared the West would triumph over its many adversaries.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. I declare today for the world to hear that the West will never, ever be broken. Our values will prevail, our people will thrive, and our civilization will triumph.
RYAN CHILCOTE: The president, though, reiterated criticism of some NATO allies in Western Europe for not committing more to defense spending.
Mr. Trump also offered his most forceful condemnation yet of Russia, just a day before his meeting with President Vladimir Putin.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere and its support for hostile regimes, including Syria and Iran, and to instead join the community of responsible nations.
RYAN CHILCOTE: Hours earlier, at a press conference with Poland’s president, though, Mr. Trump skirted questions about Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
REPORTER: Will you once and for all, yes or no, definitively say that Russia interfered with the 2016 election?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I think it was Russia and I think it could’ve been other people and other countries. It could’ve been a lot of people interfered. Nobody really knows, nobody really knows for sure.
RYAN CHILCOTE: Mr. Trump also cast blame on former President Barack Obama.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think what happened is that he thought Hillary Clinton was going to win the election and he said, let’s not do anything about it. Had he thought the other way, he would have done something about it.
RYAN CHILCOTE: President Trump then flew to Hamburg, Germany for the G20 Summit. There he met German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The two have publicly tussled on a variety of issues including trade and climate change.
All the while the “welcome to hell” protest, its actual title, was already under way, turning violent almost immediately. Thousands of protesters clashed with police in riot gear who used water cannons to disperse crowds. Others rushed demonstrators, tackling them to the ground.
RYAN CHILCOTE: President Trump’s most important meeting is, of course, tomorrow. That will be his first ever meeting with the president of Russia — Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Ryan, you’ve covered the Kremlin. How do you think Mr. Putin is going to react to what President Trump had to say today about Russia’s interference in last year’s election?
RYAN CHILCOTE: Well, look, I don’t think that President Putin will like those remarks. At the same time, I think in a way he will appreciate that they were made in Poland and not here at the G20 Summit, not alongside the Russian president.
You know, they’re well aware that President Trump is optically challenged. It will be very difficult for him to say something pro-Russian at this point. They feel that, at this point, it would be very difficult for him to really achieve much when it comes to improving the Russian-American relationship. They just don’t want to see it get any worse.
So, I think they’ll think that he was sort of speaking to the crowd, speaking to the parlor, if you will, and what really matters is what President Trump tells them in that — or tells President Putin in that room when it comes to policy, and namely what President Putin is hoping is two things, that one, President Trump will perhaps listen to some of the issues that he has with the Ukrainian side, when it comes to Russia’s conflict in Ukraine, and secondly, President Putin will be hoping that he can use Russia’s precedence in Syria, what Russia is doing in Syria as a bridge to the United States, find some kind of common ground, encourage President Trump to pursue for example Islamic State in Syria together with Syria.
That is a whole lot of challenges but that has always been the Russians’ big hope that they can team up with the United States or at least the lower the level, the temperature in the relationship by working together in Syria.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Ryan Chilcote reporting for us from Hamburg, thank you.
RYAN CHILCOTE: Thank you.