On Sunday morning, Donald Trump tweeted:
Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2017
On Sunday evening, Donald Trump tweeted:
The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn't mean I think it can happen. It can't-but a ceasefire can,& did!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 10, 2017
The U-turn came after senior Republicans condemned the proposal, but not before Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin appeared on ABC’s This Week to defend it. He said it was a “significant accomplishment”.
In the meantime, critics asked why the US would partner on cybersecurity with a nation suspected of meddling in the 2016 election. Republican Senator Marco Rubio compared it to teaming up with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on chemical weapons. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said: “It’s not the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard, but it’s pretty close.”
Ash Carter, US Defense Secretary under Obama, told CNN: “This is like the guy who robbed your house proposing a working group on burglary.”
Trump had spoken with Putin about the proposal in Berlin on Friday during their first face-to-face meeting.
This morning, the former head of GCHQ said that Russia is causing a “disproportionate amount of mayhem” in cyberspace.
In his first interview since leaving the post earlier this year, Robert Hannigan told the Radio 4 Today programme that politicians would have to push back.
“It doesn’t have to be by cyberretaliation but it may be that that is necessary at some time in the future,” he said. “The Americans have talked about that. It may be sanctions and other measures to put down red lines and say that this behaviour is unacceptable.”
Hannigan added that not everything is run by the Russian state, but said: “There is an overlap of crime and state, and a deeply corrupt system that allows crime to flourish, but the Russian state could do a lot to stop that and it could certainly rein in its own state activity.”