Under Secretary of Defense for Policy John Rood on Friday defended the White House’s invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin to come to Washington in the fall.
“I think having an exchange and having a frank discussion amongst our leaders is something to be done,” Rood told CNN’s Barbara Starr at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado.
“I think it’s a very normal and practical thing.”
The White House has spent the week on the defensive after a joint news conference between Putin and US President Donald Trump opened up questions about Trump’s confidence in US intelligence analysis.
During the news conference, Trump appeared to accept Putin’s denial over the conclusion made by the US intelligence community that Russia had interfered in the 2016 US election – a comment that he later walked back.
Following the two leaders’ summit in Helsinki, Finland, the White House announced it had invited Putin to visit for a second meeting in the fall, which has brought on additional criticism.
Rood explained that in years past, US presidents have consistently had exchanges with their Russian counterparts, and he noted that Russia is an important country “on the world stage.”
“President Putin has visited the White House before. He’s visited the United States before. For instance, when I served in the White House, under George W. Bush, he came to President Bush’s home in Crawford, Texas. He also went fishing with him in Kennebunkport, Maine. He went to George H.W.’s home. It isn’t especially noteworthy to me,” he said.