It has come out in the public eye for the first time: President Trump has been secretly cooperating with Ukraine’s controversial and at times violent anti-Russian aggression — a relationship officials described as deeply controversial within the Trump administration. But while there are deeply conflicting interests, there is no evidence so far that Mr. Trump himself has waded into the political disputes that have pitted Ukrainian officials against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is likely to investigate not only the unusual cooperation but also the details behind it.
Mr. Trump’s disclosure of the discussions, first reported by The New York Times, came as he celebrated an announcement that he had agreed to extend and double the size of an American military base in southern Poland, a country in Russia’s orbit. The announcement appeared timed to coincide with the planned visit to the region of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir V. Putin.
That embassy in Warsaw will house the United States’ newest force in Europe: A 1,000-member joint battalion currently operating in Lithuania that will be augmented by a 5,000-troop deployment from nearby U.S. European Command headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. A spokesman for Ecom said the idea for the new battalion was announced by Mr. Trump in May, when he thanked the Defense Department for expanding the rotating U.S. forces in Europe and said, “This is a big deal for Europe.”