Local Professors Weigh In on Historic Week of US-Russia Elections

ANKENY, Iowa -- People outside of Washington D.C. are processing what happened in Finland and the days following the summit between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Paul Byrd teaches U.S. history, Russian history, and national government at DMACC in Ankeny.  He says what happened in Helsinki was a departure from the history books.

“It was rather momentous to have a sitting president go to another country and then side with that country. We have had a history of not really getting along with the Russians, not trusting the Russians, and to throw that all aside and just say 'I believe his word because he strongly and forcefully said so' is very interesting over documented evidence” said Byrd.

Since the summit President Trump has had to clarify a handful of times whether or not he believes U.S. intelligence that Russia is responsible for trying to influence U.S. elections and is currently still believed to be a threat to do so.

Byrd says the happenings between the two countries since President Trump was a candidate has influenced how he teaches his summer classes.

“Every day we open up with what's going on. You can’t say since 2016 we've had a boring week usually. There's always something, and so it's really kind of fun seeing the students come alive with that; they're very enthusiastic, they're very involved” said Byrd.

Maria Cochran is also a professor at DMACC but she grew up in Moscow. Coming over to go to Drake University at age 22, she offers her perspective on the last few days.

“The majority of the population actually, genuinely, trusts Putin to decide the country's fate” she said.

She says Trump's standing in Russia is better than any recent U.S. president.

“Russian propaganda official media channels have been very complimentary of Trump” said Cochran.

She says personally, tensions between the two countries make it difficult to see friends and family back in Moscow, however, she still has her doubts over the new attitudes from both sides and says the long history of animosity makes it hard to believe the changing winds are authentic.

“Of course, you want the relationship to be good, but at what cost…That's why you feel there's something going on there that is hidden from the general public” said Cochran.

Professor Byrd says he believes the summit in Helsinki was a win for the Putin Administration.