Trump and Putin to talk face to face for first time in ‘fully fledged’ meeting
Wednesday - 05/07/2017 16:23
FORGET the staged handshake and forced smile for the cameras.
US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are set to have a “fully fledged” face-to-face at the G20 summit on Friday. One site has gone so far as to call it “the meeting that could shape the world”.
Expect to see some serious chest-beating — because each leader will be keen to show strength, while trying to patch up a relationship that has deteriorated considerably.
“It is planned as a fully fledged, seated meeting,” Mr Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told Russian news agency TASS.
Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said it would be “a rather detailed, in-depth discussion”.
The sit-down will be the first official meeting between Mr Putin and a US president since Barack Obama’s tense talk with the Russian president two years ago.
The meeting should be a show worth watching, because each leader has a lot of pride at stake and each presents himself that their nation’s toughest advocate.
“(I expect) an Olympian level of macho posturing between these two leaders, who both understand the importance of symbolism and the perception of being tough,” Derek Chollet, a former senior national security official in the Obama administration, told CNN.
While neither the White House nor the Kremlin has detailed what subjects are on the agenda, these are the hot-button issues that Donald Trump claims have brought relations between Russia and the US to an “all-time low”.
RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE IN THE US ELECTION
Twin inquiries in Washington have uncovered undeniable evidence that Russia deliberately interfered in last year’s presidential election to sway it in Mr Trump’s favour.
What is yet to have been proven is whether Russia’s efforts made a difference to the outcome. Mr Trump’s spokespeople say continually that Russian interference did not change even one vote.
The US President dismissed the issue for months, saying that the story was perpetuated because the Democrats were looking for a way to justify Hillary Clinton’s surprise loss.
Russian interference in the poll — and the FBI investigation into whether the Trump campaign helped — has been the biggest thorn in Mr Trump’s side during his fledgling presidency.
The face-to-face meeting would give him a chance to chastise Mr Putin for meddling in US democracy, but the White House is yet to say whether Mr Trump will raise the subject.
One of the main arenas where the US and Russia have clashed in recent years is Syria, where each country has competing aims.
Russia has provided military and diplomatic support for the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, which is determined to shut down a rebel uprising as part of a civil war that has claimed more than 400,000 lives. At the same time, Mr Assad is leading a fight against Islamic State militants, with air cover support from Russia.
The US, meanwhile, is leading a separate military coalition that is attempting to destroy IS in Syria and neighbouring Iraq.
Tensions with the US boiled over last month when Russia declared that it would now consider American planes in Syria as “aerial targets” and cease communications via a military hotline.
The escalation came after the US shot down a Syrian warplane that had dropped bombs near ground forces supported by the US.
With Russia unlikely to stop providing political and military cover to Syria — which has used chemical weapons against its own people — this remains an issue where Mr Trump and Mr Putin are very much at odds.
SANCTIONS AGAINST RUSSIA
The US has imposed economic sanctions on Russia for taking over Crimea, a region of Ukraine, which neighbours Russia. In addition, the US Senate has proposed further sanctions on Russia as punishment for its interference in the election.
Mr Putin is likely to complain in the meeting about the US seizing Russia’s diplomatic compounds in New York and Maryland.
Mr Obama made the call to close the two properties in the dying days of his presidency — kicking out 35 Russian diplomats in the process — in retaliation of Russian meddling in the poll.
“The most important thing now is not to go overboard with a response,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said on Tuesday in comments implicitly directed at Mr Trump.
“Those who take a responsible approach towards the task of ensuring peace should understand that using this incident as a pretext for triggering another spiral of countermeasures, which will inevitably lead to reciprocal steps, is a tried and tested dead-end track.”
Mr Trump has previously leaned on Chinese President Xi Jinping to use his influence as the leader of North Korea’s main ally to pressure it to abandon its aggressive weapons program — to no avail.
North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea.....
Donald Trump talked a big game during the election campaign about improving the US’s relationship with Russia, saying that he thought Mr Putin was “very smart”.
He argued that it was in the US’s best interest for him to have a good relationship with the Russian president, despite the fact that many in Washington consider him to be an enemy of America.
However, in April, after Mr Putin met with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Moscow, Mr Trump said: “We’re not getting along with Russia at all.
“We may be at an all-time low,” he added.
Mr Trump prides himself on having good relationships with foreign leaders, forged during face-to-face meetings. This week’s encounter will no doubt represent his best chance to turn the sour relationship with Russia around.