Unconfirmed reports coming out of Washington suggest that the US President Donald Trump is planning for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin next month. It will be the first time the two men have met in this capacity, although they have shared several phone calls and meetings on the sidelines of other summits, most notably the G20 last July in Hamburg. The US President is expected to be in Brussels for talks concerning NATO, where he is almost certain to raise the issue of the continuing cost of protecting the EU by the US taxpayer. EU nations are supposed to contribute two percent of their GDP to the United States for this service. President Trump has complained that very few meet this target.
Reports suggest aides and senior officials responsible for arranging the US President’s diary have been told to schedule a meeting with the Russian President, although it is extremely unlikely to be on the sidelines of a NATO summit and may not be in Brussels either. Instead, Helsinki could be a venue; it suits both nations as a neutral venue and has fulfilled such a role in the past.
If the meeting goes ahead, the two men will have plenty to discuss:
- The de-nuclearization of North Korea, which shares a border with Russia;
- The current status of economic sanctions imposed by the US on Russia;
- Russian concerns about the breakdown of the global trade structure and US intentions;
- The war in Syria, which has seen military engagement from NATO and Russia on opposite sides of the conflict;
- The civil war in eastern Ukraine, which both sides unofficially support from opposite sides;
- NATO’s expansion and development plans – Russia has recently reacted with anger at the increased deployment of US marines in Norway;
- Any time frame for the clearing up of these outstanding matters and the possibility of a return to normalized relations; and
- Cordial invitations for both leaders for further talks at the Kremlin and in the White House.
Donald Trump is known to favor strong leaders, despite the domestic conditions under which they operate. In which case, he is likely to have respect for Vladimir Putin, who enjoys high popularity ratings in Russia.
It remains to be seen if the July summit goes ahead, and where, in addition to any outcome. Given the low rankings of US-Russian relations right now, President Trump, although he will face criticism, will be able to sell the meeting to his supporters as an example of his global statesmanship – meeting and getting on with “difficult” leaders.
President Putin’s response can be expected to be rather more measured, with a “see how we go” mentality. But either way, if the summit is indeed being planned, President Trump’s global media exposure will once again hit the heights of his DPRK summit in Singapore. In the mind of a man and nation who now measure political success in TV ratings, this meeting is likely to be a sure thing.
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