On July 16th, 2018 Donald Trump, the US President will meet face-to-face with Vladimir Putin his Russian counterpart in Helsinki. Formerly famed as a neutral ground during cold war times is no longer such a place, as Putin and Trump were greeted with signs saying, “You’re not welcome” and billboards stating “Mr. President, welcome to the land of free press” in both Russian and English.
The New Yorker dubbed the upcoming summit “An Amateur Boxer Up Against Muhammad Ali”. Trump, in his interview with CBS said that he expects nothing much from the talks, but “nothing bad” will come of them. He goes into the meeting unprepared, while calls of him hold off the summit due to the indictment of 12 alleged Russian agents in regard to the 2016 elections. When asked by CBS whether he planned to put forward the issue of extraditing the 12 agents, Trump responded that he hadn’t considered the option.
Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 16 July 2018
“I go in with very low expectations. I think that getting along with Russia is a good thing, but it’s possible that we won’t,” Trump said in his interview with CBS. Donald Trump is expected to bring up Syria, Ukraine, and Crimea specifically as well as the election meddling, however that is yet to be established as there is no official agenda.
US Ambassador to Russian Jon Huntsman at first stated “I think the fact that we’re having a summit at this level, at this time in history, is a deliverable in itself.” After which he undercut his own expectations “It isn’t a summit. I’ve heard it called a summit. This is a meeting.”
Kremlin and Putin’s comment are much less public and the only statement they have put forward is “No, a joint communique is not a necessary attribute of such meetings. The statements will be made by the two presidents right after the summit,” which came from Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin Spokesman. The Kremlin also does not expect an easy meeting, expecting Trump’s criticism of a planned gas pipeline to Germany and it also suggests that common ground regarding Syria will be difficult to find due to differences over Iran.
European Council President Donald Tusk urged both Presidents to not destroy global order, while speaking at a news conference with China’s No. 2 Leader, Premier Li Keqiang, his exact words were as quoted by AP News “It is the common duty of Europe and China, America and Russia, not to destroy this order but to improve it, not to start trade wars which turn into hot conflict so often in our history.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May, quoted by Reuters, welcomes the summit, saying that it must be used to reduce the risk of confrontation and to reduce Russian “malign activity.”
German officials are wary of the meeting, Peter Beyer, Angela Merkel’s transatlantic coordinator said in front of Funke Mediengruppe newspapers – “There are great concerns in the alliance about what agreements Trump and Putin could reach.” Other German officials are worried that Trump may refuse to sign a communique at the upcoming NATO meeting in Brussels, similar to what he did at the G7 summit.
France has taken a somewhat neutral standing, Macron seeks to raise France’s international standing and pursues to engage with world leaders, regardless of whether their decisions are controversial. The French president met with Putin on the day of the World Cup Finals, a day prior to the summit, seeking to not only enjoy the game, but to also raise questions regarding Ukraine, Syria among other things, no official information of the meeting has been released yet.
The G7 representatives, excluding the US side, have stated that Russia must “account for its role” in the 2014 downing of Malaysian flight MH17 over Ukraine and to cooperate in the efforts to establish the truth and bring justice. Whether Trump will put forward this issue is currently unknown.
There is much to discuss in this historical meeting, which comes at a very critical and adverse time, whether it will be positive or negative is yet to be seen.