What can be expected from Trump-Putin meet?

  07-Jul-2018 15:35:27

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Expectations about an upcoming summit between the leaders of the US and Russia are increasing significantly due to the global importance of the two superpower nations,though it may ultimately result in little more than a public relations event, according to the experts.

Washington and Moscow announced last Thursday that Presidents Trump and Putin will meet in Helsinki on July 16.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also discussed preparations for the upcoming summit with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, according to statements from the two sides. The conflict in Syria and negotiations to reduce nuclear tensions with North Korea were on the agenda.

Relations between Moscow and Washington have sunk to a post-Cold War low over issues including Russia's seizure of Crimea in March 2014, its role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, and it’s meddling into the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

If the White House wants a summit that advances U.S. interests, the president will have to prepare. That means gaining an upper-hand on certain key U.S.-Russian issues, such as arms control, Ukraine, and Syria. Preparation also means a positive NATO summit on July 11 and 12 that sends a message of allied unity, especially in responding to the challenges posed by Russia. This would strengthen Trump’s hand as he sits down with Putin.

Finally, a successful summit in Helsinki requires that Trump confront Putin candidly and frankly on issues where Russia is misbehaving. In recent years, bilateral relations have devolved with Moscow increasingly openly disregarding international laws, beginning with the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014. While Putin insisted that the incident was legal, the wider community has condemned Moscow's actions as an illegal invasion and annexation of a wholly sovereign land — responding with sanctions on the country.

As far as Syria is concerned, it is another controversial topic between the two countries, with Putin supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government, while the U.S. backs other factions in the country.

U.S. officials have given conflicting signals as to whether Trump will raise the question of Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Putin is alleged to have interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, which has so far resulted in an ongoing probe in the U.S. Both countries have expelled 60 diplomats in response to a March nerve agent attack against a former Kremlin spy in the UK. The U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Putin ordered a hacking-and-propaganda effort aimed at swaying U.S. voters, but Trump has repeatedly questioned that assessment.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that he is confident that the topic of the election meddling will be addressed during the summit. He claimed that the Trump administration has been harder on Russia than many previous administrations, but said Trump will look to conduct "productive conversations" that can lead to improvements for both countries.

In light of the ongoing probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign, the meeting could serve as an opportunity for Trump to show his domestic audience that he is tough on Moscow. On the other hand, he could also seek to reassure Putin that he is still looking to strengthen the U.S. relationship with the Kremlin.

Peskov said on July 2 that the Russian president was open to searching for compromises with Trump on "all" issues except the status of Ukraine's Crimea region, which Moscow claims is part of Russia.

Although there are a number of issues for them to discuss, it will be challenging for the leaders to make any form of progress from the meeting, most analysts said. If nothing else, it will be good for the two leaders to sit down and touch base,” Chausovsky said. "Whatever comes out of it will probably not be relevant as this is not where the hard stuff will be discussed or decided,” Boulegue said.They added that modern summits between political leaders tend to produce few tangible results, and so there is too much importance attached to them.

By: Naisargi Kothari