US president Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin will hold a summit in Finland on July 16th. This will be the first time that Trump and Putin will be meeting at a summit. Both world leaders had rubbed shoulders on the sidelines of major gatherings in the past.
A statement released by the White House confirmed that the two leaders will discuss relations between the two countries and a wide range of national security issues. The Kremlin, on the other hand, said that the meeting will focus on the development of relations between the two countries. According to Russia, they want to use the meeting to discuss several other global issues.
Trump confirmed to reporters early on Wednesday that the talks will largely focus on Syria and Ukraine. However, the president didn’t answer when he was asked whether he will bring up the ongoing investigation into the Russian interference in US elections. Nonetheless, the president has never shied away from letting people know how he feels about the investigation. Just a day before the meeting was announced, Trump sent a tweet arguing that the Russians have repeatedly said they had nothing to do with the 2016 election yet the probe has been going on for months now.
Trump has already met Putin twice in person. The leaders first met on the sidelines of the G20 summit held in Germany last July. They also met during the Asia-Pacific summit that was held in Vietnam in November last year. The newest summit will come on the backdrop of other major meetings. Trump is expected to visit the United Kingdom on July 13th and attend the NATO summit in Brussels two days before meeting Putin.
President Trump’s relations with NATO and European allies haven’t been good in the recent months. The President has called on NATO members to honor their contributions to the alliance. He has also given mixed feelings about the military pact. At one point Trump appeared to endorse the alliance while in other cases he expressed dissent. This, of course, has left many European allies unsettled. In addition to this, the president also withdrew from a joint statement by G7 member nations after a meeting in Canada. The move was also seen as unsettling for US allies like Canada and Germany.
Trump didn’t spare Russia either. Despite calls in the mainstream media that the president is going soft on Moscow, the White House slapped several tough sanctions on Russia this year. However, many analysts believe that the mixed approach in foreign policy by the Trump administration has confused everybody.
Relations with Russia, in particular, have been inconsistent in the past few months. While the Trump administration has shown willingness to normalize relations with Kremlin, there hasn’t been any concrete action towards this. The Helsinki summit may address some of these issues but it’s still a small step.