US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin are set to size each other up in person for the first time on Friday in what promises to be the most highly anticipated meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit, Reuters reports.
Trump has said he wants to find ways to work with Putin, a goal made more difficult by sharp differences over Russia’s actions in Syria and Ukraine, and allegations Moscow meddled in the 2016 US presidential election.
That means every facial expression and physical gesture will be analyzed as much as any words the two leaders utter as the world tries to read how well Trump, a real estate magnate and former reality television star, gets along with Putin, a former spy.
The fear is that the Republican president, a political novice whose team is still developing its Russia policy, will be less prepared than Putin, who has dealt with the past two US presidents and scores of other world leaders.
“There’s nothing … the Kremlin would like to see more than a [US] president who will settle for a grip and a grin and walk away saying that he had this fabulous meeting with the Kremlin autocrat,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives’ Intelligence Committee, said in an interview on MSNBC.
As investigations at home continue into whether there was any collusion between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia – allegations that Trump has fiercely denied – the US president has come under pressure to take a hard line against the Kremlin.
On Thursday, Trump won praise from at least one Republican hawk in the US Congress after he urged Russia to stop its “destabilizing activities” and end its support for Syria and Iran in a speech in Warsaw.
“This is a great start to an important week of American foreign policy,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who has often been critical of Trump on security issues.
But earlier in the day, Trump declined to say definitively whether he believed US intelligence officials who have said that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
“I think it was Russia, but I think it was probably other people and/or countries, and I see nothing wrong with that statement. Nobody really knows. Nobody really knows for sure,” Trump said at a news conference, before slamming Democratic former President Barack Obama for not doing more to stop hacking.
– Contact us at [email protected]