Russian officials confirmed on Wednesday that a deal has been reached on holding a summit between President Trump and President Putin. Though the two have met twice on the sideline of international events, this will be the first direct summit with the Russian leader of Trump’s time in office.
Officials have said a date and time are set, but what they are has yet to be made public. Reports have suggested it will take place “in the next few weeks,” however, and will be in a third country, with Helsinki, Finland suggested as a probable location.
With allegations still swirling about Russian “meddling” in the 2016 election, President Trump has been very cautious with his diplomatic ties with Russian officials. This has meant that, despite substantial issues to be addressed, the US has much less engagement with Russia than in years past.
John Bolton, who was in Moscow negotiating this summit, says that President Trump will be raising a “full range of issues” during the summit. He downplayed the significance of the meeting, saying he didn’t view the summit as anything unusual.
Which normally it wouldn’t be. US and Russian presidents meet often. That Trump hasn’t done so formally in the last 18 months is much more unusual, however, and the political circus still swirling around the election will likely make the summit controversial, particularly for Trump’s political opponents.
NATO Allies Express Fear Over Trump-Putin Summit
Key US allies in NATO, including some long-time advocates of President Trump, are expressing severe opposition to Wednesday’s announcement of an upcoming summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Polish Sen. Anna Maria Anders said everyone needs to be worried, saying that Putin is “extremely charming” and it would be impossible to predict how Trump would react to this. She expressed concern Putin would talk Trump into withdrawing from Poland.
Other European officials offered similar concerns that Trump might make “spontaneous promises” to Putin on myriad important issues. They said the worst-case scenario would be Trump embracing Putin after a tense meeting with NATO.
This has been a recurring issue since Trump took office. Trump’s campaign talk of improving US-Russia ties was rejected by most other NATO members, and since then every hint of Trump meeting Putin or having talks with Russia has been followed by panic from those nations.
While it’s unlikely a simple summit with Russia would lead to any shocking changes in bilateral ties, the opposition is chiefly about changing the status quo, with much of NATO very comfortable with remaining hostile toward Russia, and fearing even the illusion of rapprochement.
Democrats Express Fear Over Putin-Trump Summit
It did not take long for the Democrats to start jumping up and down about this and who else but Rep. Adam Schiff to lead the charge:
“I fear that this summit will prove to be another blow to NATO and our allies, and a gift to the Kremlin,” Schiff says in emailed statement, adding that Trump should use the summit to confront Putin “on Russia’s interference in our elections.”
Trump should also confront Putin on “the invasion of Ukraine, Russian and Syrian war crimes in Syria, and the chemical weapons attack in the U.K.’”
We would expect this rhetoric to ramp up from here.