Trump, Putin to hold bilateral meeting this week
The meeting, confirmed by both the White House and the Kremlin on Tuesday, will be the first in-person meeting between the two leaders and the first official bilateral meeting between a US and Russian president in nearly two years.
The meeting comes amid ongoing tensions between the two countries stemming from Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, its annexation of Ukrainian territory and its support of the Syrian regime.
“It is planned as a fully-fledged, ‘seated’ meeting,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday, according to the state-run TASS news agency.
National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton also confirmed that the two leaders will sit down together Friday for a bilateral meeting.
The format remained an open question through this weekend. Homeland security adviser Thomas Bossert said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that the parameters of the meeting had not yet “been set.”
The bilateral meeting format — one that typically includes a handshake and brief public remarks exchanged between the two leaders — will make the first meeting between the two leaders a more public-facing encounter, sending signals to the world that the US and Russia are eager to get on better diplomatic footing.
An informal pull-aside — the setting in which President Barack Obama and Putin met at the G20 last September — would have sent signals to Russia that it must do more to change its behavior to engage on a higher level diplomatically with the US and marked a continuation of the icy relations between the US and Russia under the Obama administration, particularly in its final years.
Anton, the NSC spokesman, told CNN there is still no agenda for the bilateral meeting, echoing national security adviser H.R. McMaster’s comments to reporters during a briefing Friday.
“There’s no specific agenda. It’s really going to be whatever the President wants to talk about,” McMaster said then.
Administration officials told CNN that Trump plans to focus heavily on the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine. And there is little expectation among Trump’s national security team that Trump will confront Russia over its attempts to influence the 2016 election, as many Republican and Democratic lawmakers have hoped Trump would do.