What Trump should say to Putin
This editorial ran in the Washington Post:
Although President Donald Trump likes to rely on his instincts, this week’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Hamburg, Germany, calls for careful preparation and straight talk.
Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, told reporters that “we have no specific agenda” and “it’s whatever the president wants to talk about.” This is far too casual and risky.
While Putin’s actions at home and abroad are often objectionable, an exchange in person with him can help avoid mistrust and misperceptions, of which there are plenty. Trump should set aside his stated admiration for Putin’s strongman tendencies and instead confront the Russian president with difficult questions. This meeting is not about being friends but about urgent business. The agenda is rather full.
Trump simply cannot fail to admonish Putin for Russia’s attempts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election. He ought to make it unmistakably clear to Putin that the United States will not retreat from the sanctions imposed over Ukraine until the conditions of peace agreements are met. with an eye toward avoiding direct hostilities. And Trump should at least try to persuade Putin to acknowledge the need for a Syrian government not headed by Bashar al-Assad and a region not dominated by Iran.
Trump might also suggest restarting broader Russian-American military-to-military communication.
Even in the darkest days of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union communicated with each other, and the need is no less today.