Trump will meet Putin next week US pres­i­dent un­der pres­sure over Moscow’s al­leged med­dling

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

WASH­ING­TON — Meet­ing face-to-face with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s “Amer­ica First” pol­icy will be put to the test if he opts to con­front Rus­sia over in­tel­li­gence that Moscow med­dled in last year’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

US na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser H.R. McMaster said on Thurs­day that Trump will meet with Putin along the side­lines of the an­nual Group of 20 meet­ing in Ham­burg, Ger­many — part of an itin­er­ary that will in­clude meet­ings with sev­eral world lead­ers.

Trump will face the chal­lenge of work­ing with Rus­sia to­ward com­mon goals in Syria and Ukraine, while also po­ten­tially broach­ing al­le­ga­tions about Moscow’s in­ter­fer­ences in the US elec­tions and ac­cu­sa­tions that some of his as­so­ciates may have had con­tact with Rus­sian of­fi­cials dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign and tran­si­tion of power.

All 17 US in­tel­li­gence agen­cies have agreed that Rus­sia was be­hind last year’s hack of the Demo­cratic Party’s email sys­tems and tried to in­flu­ence the elec­tion.

Trump will be un­der pres­sure to side with the US in­tel­li­gence agen­cies and press Putin on the is­sue of elec­tion med­dling — some­thing he has thus far been re­luc­tant to do.

Trump’s prom­ise of closer co­op­er­a­tion has prompted con­cerns that the US will di­min­ish lever­age over global is­sues and he could be more sym­pa­thetic to Rus­sia.

Trump has de­nied he had any con­tacts with Rus­sia dur­ing his cam­paign, and Moscow has de­nied any med­dling in the elec­tion.

Briefly

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Rus­sian news agen­cies the two pres­i­dents “will meet at the sum­mit in one way or an­other. We have said it be­fore.”

The two pres­i­dents have an op­por­tu­nity to mend their coun­tries’ ties when they meet next week, for­mer top US diplo­mat Henry Kissinger said on Fri­day.

“Ten­sions be­tween Rus­sia and the United States ... have hap­pened of­ten be­fore and they have been over­come of­ten be­fore,” he said.

Agenda ‘not fi­nal­ized’

McMaster and White House eco­nomic ad­viser Gary Cohn would not say whether the pres­i­dent in­tends to ad­dress ac­cu­sa­tions that Rus­sia in­ter­fered in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, say­ing the agenda is “not fi­nal­ized” for this or any other meet­ing.

“Our re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sia is not dif­fer­ent from that with any other coun­try in terms of us com­mu­ni­cat­ing to them re­ally what our con­cerns are, where we see prob­lems with the re­la­tion­ship but also op­por­tu­ni­ties,” McMaster said.

Many ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials be­lieve the US needs to main­tain its dis­tance from Rus­sia at such a sen­si­tive time — and in­ter­act only with great cau­tion.

Some Trump ad­vis­ers think the pres­i­dent should do a quick, in­for­mal “pull aside” on the side­lines of the sum­mit, or that the US and Rus­sian del­e­ga­tions hold “strate­gic sta­bil­ity talks,” which typ­i­cally don’t in­volve the pres­i­dents.

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