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