Trump and Putin make plans for in­for­mal pri­vate meet­ing

The two lead­ers will meet for the first time at the G20 sum­mit in Ger­many.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Brian Ben­nett brian.ben­nett @la­

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Trump has gov­erned five months un­der a cloud of ques­tions about his re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, yet the two men will meet next week for the first time, on the side­lines of the G20 sum­mit of world lead­ers in Ham­burg, Ger­many.

White House of­fi­cials on Thursday con­firmed plans for the pri­vate meet­ing but said no de­ci­sions had been made about the topics Trump will raise. So it’s un­clear whether the men will dis­cuss Rus­sia’s elec­tionyear cy­ber­at­tacks that are the fo­cus of crim­i­nal and con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

“Our re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sia is not dif­fer­ent from any other coun­try in terms of us com­mu­ni­cat­ing with them, re­ally, what our con­cerns are, where we see prob­lems in the re­la­tion­ship but also op­por­tu­ni­ties,” said Trump’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor, H.R. McMaster.

McMaster said he ex­pected the two men to have “a broad, wide-rang­ing dis­cus­sion” about prob­lems in the re­la­tion­ship but also about where the U.S. and Rus­sia have “com­mon in­ter­ests.”

“There’s no spe­cific agenda,” McMaster said. “It’s re­ally go­ing to be what­ever the pres­i­dent wants to talk about,” he added.

The White House has re­fused to say whether Trump would sign leg­is­la­tion with new sanc­tions on Rus­sia for med­dling in the elec­tions by hack­ing, in­clud­ing into some states’ vot­ing sys­tems, and by spread­ing false news.

But Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin in­di­cated the ex­ist­ing re­stric­tions against Rus­sia were suf­fi­cient. “We’ve got plenty of those as well,” Mnuchin said.

Trump will also meet with the lead­ers of China, Ger­many, Ja­pan, South Korea, Mex­ico, In­done­sia, Sin­ga­pore and other coun­tries dur­ing the sum­mit of 20 ma­jor world economies.

Trump’s di­rec­tor of the White House Na­tional Eco­nomic Coun­cil, Gary Cohn, said the meet­ing would fall short of a typ­i­cal “bi­lat­eral” dis­cus­sion be­tween the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent and the head of an­other coun­try, but would be more than what’s known in diplo­macy-speak as a “pull aside” — a quick, in­for­mal get-to­gether on the edge of a con­fer­ence.

Trump’s sched­uled meet­ing with Putin in Ham­burg places added sig­nif­i­cance on his stop in Poland next Wed­nes­day.

In War­saw, McMaster said, Trump in­tends to bol­ster U.S. re­la­tion­ships with Poland and other cen­tral Euro­pean and Baltic states that were once in Moscow’s or­bit un­der the Soviet Union, but now rely on the North At­lantic Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion and the U.S. to counter pres­sure from Rus­sia. Trump’s meet­ings there seem de­signed to strengthen his hand with Putin.

McMaster called Poland “a front-line NATO na­tion with re­gards to the east­ern flank,” not­ing that it sent troops to fight along­side the U.S. in Afghanistan and Iraq and has ex­ceeded its pledge on NATO de­fense spend­ing.

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