Two-hour Trump, Putin meeting in Helsinki ends on ‘very good start’

The summit comes right after Trump met with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation leaders, taking a hard stance on demanding they pay their fair share in the military defense alliance that exists to hold Russian Federation and other rogue actors in check.

In his public remarks at the outset, he mentioned none of the issues that have lately brought US-Russian relations to the lowest point since the Cold War: Moscow’s annexation of territory from Ukraine, its support for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, British accusations that it poisoned a spy, as well as the alleged meddling in both USA and European elections.

Putin again denied that Moscow ever interfered in the 2016 USA election and proposed an “expert council” to improve relations between the countries.

But US allies and many at home fear that Trump will fail to stand up to Putin.

And in a quick on-camera statement alongside Putin before their closed-door meeting, Trump did not mention election hacking when he rattled off a list of topics he wanted to discuss with Putin. It alleged collusion between Mr. Trump and the Russian government and included salacious stories of Mr. Trump consorting with prostitutes during a visit to Moscow in 2013. At one point, he shot Putin a wink.

So it was interesting that when Putin was asked by an Associated Press reporter whether he had something on Trump, Putin totally punted.

Looking sombre, the two leaders exchanged a few opening remarks in front of the press at the start of their summit in Helsinki.

They continued the discussion with an expanded group of aides and over lunch in the Hall of Mirrors, once the emperor’s throne room.

The two leaders spoke at a news conference they addressed together.

Before meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President Donald Trump claimed to want to improve relations between the US and Russia. And he expressed concerns over Trump withdrawing the United States from the Iran nuclear pact.

“So all of those things, in my view, are the reasons why there’s tensions in U.S. -Russia relations”, McFaul added.

Putin was asked directly if he had some compromising information on Trump. Putin has been late for past meetings with the pope and British queen, among many others. A Finnish newspaper placed billboards around Helsinki with various messages for Trump – like “Make Human Rights Great Again” and “Mr. President, welcome to the land of free press”.

Welcome to Mic’s daily read on Donald Trump’s America.

At a rambling news conference after one-on-one talks, Trump said not a single critical word about Russian Federation on any of the issues that have brought relations between the Washington and Moscow to a post-Cold War low, from Ukraine to Syria.

“Syria could be the first showcase example of joint work”, he said.

The US President had raged at the Russian that it was “outrageous” of him to air the video which showed nuclear missiles raining down on the state of Florida.

“Not mentioning the fact that Russian Federation annexed territory in Crimea and sparked a war – 10,000 people have died in Eastern Ukraine”.

On Sunday, I posed this question to my long-time go-to-guy on Russia matters, Professor Nick Hayes of Saint John’s University, who is steeped in Russian history and current Kremlinology and who, as often before, took me to school, deepening my thinking on the topic.

Valery Sharifulin  TASS