HELSINKI — After months of anticipation, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin meet today to put to the test the US president’s ambition to forge a personal bond with the Kremlin chief.
If Trump’s instinct is right and he finds common ground with Putin, then the pair’s Helsinki Summit may take the heat out of some of the world’s most dangerous conflicts.
But the Washington-Moscow rivalry has a long history and there are there many points of friction that could yet spoil Trump’s hoped-for beautiful friendship.
With the foes at loggerheads over Syria, Ukraine, pipeline policy, espionage and election interference, even Trump cautioned: "I’m not going with high expectations."
The brash billionaire property magnate has been president for 18 months, while the 65-year-old former KGB officer has run Russia for the past 18 years.
The 72-year-old president nevertheless has a high opinion of his ability to woo tough opponents, such as North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, whom he met at a summit last month.
"I think it’s a good thing to meet. I do believe in meetings," Trump insisted in an interview with CBS News that aired before he touched down in Helsinki.
In the same interview, Trump admitted that Russia remains a foe, but he put
Moscow in a par with China and the European Union as economic and diplomatic rivals.
The Kremlin has also played down hopes that the odd couple will emerge from their first formal one-on-one summit having resolved the issues poisoning relations.
Putin, who played host at the World Cup final in Moscow on Sunday and was due to arrive in Finland later Monday, has remained terse in the run up to the summit.
But on Friday his adviser Yuri Ushakov also played down expectations, saying: "The state of bilateral relations is very bad.... We have to start to set them right.". — AFP