Trump, Putin to meet

Trump, Putin to meet
US President Donald Trump is expected to visit Russian President Vladimir Putin in July. The leaders have had two official meetings and eight phone calls since Trump..

US President Donald Trump is expected to visit Russian President Vladimir Putin in July. The leaders have had two official meetings and eight phone calls since Trump took office in 2016. Trump and Putin last met on the sidelines of a G-20 summit in Vietnam in 2017.

Background

The Soviet Union and US were briefly allies during the World War II but by the end of the war, brewing mistrust and opposing worldviews led to hostility.  The Cold War, which lasted from 1947 to 1991, found much of the world divided into the Western Bloc (United States and its allies) and the Eastern Bloc (Soviet Union and its allies), as both blocs participated in a nuclear arms race. The end of Cold War and the dissolution of Soviet Union seemingly brought an end to a period of uncertainty and turmoil. Relations improved between the two nations during the tenure of Russia's President Boris Yeltsin, however they took a downturn under current President Vladimir Putin.

Ties between Russia and the West deteriorated significantly in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and was punished with Western sanctions. Since then, the US has imposed sanctions on Russian entities for their involvement in Ukraine, Syria, and interference in the 2016 US Presidential elections. US intelligence agencies believe that members from the Russian government interfered with US elections to destabilize the presidential bid of former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. The Russian government allegedly tried to disrupt Clinton’s campaign through cyberattacks and email leaks that could favour Donald Trump. Russia has also been accused of election interference in UK and France.

In March 2017, then-FBI director James Comey announced that the FBI was investigating possible links between the Russian government and Trump campaign aides. The US Department of Justice (DoJ) is currently looking into whether or not members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. It was revealed that Trump was also being investigated for obstruction of justice by the special counsel.

Ties between US and Russia have tense in 2018. Washington backed London when the latter accused Russia of poisoning a British spy. The United States also led air strikes against Kremlin ally Bashar al-Assad in Syria, where Washington and Moscow often back opposing factions. The Trump administration has imposed sanctions on a number of Russian entities this year including state agencies and oligarchs from President Putin’s inner circle. 

Analysis

US President Donald Trump will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin during his July trip to Europe, reports claim. According to sources cited by Reuters and CNN, this meeting could take place either before the NATO summit in Brussels on July 12th, or after a visit to London on July 13th. The meeting could take place in the Austrian capital, Vienna. CNN sources said that Moscow has been pushing for the meeting. US National Security Advisor John Bolton will meet with Russian officials next week for a “pre-NATO meeting,” reports added. There has been no confirmation of the meeting by either side so far.

While Russia and US continue to have a rocky relationship, President Trump has advocated for mending ties with Moscow. During the recent G7 summit in Quebec, Trump proposed that Russia should be let into the group. Russia was expelled from the then-G8 in 2014 due to its annexation of Crimea. European leaders have said that they would not consider lifting sanctions against Russia until the Ukraine issue is addressed. “They should let Russia come back in, because we should have Russia at the negotiating table,” he said, adding later that it was better to “have Russia in than to have Russia out, because just like North Korea, just like somebody else, it’s much better if we get along with them than if we don’t.”

Observers have pointed out the contrast between Trump’s stance on Putin and US allies such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who he called “dishonest” and “week” after the G7 summit. Trump’s staff has taken a sterner stance on the Kremlin. Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said, “Putin seeks to shatter NATO, he aims to diminish the appeal of the Western democratic model and attempts to undermine America’s moral authority.”

Some analysts believe that Trump’s poor relations with European leaders could pose a threat to NATO. However, NATO secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, has stressed that NATO remains strategically important to all member nations.

Assessment

Our assessment is that President Trump has indicated that he values strong personal relationships with other leaders, including President Putin. We believe that Trump and Putin may focus on bilateral ties in the upcoming meeting. Moscow may attempt to push for some sanctions to be lifted, and the two leaders may discuss trade. Putin and Trump could also discuss the de-escalation of conflict in Syria. We feel that talks between the two leaders would be beneficial to the US-Russia relationship, which is currently less than optimal.

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