WASHINGTON, July 7 : (Xinhua) — U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, in a meeting that will be the first test of whether Trump can improve strained relations with Moscow, experts said.
Trump campaigned last year on promises to mend relations with Russia, in a bid to team up with the Kremlin to defeat the terror group Islamic State, given Russia’s clout in the Middle East.
“Trump’s meeting with Putin is a major test of the administration’s relationship with Russia,” Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua.Indeed, there are many sources of tension between the two nations, such as what the United States believes to be Russia’s alleged meddling in its 2016 election. The Syrian war, the role of Iran, and tensions on the Korean Peninsula are also issues of contention between Moscow and Washington.
“It will be hard to make progress on all these issues, but everyone will be looking to see what problems get highlighted and whether there are any points of agreement between the two countries,” West said.
Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at The Heritage Foundation, told Xinhua: ” This will be a major test for President Trump, up against a far more experienced adversary,” adding that Putin has been participating in such meetings for a couple of decades.”Putin views these exchanges as games of chess, lots of moving pieces across the chessboard,” Gardiner said.
TRUMP TAKES JABS AT RUSSIA IN POLAND
Trump is heading to the Group of 20 summit on the heels of a short stopover in Poland, where he made a speech Thursday that analysts already are calling reminiscent of how former U.S. President Ronald Reagan used to speak of the region.
In a speech from Warsaw that was broadcast in the United States and Europe, Trump said he was “committed” to securing Polish access to sources of energy other than Russia, so that Poland “is never held hostage” to one source of energy. The statement was an obvious message to Putin the day before the two leaders are to meet, analysts said. Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom is the leading supplier of natural gas to Europe.
West also noted that Trump and Poland’s leader have some things in common, and the visit to Warsaw was in part geared toward scoring points on U.S. domestic policy.
“Trump visited Poland because he shares an affinity with the Polish leader, who also has taken a tough line on immigration and frequently attacks the news media and courts. It is a way (for Trump) to tell the world that his views on these topics are not out of line with what is happening elsewhere,” he said.The speech also heard Trump mention the historically adversarial relationship between Russia and Poland.
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“If Russia challenges its neighbors, Trump likely will move to a much tougher stance against it. He would like a better relationship with Russia, but signaled (during the Warsaw speech) that he understands the past and knows there is a lot to overcome,” West said.Trump also said his administration would re-invigorate the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, an organization that Russia has frequently criticized.
MAJOR BREAKTHROUGHS UNLIKELY FROM MEETING
It remains unknown what Trump and Putin will discuss on the sidelines of Friday’s G20 summit in Germany.”I think a number of issues are going to be on the agenda,” Gardiner said.
Those include tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Europe’s refugee crisis, and the war in Syria, he said, noting that the United States has been more aggressive recently in combating Russian influence in Syria.
Other issues include the Ukraine, and the Russians will be angling for a reduction in U.S. sanctions over that issue, although Gardiner does not expect Moscow to get any concessions on that front.”If anything, Washington has been tougher on the sanctions front in recent weeks,” Gardiner said. “I would expect that President Trump would hold the line on the sanctions issue when he meets with Putin.”
West said it’s hard to know what to expect from such meetings.”There likely will not be major policy breakthroughs, but this get together could pave the way for later negotiations,” West said.
Trump wants to get Russia’s help on Syria and on the nuclear weapons issue with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, West noted.”The question is what is (Trump) willing to give up in return. He won’t be able to lift sanctions (on Russia) because that would be opposed by Congress. But he could offer non-military equipment sales or other kinds of business deals,” West said.