Last week we quipped that it appeared as though Trump had officially scheduled his first kick-off planning session for the 2020 presidential elections when NBC News confirmed that he and Putin would meet later this week at the G-20 Summit in Hamburg. While details are still scarce on the agenda for the meeting, the White House is now saying that discussions between the two controversial world leaders will center around Syria and Ukraine.
# Per The Hill:
President Trump reportedly plans to talk with Russian President Vladimir Putin about Syria and Ukraine when the two leaders meet later this week.
Two administration officials told CNN the talks will likely focus around the disputes in Syria and Ukraine, but there has not yet been a formal outline for the meeting.
Trump is expected to talk to Putin about Russia's support for Syrian President Bashar Assad and Moscow's actions in Ukraine.
Unfortunately, and much to the chagrin of CNN, "Russian meddling" will apparently not be a topic of conversation.
Administration officials also don't expect Trump will bring up the Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election during his meeting with Putin, the network reported. Of course, while the media is intensely looking for hints of what will be discussed, Trump's National Security Advisor, McMaster, told reporters last Thursday that “there is no specific agenda. It’s really going to be whatever the president wants to talk about."
# But while the White House is planning to improvise, The Guardian notes this morning that Moscow has been planning how to address this first meeting for months now.
Maxim Suchkov, a member of the Moscow-based Russian International Affairs Council, said foreign policy experts had been invited by the foreign ministry as early as March to “brainstorm” ideas about what Moscow should be offering and asking for.
Suchkov said that Russian diplomats were thinking about the relationship in “four big baskets”, including regional issues such as Ukraine and Syria, establishing military channels of communication, and economic relations. The biggest and vaguest of the four involved the contours of the international order, and in particular “what world would the US and Russia want to live in peacefully”.
The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, set out in a speech on Friday what such a new order would look like: in place of the west seeking to impose “pseudo-liberal values” across the globe there would be a balancing of the national interests of major powers, he said.
One of Moscow’s immediate demands is the return of two Russian diplomatic compounds, in Maryland and New York, from where its officials were expelled by the Obama administration in December in retaliation over the Kremlin’s interference in the election campaign. The White House led by Trump has explored handing back the sites, perhaps stripped of diplomatic immunity, but the issue is politically fraught in Washington at a time when the city is gripped by the Russia investigations.
Meanwhile, with the Senate already voting 98-2 to strengthen sanctions against Russia, all eyes will also be watching to see whether Trump's views on potentially relaxing those sanctions shift. The House is expected to vote on the measures in the days following the Trump-Putin meeting. Any unilateral action by Trump in Hamburg to relax pressure on Moscow is liable to cause a backlash in Washington...