Trump, Putin summit in Helsinki to top their past encounters

July 15, 2018 GMT
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FILE - In this July 7, 2017, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose for a photo during the G20 summit in Hamburg Germany. (AP Photo/Marcellus Stein, File)
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FILE - In this July 7, 2017, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose for a photo during the G20 summit in Hamburg Germany. (AP Photo/Marcellus Stein, File)

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin of Russia have met formally and informally at least three times in the nearly 18 months since Trump has held office. But their summit Monday in Helsinki, the seaside capital of Finland, promises to outdo their past face-to-face encounters.

For starters, Trump and Putin are meeting at Finland’s Presidential Palace that overlooks the Baltic Sea instead of in a sparsely decorated, windowless room in a bustling convention hall.

Trump and Putin will first meet one on one before they are joined by aides for an expanded discussion that extends into lunch. The leaders are expected to take questions from journalists at the conclusion of the summit, which would mark the first time they have done so together.

Trump has insisted on the meeting, saying it will be a “good thing” if sitting down with Russia’s leader improves relations between the U.S. and Russia. But Trump’s efforts to meet have been complicated by a continuing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and skepticism about his outreach to Putin.

“I don’t know him. I met him twice, maybe three times. Two-and-a-half times,” Trump said last week in Britain. “If we could develop a relationship which is good for Russia, good for us, good for everybody, that would be great.”

A look at Trump’s past meetings with Putin.

JULY 2017, in GERMANY:

Just half an hour had been blocked out for Trump and Putin to meet in Hamburg, Germany, during a summit of leaders of the world’s largest economies. The presidents ended up talking for more than two hours. Midway through, Melania Trump was sent in to help wrap things up. Trump and Putin continued to talk for another hour.

The U.S. said Trump opened the meeting by pressing Putin on Russian election meddling and that Putin denied being involved.

Putin said they discussed Ukraine, Syria and other issues, including terrorism and cybersecurity. They also discussed the nuclear threat from North Korea.


JULY 2017, also in GERMANY:

Trump and Putin had a second conversation during a leaders’ dinner on the same day as their first meeting, though the fact that they had spoken again was not disclosed in real time.

The White House and National Security Council later confirmed the evening conversation after it became public knowledge. The meal was hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and was open only to leaders and their spouses, along with one translator per couple.

The White House played down the “meeting,” stressing that Trump spoke with many leaders during the meal. Officials said he spoke again with Putin as the event was ending because the Russian president was seated next to Mrs. Trump. Trump also spoke to Putin using Russia’s translator; the U.S. translator did not speak Russian.

But Ian Bremmer, a foreign affairs columnist and president of a consulting firm, said Trump and Putin spoke for nearly an hour, based on reports from two people who attended the dinner.



Trump and Putin were expected to hold formal talks while both attended the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Danang. But shortly before Air Force One landed in Vietnam, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced there would be no such meeting after all. She blamed scheduling conflicts.

The lack of a formal meeting didn’t keep Trump and Putin from interacting. They chatted during the summit’s welcome gala, each one wearing traditional Vietnamese shirts as they stood side by side for a group photo after a handshake.

The following day, they shook hands and spoke briefly again, according to video of the encounter. Trump and Putin were also seen chatting as all leaders headed for an outdoor group photo.


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