WASHINGTON — President Trump’s first face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin Friday will be brimming with global intrigue, but the White House says there’s “no specific agenda.” So in the absence of a set list of topics, what are two of the world’s most famously unpredictable leaders to discuss?
The two leaders will sit down in Hamburg, Germany, on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit of leading rich and developing nations. Ahead of the meeting, Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak met Monday in Washington with the No. 3 U.S. diplomat, Thomas Shannon, to prepare.
Here’s a look at what Trump and Putin could address:
Trump has been reluctant to publicly and directly acknowledge Russia’s role in meddling in the U.S. election, out of apparent concern it undermines the legitimacy of his win. He’s also insisted there was no collusion with him or his campaign, a conclusion that U.S. investigators have not yet reached.
U.S. officials say Russia tried to hack election systems in 21 states and to sway the election for Trump, a level of interference in the U.S. political system that security experts say represents a top-level threat that should command a forceful response from the U.S. Putin has denied all this.
Russia’s wish list
Russia has been especially vocal about its chief demand: the return of two properties it owns in the U.S. that were seized by the Obama administration as punishment for Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The recreational compounds are located in Oyster Bay, N.Y., on Long Island, and along the Corsica River in the Eastern Shore region of Maryland.
On Monday, Putin’s foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said Russia had been remarkably restrained by declining to retaliate but that its patience was running out. If the U.S. doesn’t soon give back the compounds, also known as dachas, Moscow will have no choice but to retaliate, Ushakov said.
The U.S. has its own list, topped by a resumption of adoptions of Russian children by American parents, which Russia banned in late 2012; an end to what it says is intensifying harassment of U.S. diplomats and other officials in Russia; and a resolution to a dispute over a piece of land in St. Petersburg that was meant to be the site of a new U.S. consulate in Russia’s second-largest city. The U.S. also wants expanded cultural and exchange programs between the two countries.
Moscow has long sought an easing of economic sanctions the U.S. slapped on Russia over its actions in eastern Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, which the U.S. does not recognize. Though there were indications that Trump’s aides entertained easing the sanctions in the run-up to the inauguration and early days of his presidency, his administration has repeatedly insisted that they will stay in place until Russia pulls out of Crimea and lives up to its commitments under a cease-fire deal for eastern Ukraine that has never been fully implemented.
Eager to bolster his global legitimacy, Putin has been pressing the U.S. to cooperate militarily with Russia in Syria, where both Moscow and Washington oppose the Islamic State group but disagree about Syrian President Bashar Assad. Though defense laws passed in the wake of the Ukraine crisis bar the U.S. military from cooperating with Russia, the two have maintained a “deconfliction” hotline to ensure their forces don’t accidentally collide on the crowded Syrian battlefield.
Read the full Associated Press story at Boston Herald