Trump and Putin’s alone time: Leaders to have 90 minute one-on-one

Trump and Putin’s alone time: Leaders set to have 90 minute one-on-one meeting in Helsinki before they let aides join them and will wrap up their confab with a press conference

  • President Trump will have a 90 minute one-on-one meeting before aides join in
  • The two leaders will cap off their afternoon in Helsinki with a press conference 
  • President Trump on his meeting with Putin: ‘I go in with low expectations’ 
  • There is no clear agenda for Monday’s meeting and no ‘deliverables’ agreed to
  • The president likes the personal touch in diplomacy
  •  Asked of his goals for the summit, Trump: ‘I’ll let you know after the meeting’
  • Foreign policy experts worry the president will promise concessions to Putin
  • Trump could promise to ease sanctions or cut U.S. military exercises in Europe 

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will have a 90 minute one-on-one meeting in Helsinki on Monday after amid worries about what kind of concessions the president may offer his Russian counterpart when they are alone.

After Trump and Putin meet mano-a-mano at 1:20 p.m. local time (6:20 a.m. ET), they will be joined by aides for a two-hour expanded meeting and working lunch at the Presidential Palace. The leaders will cap off their time in Finland with a press conference at 4:50 p.m. local time (9:50 a.m. ET).

The two men are only scheduled to see one another on Monday afternoon. In the morning, Trump will have breakfast with the president of Finland, Sauli Niinisto. 

President Trump will have a 90 minute one-on-one meeting with Putin

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrived in Helsinki Monday evening

First Lady Melania Trump is scheduled to be with her husband when they are officially welcomed by the Finnish president on Monday morning at Mäntyniemi Residence, one of his three official residences. 

The first couple are scheduled to depart Finland Monday evening and arrive back at the White House on Monday night. 

Trump arrived in Helsinki Sunday evening with no clear goal for his meeting with Putin and ‘low expectations’ in its outcome.

As he traveled from Scotland – where he spent the weekend at his Turnberry Golf Course – to Finland, Trump ranted that no set of concessions – no matter how large the consequences – would be good enough for media critics he branded the ‘enemy of the people.’

‘Unfortunately, no matter how well I do at the Summit, if I was given the great city of Moscow as retribution for all of the sins and evils committed by Russia,’ he said, ‘over the years, I would return to criticism that it wasn’t good enough – that I should have gotten Saint Petersburg in addition!,’ he wrote as part of a long Twitter tirade as Air Force One traveled East across Europe. 

Unlike his Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, where the president pushed for a denuclearization deal, Trump has been hesitant to set expectations for Helsinki. 

‘I go in with low expectations,’ the president told CBS News. ‘I’m not going with high expectations.’ 

Trump went on a Twitter rant Sunday afternoon as Air Force One flew across Europe 

President Trump said he has ‘low expectations’ for his meeting with Vladimir Putin

Trump and Vladimir Putin are scheduled to meet Monday in Helsinki

Still the summit is happening in the typical Trump style: heavy on the personal but light on an actual program.

The president prefers the personal touch when it comes to diplomacy and likes one-on-one time with fellow world leaders. He tends to skew a formal, written agenda. 

There has not been high-level planning sessions for Helsinki.

Only one White House aide, National Security Adviser John Bolton, has met with senior Russians officials to plan the summit, reports the Los Angeles Times. 

It’s a notable difference from the usual planning that goes into a meeting between world leaders.

U.S. and North Korean officials meet in Singapore ahead of their leaders’ historic meeting to work out all the details including who sat where, which aides would be in the room, meal times, break times, and what gifts would be exchanged.

Additionally neither the U.S. nor Russia have not agreed upon any ‘deliverables’ to come out of Monday’s meeting.

The president also won’t give his goals for the summit – until after the world leaders meet.

When CBS News asked him about his goals for his sit down with Putin, Trump responded: ‘I’ll let you know after the meeting’ and promised ‘nothing bad’ will come out of summit. 

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Foreign policy experts around the world fear Trump may make concessions to Putin when the two leaders have their one-on-one time with no one else in the room but the translators. 

Trump could promise to ease sanctions or cut U.S. military operations in Europe without consulting the State Department or the Pentagon. Moscow is under U.S. and international sanctions for its seizure of Crimea in 2014.

The president made a similar move in his meeting with Kim, where he announced the U.S. would cease a joint military exercise with South Korea – a major concession to Pyongyang and a surprise to the Pentagon and U.S. allies.  

Trump was asked on Thursday if he would consider ending U.S. military exercises in the Baltic states and he replied: ‘Perhaps we’ll talk about that’ in his meeting with Putin, which sounded alarm bells to some.

‘I don’t even dare to speculate,’ one official from a NATO member state told the Los Angeles Times when asked about his expectations for Helsinki. ‘It’s so unpredictable right now in the current circumstances.’

Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump talk during a break of a leader’s meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Da Nang, Vietnam in November

As for Putin, the Helsinki meeting is his chance to play statesman on the world stage. 

‘The number one priority for Putin is to establish communication with Trump. He certainly wants to understand how, and whether, it’s possible to deal with him,’ Fyodor Lukyanov, the editor of the journal Russia in Global Affairs, told NPR. ‘From the Russian point of view, the absence of such communication is abnormal – insane – when two nuclear superpowers don’t talk to each other and the channels of diplomacy are replaced by shouting on social media.’

Still the president is not showing his hand before his sit down.   

‘I think it’s a good thing to meet. I do believe in meetings,’ he told CBS News. ‘Nothing bad is going to come out of it, and maybe some good will come out.’

The sit down between the two world leaders follows the Justice Department indictment of 14 Russians for taking part in a hacking conspiracy that targeted the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign staffers during the 2016 election.

The indictment says they created cutouts and set up DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 accounts to dump embarrassing emails, and passed others on to Wikileaks.   

Trump, who was briefed on the indictment before Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s announcement Friday, said he ‘hadn’t thought’ of bring up extradition when he meets with Putin. 

The U.S. has no extradition treaty with Russia. 

Asked whether he might push Putin to extradite the Russians so they could face trial, Trump, who has been accused of being to favorably disposed toward the Russian president, said he hadn’t thought of it.

‘Well, I might,’ Trump told CBS. ‘I hadn’t thought of that. But I certainly, I’ll be asking about it.’

He also continued to blame the Obama administration.

‘But again, this was during the Obama administration. They were doing whatever it was during the Obama administration,’ he said. 

Monday’s meeting is the first formal summit between the two world leaders.  

The two men had their first face-to-face meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, last July. They had a brief meeting in November at the APEC Summit in Da Nang, Vietnam.

President Trump, who golfed in Scotland this weekend, has foreign policy experts worried he could offer concessions to Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin greets Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic during their talks at the Kremlin. She is in Moscow to watch the final game of the 2018 FIFA World Cup

President Trump’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un had a goal of denuclearization

Helsinki has been the site of other historic summits.

In 1975, 35 nations met there in an attempt to improve relations between the Communists and the West, signing The Helsinki Accords.

In March 1997, then-President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin met in Helsinki on security and economic issues. 

Meanwhile the president is going into his Putin meeting with his typical confidence that his personality will win out.

The president, who enjoys making deals, said that history of negotiations helped him get a read on Kim after he met the North Korean leader in Singapore.

‘You know, over my lifetime I’ve done a lot of deals with a lot of people, and sometimes the people that you most distrust turn out to be the most honorable ones, and the people that you do trust they are not the honorable ones, so we are starting from a very high plane, we’re starting from a very good relationship. This has been a very big day in terms of the world,’ he told ABC News in June after that summit.

The president prides himself on his ability to read people and often breaches diplomatic protocol in favor of one-on-one conversations.

When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Mar-a-Lago in April 2017, Trump upended weeks of international negotiations by asking for an immediate one-on-one meeting with Xi.

In July of last year, when Trump met with Putin at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, the meeting between the two men – that was originally scheduled for 30 minutes – went well over the two hour mark. It was running so long that first lady Melania Trump was sent in to try and end it although she failed in her attempt.

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