Two days after the Kremlin said there was a “strong possibility” that Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin will meet on the sidelines of the upcoming Asia-Pacific summit in Vietnam, the Trump White House has seemingly caved to outside pressure and confirmed that there are currently no plans for a formal meeting between Putin and Trump on the sidelines of the summit.
The Kremlin had announced that both sides were working on a suitable time and format for a meeting when both men are in Vietnam starting Friday. But US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had downplayed the possibility in an interview on his flight from China to Vietnam. He said if there wasn’t the likelihood of progress on a number of issues, there was no point to a meeting. The White House communications department later confirmed Tillerson’s assessment.
As Bloomberg points out, any Putin-Trump meeting would be fraught with complications given the recent indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Furthermore, the revelation that former foreign policy aide George Papadopoulos agreed to cooperate with the probe over the summer – and may even have worn a wire in meetings with Trump associates – has created tension among Trump’s inner circle.
“Are they going to bump into each other and say hello? Certainly possible and likely,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters. “But in terms of a scheduled, formal meeting, there’s not one on the calendar and we don’t anticipate that there will be one.”
Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said Friday it was “hard to overestimate the importance and significance of any contact between the president of Russia and the United States for all international matters.”
As Strategic Culture Foundation’s Andrei Akulov notes, President Donald Trump told Fox News last week that he may meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He said it was very important to meet the Russian leader. The US president expressed hope that Russia would help solve the North Korea problem. “It’s hard to overestimate the importance and significance for all international matters of any contact between the presidents of Russia and the United States,” said Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Putin and Trump first met at the G20 summit in Hamburg in July when they discussed allegations of Russian meddling in the US presidential election. Back then, the leaders agreed to focus on better ties. However, the relations have soured further since that time as the diplomatic scandal broke out. In August, the president signed new sanctions against Russia. During the election campaign, Donald Trump pitched himself as a leader who would normalize the relationship. The American voters backed this stance. But the promised improvement has not materialized.
Today, the relations between Russia and the US are on a downward spiral of sanctions and accusations. It’s true that the Russian-American relations are struggling through their most difficult period since the end of the Cold War.