Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin will meet for first time at the G20 summit in Hamburg on July 7 and 8. While few oppose the two leaders meeting face to face, the meeting itself carries serious risks, especially as National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster claimed on Thursday that the administration has “no specific agenda” for the meeting. Putin does have an agenda, though.
According to European intelligence sources Putin believes he can get concessions on sanctions by promising Trump cooperation in Syria. Trump, who has expressed admiration for Putin’s leadership style and refused to criticize him, clearly wants to show he can do something past presidents couldn’t: strengthen and stabilize the U.S.-Russia relationship without getting played. The problem, of course, is that for months the United States has been getting played. After interfering in the U.S. election last fall and experiencing little more than a rhetorical slap on the wrist, Putin’s takeaway is simple: Russia’s aggressive actions such disinformation campaigns, buzzing U.S. ships and planes, energy coercion, and hacking carry no consequences. And if Trump and his White House team don’t come up with a plan fast, the United States will get played once again when the two leaders meet next week. Trump needs both a strategy and a message.
Read the full article at Foreign Policy.