TURNBERRY (Scotland) • US President Donald Trump said yesterday that he had low expectations for his historic summit with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Helsinki today.
Speaking in an interview with CBS Evening News published on the network's website yesterday, Mr Trump sought to temper hopes about how much could be achieved at the first one-on-one meeting between the two leaders. "I go in with low expectations," he said.
Mr Trump told CBS he considered Russia as one of his country's foes, along with the European Union (EU) and China with whom the US has been embroiled in a trade spat.
"Well I think we have a lot of foes. I think the European Union is a foe, (because of) what they do to us in trade," he said. "Russia is a foe in certain respects. China is a foe economically, certainly they are a foe. But that doesn't mean they are bad... It means that they are competitive," he said.
Mr Trump, who has been preparing for the summit by playing golf at his Turnberry course on the western coast of Scotland, said he expected "nothing bad" would come out of the summit.
"I think it's a good thing to meet," he said, adding: "Maybe some good will come out" of it.
The summit comes just days after 12 Russian intelligence officers were charged by a federal grand jury with hacking the Democrats ahead of the 2016 election. The charges last Friday were the most detailed US accusation yet that Moscow meddled in the election to help Republican Mr Trump. Democratic leaders have called for Mr Trump to cancel the summit in the light of the indictments.
Asked whether he would press Mr Putin to extradite to the US members of the Russian military intelligence agency accused of hacking Mrs Hillary Clinton's failed presidential campaign, Mr Trump said he had not thought of that but that he might. "Certainly, I'll be asking about it. But again, this was during the Obama administration. They were doing whatever it was during the Obama administration."
Russia's Constitution forbids the extradition of its citizens. Mr Putin has repeatedly denied that Russia sought to skew the election.
Mr Trump has said the investigation into the suspected Russian interference - which he casts as a "rigged witch-hunt" - makes it hard for him to do substantive deals with Moscow.
He has said he wants to raise nuclear arms control, Ukraine and Syria with Mr Putin, who has served as Russia's pre-eminent leader since Mr Boris Yeltsin resigned on the last day of 1999.
A senior White House adviser yesterday also downplayed the outcomes of the meeting. "We have asked, and the Russians have agreed, that it will be basically unstructured. We are not looking for concrete deliverables," White House National Security Adviser John Bolton told ABC's This Week.
The summit, taking place at one of the most crucial junctures for the West since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, has perturbed some European allies who fear Mr Putin might seek a grand deal that undermines Nato, the US-led transatlantic alliance.
Ahead of the meeting, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned Mr Trump against making any unilateral deals with Russia that come with a cost for the United States' Western allies.
The Kremlin on Friday said it considered Mr Trump a "negotiating partner". "The state of bilateral relations is very bad," Kremlin adviser Yuri Ushakov said. "We have to start to set them right."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS