TURNBERRY, Scotland (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS) – United States President Donald Trump said on Sunday (July 15) he had low expectations for his historic summit with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday.
Speaking in an interview with CBS Evening News published on the network’s website, 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, 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 for hacking the Democrats ahead of the 2016 election. The charges on Friday were the most detailed US accusation yet that Moscow meddled in the election to help Republican 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 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 own 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 preeminent leader since Boris Yeltsin resigned on the last day of 1999.
A senior White House adviser on Sunday also downplayed the meeting, saying the US was not seeking any “concrete deliverables”. “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 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.
Mr Trump, a 72-year-old former New York real estate developer, and Mr Putin, a 65-year-old former KGB spy, are due to have some time alone at the summit. The talks are set to begin with only their interpreters in the room, before opening up to their delegations over a working lunch. Both leaders will hold a joint news conference on after their meeting in the Gothic Hall of the Finnish presidential palace.
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.”