US Donald Trump on Monday is set to meet his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in the first official stand-alone meeting, amid tensions over Moscow’s alleged 2016-presidential election meddling.
The two presidents are to meet in the Finnish capital, Helsinki, the White House said—the same place where two of their predecessors met in 1990.
The summit came amid recent tensions sparked after US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein accused 12 Russian intelligence officers with hacking Democratic officials’ accounts, including the email accounts of staff for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
However, the American-Russian relations strained more after the US imposed additional sanctions last April against seven Russian oligarchs with ties to Putin, along with 12 companies under their control.
Since taking office, Trump has been under intense scrutiny by the Congress and a special counsel investigating Russian interference into the US presidential election and if the Trump campaign had ties with such acts. However, Trump kept denying any links between his campaign and Russia.
Last July, the pair held two meetings on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, in which the Kremlin chief denounced repeated allegations of meddling in the US presidential election.
At the upcoming summit, Trump said in an interview airing on Sunday that he might ask Putin about the accusation of 12 Russian hackers.
“I hadn’t thought of that. But I 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,” Trump said, and hep praised the concept of meetings adding, “it’s really good. So having meetings with Russia, China, North Korea, I believe in it. Nothing bad is going to come out of it, and maybe some good will come out.”
The two leaders are expected to discuss the Russian annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea, the alleged Russian interference in US presidential election, US sanctions on Moscow, and the interventions in war-torn Syria.
The summit further takes place in the wake of a contentious NATO summit, where Trump criticised Germany’s “failure” in increasing defence spending, as well as calling on his allies to spend enough on defence, expressing his concerns that “the United States has to pay for them.”
Trump moved on to say that “Germany is totally controlled by Russia,” adding, “they will be getting between 60% and 70% of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline.” However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel responded by saying that her country “makes independent policies and decisions.”