Helsinki, July 16: US President Donald Trump will meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin here in the capital of Finland on Monday, July 16, for their first-ever summit and quite a few issues could find themselves on the table as the two leaders speak.
While Trump has not impressed many with his soft take on Putin, others have asked what he aims to achieve through the summit. Here are five issues that the Trump-Putin summit may feature:
Interference in the 2016 US elections: Russia's alleged interference in the US presidential elections of 2016 could impact the summit in a major way. Trump has clearly been put under pressure by special counsel Robert Mueller who indicted 12 Russian spies last week on charges of hacking the Democratic Party's networks and other election-related information during the 2016 election.
The warning by US's National Intelligence Director Dan Coats about Russia's relentless cyber-attacks have also added to the pressure and Trump has to now take up the issue with Putin, a man who doesn't dislike. If Trump still doesn't take up the issue with Putin, a severe storm awaits him at home.
Crimea: Trump's stance on Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, is completely contradictory to that of the US and international community for he seems to think like Russia on the issue of a 'rightful' annexation of the peninsula off the country of Ukraine. Trump has even left the possibility open for recognising Crimea as a part of Russia though he hasn't clearly said what lies ahead for Crimea. He even wished to get Russia back into the G7 group after Moscow was kicked out of the G8 club post its annexation of Crimea.
Syria: Though Trump took a tougher stance on Syria and even approved missile attacks on Syria's chemical weapons facilities in April after warning Russia as well, he reportedly has been eyeing to make a deal with Putin to move Iranian forces away from Syria's border with Israel in exchange of withdrawing American troops, The Hill reported. However, such a thing is easier said than done and not many believe that an agreement on this will be made in Helsinki.
Arms control: This could be one of the rare subjects over which the US and Russia would find a common ground and there will be less pressure on Trump to do something that would upset Russia. Experts have said Trump could agree to extend the New START Treaty, negotiated under the previous Barack Obama administration, for another five years. The treaty limits the two countries' deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550 each. But will Trump ever pursue a deal which was inked by Obama?
Timing: The timing of the summit is another key aspect for it comes just days after the indictment of 12 Russian spies by a probing American lawyer and warning about Russia's cyber-attacks by the intelligence chief. Trump now has to project himself very carefully for a little imbalance in his conduct could see his critics pouncing upon him, alleging that he compromises the US's national security with his soft corner for dictators.
Also, just after a month since Trump's historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un where no concrete road map for the Korean Peninsula's denuclearisation emerged, observers are apprehensive that Monday's summit would also produce no concrete plan of action on the niggling issues between the two former Cold War foes.