U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday a meeting with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on July 16, may be the easiest on his Europe trip, saying Moscow was a competitor and not an enemy.
Asked if Putin presented a threat, Trump said, “I don’t want him to be and that is why we have NATO,” following a summit of the military alliance in Brussels.
“He is a competitor,” Trump told reporters. “Is he my enemy? He is not my enemy … Hopefully someday maybe he will be a friend. I just don’t know him very well.”
Trump said he would raise issues of arms control, extending new start treaty, and Russia violations of INF treaty in Putin talks.
“We go into that meeting not looking for so much. We want to find out about Syria. We will be talking about meddling … We will be talking about Ukraine.”
Trump and Putin will sit down in a room together in the Finnish capital for their first summit meeting.
The U.S. president’s spontaneous approach to negotiations, and the inscrutable style of the Kremlin leader, make predicting the outcome of the summit with any accuracy close to impossible.
Both Trump and Putin have been using bellicose rhetoric about their nuclear arsenals, drawing their countries closer to a new arms race. Trump has said the U.S. nuclear capability needs renewing.
He told Reuters in 2017, “if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack.”
Putin in March this year unveiled an array of new nuclear weapons, and warned Western governments “now they need to take account of a new reality.”
An arms race would be dangerous and expensive for both sides. An agreement to scale back the rhetoric would be a win for both Putin and Trump.
Progress towards extending the New Start arms treaty, which expires in 2021, would give substance to that agreement.
Other issues likely to be discussed are sanction relief, Syrian deal, Russia’s diplomatic presence in the United States, and the U.S. missions in Russia.