Trump: some day maybe Putin will be my friend
U.S. President Donald Trump said he does not expect much from his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16. At the same time Trump that he and Vladimir Putin become friends one day.
Speaking during an unscheduled press conference at the NATO summit in Brussels, the U.S. leader calls Putin a “competitor” and says he is representing the best interests of the Russian people as he represents those of Americans.
"Ultimately he's a competitor - he's representing Russia, I'm representing the United States," Trump said. "In a sense we're competitors, it's not a question of friend or enemy. He's not my enemy. Hopefully some day maybe he'll be a friend, it could happen, but I just don't know him very well."
Trump added that his sit-down with Putin will be "just a loose meeting," but said significant progress could be made in the relationship. He expects to discuss a range of topics with the Russia president including Ukraine, the situation in Syria, the INF treaty, arms control, and Russian meddling in U.S. elections.
"We'll see what happens—it's just a loose meeting, it's not going to big schedule. I don't think it should take a very long period of time. We'll see where it leads, but it could lead to something very productive," Reuters cited President Trump as saying.
Asked if Trump's statements about Russia and Europe could cloud his meeting with Putin in Helsinki, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said its agenda would include many conflicting issues.
The director of the Roosevelt Fund of Study of the US at Moscow State University, Doctor of Historical Sciences, Yuri Rogulev, speaking with a correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that these statements by Trump about the upcoming talks with Vladimir Putin were primarily addressed to European countries. "They are not real allies for Trump now, because he believes that the EU is unfair to the United States," he said.
According to Yuri Rogulev, in fact Trump will not come up with any radical proposals at the meeting with Putin. "His current statement should be treated as an element of pressure on his allies, so that they were more cooperative in terms of increasing their defence spending, and in terms of acquiring more American goods, and so on" the expert drew attention.
"It can be said for sure that Trump will try to be tough at the talks with Putin, he is generally supportive of talking from a position of strength. Therefore, he will exert all sorts of pressure, of course, showing both 'carrot and stick'. He can say that if Russia does not meet halfway on some issues, instead of curtailing the exercises in the Baltics, they will be increased," Yuri Rogulev concluded.
The senior research fellow at the European Research Centre of the International Relations Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Olenchenko, agreed that Trump's promise to make friends with Putin was addressed primarily to US partners in NATO. "Trump demanded to raise defense spending to 4% of GDP, although now only 4 out of the 29 NATO members give 2% of GDP to military needs. Of course, this requirement did not arouse delight among US partners, so the words about the possibility of making friends with the Russian president should be understood as promise that Trump will decide international issues with Putin, and not with Europeans," he said.
But at the same time, this is an appeal to Russia as well. "Since the Baltic states, Ukraine and Syria were named in one row, it may be an announcement of the US next steps concerning Russia. The readiness to stop exercises in the Baltic states may be a proposal in exchange for certain concessions on our part in the Syrian or Ukrainian settlement. It is unclear yet what it means, since we are not a party to the Ukrainian crisis. The Syrian issue is being actively discussed, I think the Americans are afraid that they can stay out of the settlement," Vladimir Olenchenko noted.
The expert also expects that Trump will be acting all tough at a meeting with Vladimir Putin. "In November, there will be midterm elections for the US Congress, and the Republicans represented by Trump, are trying to gain popularity and be tough," the senior research fellow at the European Research Centre of the International Relations Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences concluded.