National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster confirmed that Trump and Putin will have a one-on-one meeting at the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany next week.
“We have no specific agenda,” national security adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters during a briefing on the trip, which includes a stop in Warsaw. “It’s whatever the president wants to talk about.”
The Kremlin also announced a meeting between the two leaders, but neither side offered details.
Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic adviser, said the White House expected the meeting to be a formal bilateral one rather than an informal “pull-aside” conversation. Trump will meet with several other world leaders similarly, officials said, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“Our relationship with Russia is no different than any other country,” McMaster said. He said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who visited Moscow in April and met with Putin, has played a leading role in the bilateral relationship.
“We’re engaged in wide-ranging discussions about irritants and problems in the relationship and areas to explore common interests and opportunities,” McMaster said.
Not a lot will come of this meeting. Russia’s prestige is too closely tied to the fate of the Assad regime to expect very much help on ending that civil war. Similarly, the pan-Slavism that helped set off World War I and which is still fueling Russian adventurism in Eastern Europe and on the fringes of the former USSR is too deeply ingrained in domestic Russian politics to expect Putin to back off his trouble-making there. For Trump’s part, any kind of a good will gesture will set off another firestorm among the Russia-collusion conspiracists.