Now we have the official announcement: the Trump-Putin summit will be held in Helsinki on July 16. The date has been moved up by one day as a gesture of courtesy on the pat of the US administration, as on July 15 the final of the soccer World Cup will take place in Moscow, an event that many heads of state and celebrities will attend.
It is rumored that Trump wanted to attend the final himself, but this would have been highly upsetting for the US’s ally, the UK, which has called the 2018 World Cup a Nazi-style display.
The meeting could lead to a change in the relationship between the two countries after nearly two years of Trump’s presidency. As was evident in the case of North Korea, the US president is an unpredictable character, and it is no mystery to anyone that, in spite of everything, he has always looked for ways to develop a dialogue with Russia.
Furthermore, every indication points to the possibility that the meeting could result in significant surprises. First of all, its location: Helsinki, which has been home to important agreements on disarmament and cooperation between the superpowers of the past. In addition, certain details made public by the staff of each side also suggest that it will be more than just a routine encounter.
Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for the Kremlin, has said that the meeting may conclude with a joint declaration, which would mean that it would feature the announcement of an agreement, at least at a methodological level, on how to address the most important points of disagreement between the two countries.
In addition, the summit will be preceded by preparatory meetings of the heads of the respective foreign ministries, Sergey Lavrov and Mike Pompeo, a sign that the discussions will go into detail about the issues on the table. “There are a broad range of issues the president’s going to talk about that need to be addressed,” US Vice President Mike Pence said in an interview with Bloomberg, highlighting first and foremost the issue of military developments in Syria and Ukraine.
These issues will therefore be on the agenda at the meeting, which will, however, be geared more towards economic relations: after the introduction of sanctions and counter-sanctions in 2017, trade between the two countries collapsed to less than $20 billion per year, and it is probably in the interests of both parties to revive it.
While many allies remain cautious on the issue of the Helsinki summit, on Thursday Downing Street put out an opening salvo against it. The London Times, in an article about the concerns being discussed in ministerial circles, reported that “cabinet ministers are worried that Mr. Trump may be persuaded to downgrade US military commitments in Europe, compromising NATO countries’ defence against Russian aggression.”
Theresa May’s government fears that Trump and Putin might reach an agreement in Helsinki that would stipulate the non-participation of the United States in the NATO exercises taking place in Norway in the fall, which would also allow Trump to claim that he achieved “big savings.” In the opinion of British officials, Trump might even consider “accepting the annexation of Crimea,” and softening the sanctions against Russia, in exchange for a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.