After months of exchanging long-distance compliments, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin sit down on 16 July 2018 for their first ever summit, a potential political minefield at home for the US president but a geopolitical win for his Russian counterpart.
The two leaders are expected to be welcomed by Finnish President Sauli Niinisto to the Presidential Palace in Helsinki at about 1pm (6pm Singapore time). The bilateral meeting between Trump and Putin is scheduled to start at 1.20pm and they are expected to give a joint press conference at 4.50pm.
The two men, who have praised each other’s leadership qualities from afar, could also agree to start restocking their respective embassies and returning confiscated diplomatic property after a wave of expulsions and retaliatory action prompted by the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.
For Putin, the fact that the summit is even happening despite Russia’s semi-pariah status among some Americans and US allies is a geopolitical win because, in Russian eyes, it shows that Washington recognizes Moscow as a great power whose interests must be taken into account.
But for Trump, whose White House victory was actively supported by 12 Russian military intelligence agents, according to a recent US indictment, and whose entourage is still being investigated for possible collusion with Moscow, the meeting is freighted with domestic political risk.
The Helsinki summit is the capstone to a nearly week-long trip for Trump during which he has sown doubts about his commitment to the Nato military alliance, Washington’s so-called special relationship with Britain, and US relations with the European Union that he called “a foe” in trade terms.