With the world watching closely, US President Trump began a controversial one-on-one meeting with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Monday in Finland’s capital of Helsinki. In opening remarks, Trump said he hoped for an “extraordinary relationship” between the two countries.
The hotly anticipated summit comes at a time of tense relations between the two superpowers, thanks in large part to Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Just last week, US Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged 12 Russian intelligence officers for their role in interfering in the election.
Still, against that backdrop Trump has repeatedly said it would be in the interest of the US to improve ties with Russia—an agenda he’s pushed while simultaneously turning his ire on traditional allies, from imposing tariffs on Canada, to bashing the U.K. over Brexit. The US President just recently finished a tour of Europe, where he criticized allies over trade and military spending.
It’s largely unclear what the two leaders will discuss or whether any major developments will arise from the meeting—which, if anything, has only added to the media furor surrounding the summit. In opening remarks, Trump said they would discuss topics like trade, military and China, but did not mention election hacking or Syria, among other things.
As with his summit in Singapore with Kim Jong-un last month, Trump’s meeting with Putin is occurring behind closed doors. US allies are presumably watching nervously, as it’s been reported that European partners have not been briefed about Trump’s goals for the meeting.
Last month, Trump called for Russia to be readmitted to the G7, after it was suspended from the group—which is a forum of the world’s most industrialized economies—following Moscow’s move to annex Crimea.
“Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of US foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!” wrote Trump on Twitter.