US President Donald Trump will learn this week whether he gets a second chance to make a first impression as he returns to Europe and has his first encounter with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump’s first visit to the continent in May stirred anxieties among European allies when he declined to endorse Nato’s common defence treaty explicitly and scolded world leaders for not spending more on their armed forces. This time, Trump will use stops in Poland and Germany to try to pull off the tricky balancing act of improving ties with Moscow at a time of particularly fraught relations while also presenting the US as a check against Russian aggression.
Trump is leaving Washington for Europe on Wednesday. In what may be the most-watched event of the four-day trip, the president will meet Putin on the sidelines of an international summit meeting in Hamburg, Germany. Every aspect of the meeting between the two unpredictable leaders is sure to be closely scrutinised as investigations press on into alleged Moscow meddling in the 2016 election and potential Trump campaign collusion.
With those investigations hanging heavy in the air, there is little expectation the meeting will produce significant progress on difficult issues such as the crisis in Ukraine or the conflict in Syria. The Trump-Putin encounter will be one of at least nine meetings the US president will have with foreign leaders while in Hamburg for a Group of 20 summit of developed and developing nations, beginning Friday. But first Trump will stop in Poland, where leaders are looking for reassurance that the presence of US and Nato troops there will continue as long as the region’s security is threatened by a resurgent Russia. In return, Trump will be expecting a warm reception as he pays homage to Polish resolve with a speech Thursday in Krasinski Square, his first major outdoor address in a foreign country.
If there's no agenda for the meeting, who knows what Trump will say to Putin this week at the G20. Trump with no script is dangerous. pic.twitter.com/gUSqtuoVwPJuly 4, 2017
.@Evan_McMullin on G20: Trump has an opportunity to earn the confidence of leaders in Europe by standing up to Putin https://t.co/L3FKSEGYGH — The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN) July 3, 2017
Poland’s leaders are closely aligned with Trump’s worldview, and ruling party lawmakers and pro-government activists plan to bus in groups to help ensure an enthusiastic crowd for Trump after his rather awkward European debut in May.
White House aides said Trump did not have a specific agenda for the meeting with the Russian president and they have yet to provide details on the staging for the encounter. Trump has had three phone calls with Putin since taking office. In the past, he’s offered contradictory descriptions of his connections with Putin, insisting during the campaign he had no recollection of meeting him but earlier stating that they spoke around the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.
As Trump prepares to reward Russia with a G20 meeting, Russia's Foreign Ministry has threatened us: "retaliatory measures are in the works." pic.twitter.com/k2DFzmp7xN— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) July 2, 2017
Trump’s overseas trip will be his first since he announced that he was withdrawing the US from the landmark Paris climate agreement, to the regret of a number of world leaders who had lobbied Trump to remain in the 2015 pact. The White House said Trump and Merkel discussed the climate issues in their conversation Monday.