Russia isn’t expecting any immediate breakthroughs at the first meeting between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, though the Kremlin hopes the two leaders can get off to a good start that lets them begin tackling thorny issues, Putin’s top foreign policy aide said.
“We understand that it’s complicated, that relations with Russia have become hostage to the internal political squabbles in the U.S., but so what? It’s hard for us too. But we want to and will work together with America,” Putin adviser Yuri Ushakov told reporters on Monday. “Relations have to be taken out of the state they’re currently in.”
Russian and U.S. officials are seeking a window in the schedules of both presidents at the July 7-8 Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Ushakov said. Putin and Trump plan to discuss the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine and the fight against terrorism as well as a dispute over Russian diplomatic property seized in December, the official said.
Putin’s hopes of improved ties promised by Trump before the election have run into fierce resistance in Washington, as the U.S. president grapples with investigations into possible collusion between his campaign officials and a Russian hacking campaign allegedly aimed at influencing last year’s vote. The Obama administration in December expelled 35 Russian diplomats and shut down two diplomatic compounds outside New York and Washington in retaliation for the Kremlin’s interference, properties which the Russian government is now seeking to get back.
Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, met with Under Secretary of State Thomas Shannon on Monday to discuss the two presidents’ meeting as well as “areas of mutual concern,” the State Department said in a statement. Russia canceled planned talks last month between Shannon and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov in St. Petersburg last month in response to the U.S. expansion of sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine.
The tone of two leaders’ first face-to-face encounter will be critical, Ushakov said, noting that no specific agreements have yet been prepared.
“As as I see it, the atmosphere itself of the meeting can allow us to resolve many issues, including cooperation in the international field and bilateral topics,” he said. “It’s really important, everyone is waiting for it.”
Last week, U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters that no agenda had yet been set for the meeting, but that it would cover both areas of tension and possible cooperation.