NEWS
16/07/2018 10:28 BST | Updated 22/08/2018 16:01 BST

Donald Trump And Vladimir Putin In Helsinki – What You Need To Know About The Summit

The US president arrives in Finland on Monday for a meeting with his 'competitor'.

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have arrived for their high-stakes summit in Helsinki, at a time when the US president claims relations between the two countries have “never been worse”.

The pair arrived at the Finnish presidential palace within minutes of each other but an hour later than scheduled, with Trump looking particularly grave.

The US president had previously said he had “low expectations” ahead of the meeting, but added that “maybe some good” would come of it.

So what should we expect? We explain what you need to know about the meeting. 

JONATHAN NACKSTRAND via Getty Images
Putin arrives for the meeting with Trump.

What Will They Talk About?

The two leaders will meet for a one-on-one sit-down with their interpreters in their first ever summit and while there is no set agenda, there are a number of topics that could be covered.

In a press conference on Friday with Theresa May during a controversial four-day trip to the UK, Trump said he would be raising the issue of Russian interference in the 2016 US election, after 12 Russian military intelligence officials were charged with hacking

Trump has also been urged to raise the death of Dawn Sturgess, who came into contact with the deadly nerve agent Novichok in Amesbury, thought to be linked to the same batch that was used to attack former double-agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in March. 

Speaking ahead of the summit, Trump said: “We’ll be talking about Syria. We’ll be talking about other parts of the Middle East. I will be talking about nuclear proliferation.”

Why People Are Worried

The US president has reportedly insisted on a one-on-one meeting with Putin, without senior aides present, prompting fears he could give away big concessions – with international implications.

According to CNN, Democrats and some Republicans have questioned why the summit is still on, given there is no clear sense of the agenda and possible deliverables.

The news channel reported that US Ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, said: “I think the fact that we’re having a summit at this level, at this time in history, is a deliverable in itself.”

But on Sunday he underplayed his own comments, telling reporters: “It isn’t a summit. I’ve heard it called a summit. This is a meeting.”

The Context

The talks come after Trump caused chaos at last week’s Nato summit in Belgium, railing against his foreign partners on their levels of defence spending. 

A day later, during his UK trip, he criticised Theresa May’s approach to Brexit, and warned that a US-UK trade deal could be off the cards unless the Prime Minister completely broke with Europe. 

Making the comments during an explosive interview with The Sun newspaper, Trump later declared the article “fake news”, and complained that the positive things he had said about May had been left out of the headline.

Then, while spending the weekend golfing at his resort in Turnberry in Scotland, Trump granted an interview to CBS News in which he put the EU at the top of his list of biggest global “foes”.

In the interview, he said: “I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade. You wouldn’t think of the European Union, but they’re a foe.”

He added that Russia is a foe “in certain respects” and that China is a foe “economically … but that doesn’t mean they are bad. It doesn’t mean anything. It means that they are competitive”.

In a series of tweets on Sunday afternoon, Trump also complained he was not getting enough credit for his meeting with North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, and railed that “much of our news media is indeed the enemy of the people”.

Trump on Putin – The Latest Comments

Trump has been reluctant to criticise Putin over the years, and has described him in recent days not as an enemy, but as a competitor.

In a recent interview with Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan, Trump admitted he did not know the Russian president well. 

“I don’t know him… I met him a couple of times, I met him at the G20. I think we could probably get along very well. Somebody said, ‘Are you friends or enemies?’ I said, ‘Well it’s too early to say, but right now I say we’re competitors’.”

The US President added: “But for Russia and the United States, and frankly the UK and other places, to get along with Russia and China and all of these other places…. Piers that’s a good thing, that’s not a bad thing. That’s a really good thing.”

Ahead of the meeting, Trump also congratulated Russia on a successful World Cup tournament, saying it was “one of the best ever”.