Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump share awkward handshake at Helsinki summit

Larry Hoffman
July 21, 2018

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin were welcomed to Helsinki, Finland, with a potent message about the importance of press freedom ahead of their bilateral summit.

Trump is departing for Helsinki on Sunday for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday.

There were indications of an arrangement to work together and with Israel to support a ceasefire in southern Syria, suggesting that the USA administration is backing off its demand that Moscow's ally Bashar al-Assad step down.

For their part, protesters have been on the streets of Helsinki to denounce the policies of both Trump and Putin. In tweets Sunday, he blasted Democrats and the news media but had no harsh words for Putin. He said only: "We'll do just fine".

"I don't see any reason why it would be", Trump said.

U.S. President Donald Trump has renewed his criticism of America's European allies, describing the EU as a foe alongside China and Russian Federation.

The world's two most powerful men retired for 90-minutes of one-to-one talks.

"That's what one of the purposes of this meeting is, so the president can see eye to eye with President Putin and ask him about it", he told ABC News.

The crowd repeated a refrain heard at many anti-Trump protests including one that drew tens of thousands to London as the president visited Britain last week: "No Trump, no KKK, no fascist US!" "He may come in with maps of Syria, maps of Ukraine, and, frankly, I think he'll take advantage of this President, who we know doesn't do much prep work before these meetings".

Angry criticism of his disavowal of his own intelligence agencies came even from within Trump's Republican Party.

In an interview at the president's golf club in Turnberry, Scotland, with CBS Evening News anchor Jeff Glor, Trump said the United States has many foes, and being a foe was not necessarily a bad thing. Trump said such sessions are beneficial.

Putin denied the notion that Russian spy bosses may hold compromising information on Trump, who in his previous business career oversaw the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013. It said it did not expect much from the meeting but hoped it would be a "first step" to resolving a crisis in ties.

The venue for the US-Russia summit, Helsinki, holds historical significance for diplomatic relations between the two long-time rivals. "It means that they are competitive", he told CBS on Saturday.

A post-NATO trip to Britain, supposedly America's partner in a "special relationship", was riddled with controversy as well.

Foreign policy observers will be watching to see whether Trump has kinder words for Putin in Helsinki than he did for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation leaders in Brussels. The two world leaders are expected to meet one-on-one before allowing other aides to join in on their conversation. Trump and Putin meet later Monday at the palace.

Strzok was removed from the investigation following the discovery of anti-Trump text messages a year ago that he traded with an FBI lawyer in the run-up to the 2016 election.

Obama condemned the move, and the USA and European Union sanctioned Russian Federation afterward.

Finland as a whole, which claimed independence from the Russian Empire in 1917, has historically maintained a neutral stance in disputes between Russia and the West.

I was directly involved in the planning and execution of all five of Ronald Reagan's Summit meetings with Mikhail Gorbachev (Geneva, Reykjavik, Washington, Moscow and New York) and in all the planning we did for the first Summit, we failed to recommend what the president should say on the first handshake with Gorbachev.

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