Alone at last! Putin and Trump to meet in Helsinki

June 29, 2018

The Finnish are said to be the happiest people in the world, based on results of the annual World Happiness Report—but they may be rivaled in glee by the two world leaders scheduled to meet in Helsinki on July 16. Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold one-on-one talks with President Donald Trump on that date, the White House announced on June 28.

The summit is characterized by The New York Times as “politically delicate”—and the optics are sure to be controversial, as the two “alter egos” reconvene, even as Special Counsel Robert Mueller continues to investigate the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia.

It will be the first formal summit meeting for Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin, who have spoken together twice on the sidelines of annual gatherings of world leaders,—and often by phone, the Kremlin has claimed— and it will come at a particularly critical moment, with midterm elections looming in the United States.

“The two leaders will discuss relations between the United States and Russia, and a range of national security issues,” the White House said in a statement.

In preparation, this week, President Trump sent National Security Advisor John Bolton to Moscow, where he met on June 27 with Putin, himself. Afterward, The Times reported, an aide to Putin, Yuri Ushakov, reiterated Moscow’s denial that it had tried to influence the U.S. presidential election in 2016— comments that Trump cited in a Twitter post before the meeting was announced.:  “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!” the POTUS tweeted.

The meeting will come just after NATO members meeting in Brussels on July 11 and 12. They are sure to be unhappy that Trump appears closer to Putin than he does to his allies.

In fact, findings of a Monmouth University poll released on June 15 indicate that 27% of Americans think that Trump’s best relationship worldwide is with the Russian president—far more than any other leader listed in the poll.

There was a notable split among party lines with 43% of Democrats and 28% of independent voters saying Putin was likely Trump’s closest personal relationship among world leaders, while only 8% of Republicans said the same.

GOP voters were more likely to say Trump had a closer bond with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (12%) or the British Prime Minister Theresa May (11%).

When asked more broadly whether Trump has a positive relationship with Putin, 60% of voters agreed, as opposed to the 25% who said the president does not have a good relationship with Russia’s president.

Research contact: pdmurrary@monmouth.edu

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