President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shook hands in Finland Monday before sitting down for their one-on-one summit.
The two leaders finally met at the presidential palace in Helsinki — after the notoriously tardy Putin’s flew in at least half an hour late, leaving Trump waiting and delaying the meeting by an hour.
The New York Post reports,
In brief remarks ahead of the sit-down, Trump said the two would discuss “everything from trade to military to missiles, to nuclear, to China” — and hopefully “do something” about the “bad” fact that both countries have so many nukes.
“We have frankly not been getting along too well for the last number of years … as I campaigned, getting along with Russia is a good thing not a bad thing,” Trump said.
“And I really think the world wants to see us get along. We are the two great nuclear powers. We have 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, and that’s not a good thing — it’s a bad thing. I think we hopefully can do something about that. It’s not a positive force, it’s a negative force.”
The meeting comes just days after 12 Russian intelligence officers were indicted Friday in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into meddling in the 2016 US election.
Trump indicated in an interview broadcast on CBS Sunday that he was willing to ask Putin about extraditing the officers — but then blasted the probe as “witch hunt” that has ruined the US relationship with Russia in a Twitter tirade early Monday morning.
“Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!” he tweeted.
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted back: “We agree.”
Trump said Sunday that he has “low expectations” for the meeting, but told reporters earlier Monday only that he thinks the meeting will go “fine,” refusing to elaborate on what they might discuss.
Kremlin officials say Putin is expected to once again deny that any Russians meddled in the US election.
But Putin’s spokesman said he hopes the summit is a “baby step” toward fixing the two country’s relations.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told RT that there was no strict agenda but the two leaders recognize their “special responsibility” for global stability.
He said European countries shouldn’t be worried about a possible U.S.-Russian rapprochement or decisions about Europe made “over the heads of Europeans.”
Peskov said Putin respects Trump’s “America first” stance because he also puts Russia first, but that the only way to make progress at the summit is if both sides are open to finding areas of mutual benefit.