Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is preparing for his meeting with “counterpart” U.S. President Donald Trump, a day after he described a scheduled summit between the two leaders as “difficult.”
Putin and Trump are entering their first formal, in-person summit in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday with a varied, somewhat open agenda, expecting to range from Iran’s role in the Syrian Civil War to Russia’s belligerence against post-Soviet states to the ongoing negotiations to attempt to denuclearize North Korea.
Peskov has not elaborated on what the topics on the docket will be Monday for the two leaders. On Friday, he responded to President Trump’s assessment that he and Putin are, “in a sense,” “competitors” because they are meeting to seek the best interests of their respective countries.
“He’s not my enemy. Hopefully someday, maybe he’ll be a friend,” Trump told reporters.
“[Putin sees Trump as] the President of the United States, a counterpart in the negotiations scheduled for Monday,” Peskov said Friday, according to the Russian news outlet TASS.
Peskov said only a little more on Thursday, lamenting that negotiations with Trump “will be difficult.” He added, however, the faint optimism that relations will probably not worsen: “you know the extent of the disagreements on the agenda, so it’s unlikely that anything else can complicate it now.”
President Trump has been slightly more detailed with the press on what he expects to discuss with Putin on Monday. Speaking to reporters at a press conference following the NATO summit Thursday, Trump said he was “not looking for so much” out of the meeting as much as having frank conversations with Putin.
“We want to find out about Syria … We’ll be talking about Ukraine,” Trump noted, appearing to refer to the ongoing war in that country triggered by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine’s east. Putin’s government invaded and annexed Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014, subsequently continuing provocative actions such as constructing bridges in the region to keep Ukrainian ships out. Ukraine is a NATO member and, should they invoke Article 5 of the NATO treaty in its conflict with Russia, the United States would be treaty-bound to defend Ukraine.
Trump noted that it was “very interesting to hear” Ukraine’s complaints about Russia.
In addition to those two topics, Trump told reporters that he would “of course ask your favorite question about [election] meddling,” though he added, “All I can do is ‘Did you?’ and ‘Don’t do it again.’”