By Tyler Bauer
In what is likely one of the biggest events since President Trump took office, President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin are meeting tomorrow in Helsinki, Finland.
This meeting would’ve been important regardless of the 2016 election, but Russia’s alleged involvement in the election will raise the stakes of this meeting. According to The Washington Post, President Trump plans on raising the issue of Russia’s alleged involvement in the 2016 election when he meets with Putin on Monday. President Trump admitted that there isn’t much he can do if Putin denies it – which he probably will. Regardless, it will be interesting to see if President Trump does indeed follow through on his plan to ask Putin about election interference, and it will be even more interesting to see how Putin responds.
Adding to the intrigue of the Trump-Putin summit is the NATO summit which President Trump recently attended. As I wrote earlier this week, President Trump was critical of Germany’s agreement to use Russian gas for energy. This drove a bit of a wedge between the US and Germany. Additionally, Trump’s comments seem to be indicative of the continued breakdown of NATO. A fractured NATO would allow Russia to become the dominant geopolitical power in Eastern Europe. Of course, as I wrote earlier this week, I don’t think this would result in much of a change in events. Regardless, NATO will certainly be an important talking point in the wake of this meeting.
What will Trump and Putin talk about?
Aside from election meddling, there are a number of issues Trump and Putin are expected to discuss. Let’s take a look at a few that I think are the most important.
Given President Trump’s ongoing discussions regarding North Korean nuclear weapons, I expect Russian and American nuclear weapons to be discussed at this summit. President Trump’s commitment to “rebuilding” the United States military likely means improving or growing our nuclear arsenal. I wouldn’t expect Russia to take this lying down, so they will probably do the same with their nuclear arsenal. We may be on the edge of a nuclear arms race.
The Middle East will also be a likely topic on Monday. Both the United States and Russia have been involved in the ongoing Syrian conflict for years. Neither country has much to gain from staying in the conflict – especially if the other stays as well – so Trump and Putin may discuss an exit for one – or both – countries. I think any exit plan would be good, as it would likely lead to a cooldown in hostilities in Syria.
The leaders may also discuss NATO’s activities in Eastern Europe. NATO’s slow expansion east understandably worries Putin and Russia, so he’ll likely push for NATO to end or slow its expansion. Given NATO's apparent commitment to its eastward expansion, I wouldn’t expect NATO to budge. However, President Trump does seem to be more open to Putin than most world leaders, so I may be wrong.
Be prepared for everyone to overreact regardless of what happens tomorrow.