DONALD Trump today declared he wanted to have an “extraordinary relationship” with Vladimir Putin after the pair came face-to-face at a historic summit in Helsinki.
The pair posed for photographs and shook hands before heading into a conference room to begin their discussions away from the cameras.
The meeting came after Putin left Trump waiting for 45 minutes and the US President claimed America’s relationship with Russia had NEVER been worse.
In his opening remarks, Trump said: “Most importantly we have a lot of good things to talk about. Military, missiles, China our mutual friend president Xi. We have great opportunities together.
“We have not been getting along very well over the past years. I feel we’ll have an extraordinary relationship – getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing.”
Their private meeting lasted roughly two hours, after which Trump was asked how it went and replied: “I think it’s a good start. A very, very good start for everybody”.
What we know so far:
- Donald Trump arrived in Helsinki, Finland, yesterday ready for his ‘one-on-one’ meeting with Vladimir Putin today
- The meeting has gone ahead despite an ongoing FBI probe in America into alleged Russian interference in the US election
- Investigator Robert Mueller’s team indicted 12 Russian spies on Friday, accusing them of a “sustained effort” to hack the Democrats in 2016
- Trump denies his team colluded with the Russian hacking campaign and has labelled it a ‘Rigged Witch Hunt’ in today’s tweets
- His meeting with Putin comes just days after he spent a week sowing discord among traditional allies Nato, Britain and the EU
- In a bombshell interview with The Sun last week, he claimed PM Theresa May’s soft Brexit blueprint would “kill” a cherished UK-US trade deal
- Allies fear he may offer concessions to Vladimir Putin that could include recognising Russian possession of the Crimea, or the relaxing of economic sanctions
- Yesterday, in an interview with CBS, Trump said the EU was one of America’s biggest “foes” alongside Russian and China
- In a Good Morning Britain interview with Piers Morgan, Trump said he wanted the US to “get along” with Russia and called Putin a “competitor”
- Putin – notorious for keeping people waiting – arrived in Helsinki this morning almost an hour late for the meeting with Trump
- The pair then posed for photographs together and gave brief comments to waiting media before an extremely tense-looking handshake
“The world want to see us getting along, we have 90 per cent of the nuclear, this is not a good thing, it’s a bad thing. It’s a negative force. We’ll be talking about that.”
Trump had earlier attacked the ongoing FBI investigation into Russian election interference, dubbing it a ”Rigged Witch Hunt” in a series of tweets.
Trump landed in Helsinki yesterday to prepare for today’s
meeting with the Russian leader having also described the EU as one of the US’s biggest “foes”.
This morning Trump tweeted: “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!
“President Obama thought that Crooked Hillary was going to win the election, so when he was informed by the FBI about Russian Meddling, he said it couldn’t happen, was no big deal, & did NOTHING about it.
“When I won it became a big deal and the Rigged Witch Hunt headed by Strzok!”
Trump and his administration are at the centre of an FBI probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is looking for links between Trump’s team and Russian election interference.
On Friday Mueller indicted 12 Russian members of the Russian intelligence agency GRU, accusing them of engaging in a “sustained effort” to hack Democrats’ emails and computers.
Meanwhile, on Good Morning Britain today, Trump doubled down on longstanding claims he wants to “get along” with Putin.
He told co-host Piers Morgan: “Look, if we can get along with Russia, that’s a good thing. I don’t know him, I met him a couple of times, I met him at the G20. I think we could probably get along very well.
“Somebody said are you friends or enemies? I said, well it’s too early to say right now. We’re competitors.
“But for Russia and the United States and frankly the UK to get along with Russia and China and all these other places around the world, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.”
Trump’s meeting with Putin also comes amid of backdrop of furious attacks against his Nato allies, Theresa May’s Brexit negotiations and the EU.
On the subject of trade, Trump yesterday told CBS: “Now you wouldn’t think of the European Union, but they’re a foe.
“Russia is a foe in certain respects. China is a foe economically, certainly a foe.”
Before his stop in Britain, Trump butted heads with America’s Euro allies while at a Nato Summit in Brussels.
He chided members of the alliance for not spending more on defence and blasted Germany for buying gas from Russia.
PUTIN’S LOVE LIFE
Vladimir Putin met former Aeroflot flight attendant Lyudmila Shkrebneva in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) and married her in July 1983. They had two daughters, the second of whom was born in Dresden when Putin was stationed in East Germany.
But in June 2013 the couple announced they were to separate and the end of their marriage was confirmed in April the following year.
Glamorous gymnastics champion Alina Kabaeva is now rumoured to be Putin’s current partner.
The Olympic gold medal winner and TV favourite has not had any other suitors since 2008 despite being one of Russia’s most eligible women.
She was first romantically linked with Putin a decade ago.
The Kremlin has denied she is his secret First Lady but rumours have persisted including claims she gave birth to at least one child.
Back in the US, the accusations that Russia meddled in the 2016 election could overshadow Trump’s meeting with the former Putin.
While the New York property tycoon took tea with the Queen on Friday, the federal grand jury charged 12 Russian intelligence officers with stealing data from the campaign of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
When asked when whether he would extradite the 12 accused Russians, Trump said he “hadn’t thought” about it, before adding “Well, I might.”
He also appeared to suggest that the Russians did not hack the Republican National Committee because they had “better defences.”
The US President added: “I think the D.N.C. (Democratic National Committee) should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be hacked.”
Trump has repeatedly said the investigation into suspected interference by Moscow in the election makes it hard for him to cut substantive deals with Putin.
Why are the talks so important?
It was feared Putin could use today’s meeting to persuade Trump to downgrade his military commitments in Europe – hugely compromising Nato countries against Russian aggression.
It’s also feared the pair could try to wrangle a deal in which Trump offers concessions to Putin, such as handing him the Crimea or loosening economic sanctions.
Trump has been bullish that the meeting goes ahead despite accusations his administration may have colluded with Russian spies to rig the election in his favour.
And it has been somewhat overshadowed by the announcement on Friday that 12 Russian spies have been indicted, accused of hacking Democrats’ emails – the strongest evidence yet of Russian election interference.
The summit also comes at a time of mounting tensions between Russia and Europe, after the poisoning of Sergei Skripal on British soil led to the expulsion of scores of diplomats on both sides.
What will Trump and Putin discuss?
A terse synchronised statement released last week said the two presidents will discuss bilateral issues and international relations, after Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton held talks with Russian officials to lay the groundwork.
Trump said on Wednesday that “getting along with Russia and with China and with everybody is a very good thing”. He said they would discuss Syria, Ukraine and “many other subjects” in Helsinki.
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He has said he will raise the issue of Russian election hacking, but there is no formal agenda.
But just hours before today’s meeting, Trump took to Twitter to comment on Russia’s relationship with the US.
The President wrote: “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of US foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!”
WHAT IS THE RUSSIA PROBE TRUMP CALLS A ‘RIGGED WITCH HUNT?’
An investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller is currently underway in the US to look into Russian interference in the 2016 US election.
It is claimed Russian hackers gained access to the Democrats’ emails and then released embarrassing information in a bid to discredit Hillary Clinton.
What is still disputed is the extent to which Donald Trump, his future administration and campaign advisers may have played in this.
He has continued to deny any “collusion” between his campaign and the interference, but severeal former campaign aides are facing charges.
Trump has repeatedly labelled the probe a Democrat “witch hunt” and “biased”, suggesting it is being led by Clinton supporters.
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