The Cable

What Putin Will, and Will Not, Say to Trump

The White House may not have a “specific agenda” for the meeting, but the Kremlin sure does.

russia g20

President Donald Trump will have his much-anticipated meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G-20 in Hamburg, Germany on Friday.

While bemoaning that relations between the two countries are at their lowest level since the Cold War, the White House has said that it has “no specific agenda” for the meeting, and it has not indicated any plans to bring up what multiple intelligence agencies have dubbed Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Instead, media reports citing White House officials say the administration is looking for possible concessions to grant to Putin to ease tensions.

But the Kremlin made clear that, even if Trump doesn’t, it most certainly has an agenda for their meeting.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov said that given time constraints — the meeting will be a sideline chat, not a full bilateral encounter — Putin will not be able to explain to Trump the “reasons for the situation and civil war that has arisen in Ukraine,” Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

The use of the term civil war paints the fighting in Ukraine is an internal affair, rather than one instigated by and continued because of external Russian support. That, Putin will not have time to explain.

What he will have time for is to blame Ukraine for “provocations” in the eastern part of the country that have undermined the Minsk agreement meant to end the three-year old conflict. In other words, there won’t be time to discuss why there’s fighting in Ukraine, but there will an opportunity to go over why the fighting in Ukraine is Ukraine’s fault.

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that investigators are taking an even closer look at the Russian fake news operation built to discredit Hillary Clinton during the campaign — and their possible ties to pro-Trump sites. But don’t expect that to come up at the meeting, either.

Photo credit: Lintao Zhang/Pool/Getty Images

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