- By Emily TamkinEmily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. She writes for FP’s The Cable, a real-time take on the news in Washington and the wider world. She has been at FP since the fall of 2016, before which she was an associate editor at New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. She has a B.A. in Russian literature from Columbia University, an M.Phil. in Russian and East European studies from the University of Oxford, and studied Soviet dissidence in archival centers in Moscow, Tbilisi, and, on a Fulbright, in Bremen — all of which means that at FP, she writes when she can on Russia and Central and Eastern Europe.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump finally had their first, and much-awaited, face-to-face meeting as world leaders on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Hamburg on Friday.
It was hard for Americans to suss out just what had happened in the meeting, which lasted much, much longer than expected. Unlike his Russian counterpart, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did not hold an on-camera briefing after the meeting’s conclusion, ceding to Moscow the narrative about what happened behind closed doors.
Tillerson said the meeting was “very robust,” “very constructive,” and featured that most important element of diplomacy, “clear positive chemistry.”
Flying sparks and fawning eyes aside, here are five big takeaways from the Trump-Putin summit.
We’re no closer to getting a straight answer from Trump as to what role, exactly, he thinks Russia played in the 2016 presidential election.
By all accounts, Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election came up in the meeting. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, with decades of diplomatic experience, said Trump accepted Putin’s explanation that Russia did not hack America’s 2016 presidential elections. Lavrov also said, “Trump mentioned that in the U.S. certain circles still inflate subject of Russian meddling in elections, even though they have no proof.”
Tillerson said that Trump raised the issue with Putin, who denied a Russian role, and that the two see no point in relitigating the past.
“The two leaders agreed, though, that this is a substantial hindrance in the ability of us to move the Russian-U.S. relationship forward, and agreed to exchange further work regarding commitments of non-interference in the affairs of the United States and our democratic process as well as those of other countries.”
Anonymous administration officials, who the White House says cannot be trusted, later told CNN that Trump did not accept Putin’s claims.
But Russia and the United States have agreed to work together on cybersecurity.
The two sides agreed not to (further?) interfere in one another’s affairs and cooperate on keeping their cyber strong. Or, to use Tillerson’s parlance, they “agreed to explore creating a framework around which the two countries can work together to better understand how to deal with these cyber threats, both in terms of how these tools are used to in interfere with the internal affairs of countries, but also how these tools are used to threaten infrastructure, how these tools are used from a terrorism standpoint as well.”
Putin and Trump bonded over their hostility toward a free press.
"These are the ones who insulted you?" Putin to Trump as he points to reporters https://t.co/vxx8qcDkRp
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) July 7, 2017
Another cease-fire was brokered in Syria.
However, there are still “details” to be worked out as to who will enforce it. Also, Israel hates the idea. And Tillerson acknowledged that previous cease-fires have failed quickly.
The two countries have more in common than separating them.
This, according to Tillerson. “I would tell you that, by and large, our objectives are exactly the same.” (That stuck in the throat of U.S. foreign-policy experts.)
Those areas of common ground do not, however, include Ukraine, North Korea’s nuclear program, or the U.S. deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system to South Korea, which Russia has said should stop, and which apparently did not come up in the two-hour-and-15-minute meeting.
Photo credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images