U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, a veteran businessman and a former spy, meet in person for the first time on Friday in the most highly anticipated encounter on the sidelines of the G20 summit.
Trump has said he wants to find ways to work with Putin, a goal made more difficult by sharp differences over Russia’s actions in Syria and Ukraine, and allegations Moscow meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
That means every facial expression and physical gesture will be analyzed as much as any words the two leaders utter. The Kremlin said the two enjoyed a passing handshake at the summit ahead of the talks later in the day.
“I look forward to all meetings today with world leaders, including my meeting with Vladimir Putin. Much to discuss,” Trump wrote in a tweet on Friday. “I will represent our country well and fight for its interests!”
The meeting is scheduled for 3:45 p.m. local time, shortly after a G20 working session on climate and energy begins.
Trump, who has angered world leaders with his decision to pull the United States out of the Paris accord on climate change, will likely have to leave that session early to make the Russia meeting.
Some fear the Republican president, a political novice whose team is still developing its Russia policy, will be less prepared for their sit-down than Putin, who has dealt with the last two U.S. presidents and scores of other world leaders.
“There’s nothing … the Kremlin would like to see more than a (U.S.) president who will settle for a grip and a grin and walk away saying that he had this fabulous meeting with the Kremlin autocrat,” Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives’ Intelligence Committee, said in an interview on MSNBC.
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