HELINSKI, FINLAND (CBSNEWS) — Following slight delays in schedule, Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have begun their day of meetings in Helsinki, Finland amid increasing tensions between the two nations.
“The world wants to see us get along,” Mr. Trump remarked during the leaders’ first formal meeting, adding, “I think we’ll end up having an extraordinary relationship.”
Mr. Trump says he’s going into his meeting with “very low expectations,” he told “CBS Evening News” anchor Jeff Glor. The bilateral summit nonetheless will be closely watched, amid concern from world leaders and U.S. lawmakers alike that the president may be too friendly toward a known adversary of the United States.
Mr. Trump kicked off his day by tweeting that U.S.-Russia relations were being soured by U.S. “foolishness” including the ongoing probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
It was a sentiment the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs agreed with by tweeting their own response: “We agree”
The president’s top national security advisers have advised him publicly and privately to adopt a more hawkish tone towards Russia going into the summit, especially given the Justice Department’s announcement Friday — days before his meeting — of a new round of indictments against 12 Russians for their alleged attempts to interfere in the presidential election. Democrats and some Republicans called on the president to call off the meeting, but the White House, when asked if the allegations would disrupt Mr. Trump’s planned rendezvous with Putin, declared it was “still on.”
Fueling European concerns about the meeting, when Glor asked Mr. Trump who he considered to be the biggest foe, he answered, “Well, I think we have a lot of foes. I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade. Now, you wouldn’t think of the European Union, but they’re a foe. Russia is foe in certain respects. China is a foe economically, certainly they are a foe. But that doesn’t mean they are bad. It doesn’t mean anything. It means that they are competitive.”