For all the news about Russia — whether it’s from the Senate’s investigation into Trump’s ties to the Kremlin or Congress’ latest sanctions — it’s easy to forget that Trump and Putin have only met at one event, over the summer at the G20 summit in Germany. Now they’re working out the details of when their next meeting will take place, likely at an economic summit in Vietnam. Ignoring the odd Cold War undertones there, this could be an opportunity for Russia and the United States to work out some of the bad blood from bouncing one another’s diplomats out of embassies.
The Kremlin broke the news of the planned meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders summit tomorrow. “Right now the time of the meeting is being agreed,” presidential aide Yuri Ushakov told Russian news agencies. One of those, the state-run TASS, quoted Ushakov in saying the decision for Putin and Trump to confer is “entirely logical.” The question, however, isn’t whether the meeting makes sense, but whether it will be as shrouded in mystery as the two-hour private meeting between the pair in Germany, followed by an off-the-books meeting that raised some eyebrows.
The timing would be bad for any conversations that have even a whiff of secrecy. Putin and Trump’s meet-up will come days before Jeff Sessions will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee oversight panel to discuss statements he’s made under oath about Trump’s ties to Russia that seem contradictory to information given to the FBI by George Papadopoulos. They also want to inquire about what Sessions knew about a trip that Trump campaign foreign policy advisor Carter Page took in July of 2016, and they want further details on why Sessions recused himself from the probe after James Comey was fired. Whether or not Putin and Trump shake hands in Vietnam, all eyes are shifting between the White House and Moscow.