What To Expect From The Upcoming Summit Between President Trump And Putin
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
The date - Monday July 16. The location - Helsinki, Finland. And the two men at the table - Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Today the Kremlin and the White House simultaneously announced details of the summit next month. And for details on what we might expect from it, let's bring in Tom Graham. He was the top Russia adviser on George W. Bush's National Security Council. Welcome back to the program.
TOM GRAHAM: Glad to be here.
KELLY: How high should our expectations be for this meeting?
GRAHAM: I think our expectations should be quite low for the meeting as far as substance is concerned. You haven't done enough preparatory work to actually have agreements on these issues that are out there, very complicated issues, whether it be the issue of meddling, which is obviously very important for the American public.
KELLY: Russian meddling in U.S. politics and the election.
GRAHAM: Right, exactly - Syria, Ukraine. All these things are extremely complex issues that you can't decide at one sitting. So I think the best that you can hope for out of this is that the presidents will decide that we need to work on these issues, and we're going to get our our officials to sit down and do the tough work and tough negotiating that needs to be done to see whether we can, in a sense, resolve some of these issues and take them off the table - disputes between the United States and Russia.
KELLY: You mentioned the subject of Russian interference. President Trump was tweeting about this yet again today. He wrote, quote, "Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with meddling in our election." And I will add, notably, President Trump didn't say that he disagrees with this Russian position. So what kind of progress, what kind of conversations should we be watching for on this topic at the summit?
GRAHAM: What we should hope to avoid I think is a long conversation on this issue. I always thought that the appropriate approach for the United States and for President Trump, no matter what he might have said in public, is actually quite straightforward. It is, we know what you did; we will use all means necessary to defend ourselves. But then offer the olive branch. And we're prepared to sit down with you and talk about what the norms in cyberspace should be - end of conversation.
KELLY: Is that really enough of a conversation, though, with another round of U.S. elections looming in November and intelligence officials, members of Congress warning Russia did this before; they're going to try to do it again?
GRAHAM: I don't think you can get anything more out of a meeting. Any discussion of the details I think just leads to a meandering conversation and repeated denials by Putin of what the Russians have done.
KELLY: We've been talking about what the U.S. might want to get out of this meeting. What does Vladimir Putin hope to walk away with?
GRAHAM: He hopes to walk away with one recognition that Russia is a major power and that the United States is finally prepared to sit down and talk to Russia. So it's that recognition I think that is extremely important for Putin - this respect for him as the leader of a great power.
KELLY: You are one of a very small circle of people who's had the experience of advising an American president who is about to go sit down with Vladimir Putin. And I wonder what your advice is to this American president, to president Trump, heading into Helsinki.
GRAHAM: My advice would be, you need to have a plan. You need to have focus. You need to know what you want and that you need to be firm in pushing back when you think that President Putin is saying things that are either in error or a misstatement of what American purpose is in the world.
KELLY: Do your homework going in, and then stand your ground.
GRAHAM: Absolutely. That's the best way to deal with President Putin.
KELLY: That is former diplomat Tom Graham. He's now managing director at Kissinger Associates. Thanks for taking the time.
GRAHAM: You're welcome.
KELLY: And we want to let you know we are working to confirm details about a shooting this afternoon at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Md. Police have confirmed that people were injured. It is not yet clear how many or how severely. Phil Davis, who is a reporter at the paper, says he and others hid under their desks from the gunman. And we will update you as we learn more. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.