Donald Trump said in a television interview released Sunday that he is going into his high-stakes summit with Vladimir Putin expecting, well, not all that much really.
“I go in with low expectations,” Trump said during the CBS News interview. “I’m not going with high expectations.”
A widely-circulated New Yorker piece this weekend compared Donald Trump’s planned meeting on Monday with Vladimir Putin to “an amateur boxer up against Muhammad Ali.” Others have likened it to a lamb being led to slaughter.
Experts point out that while Trump seems content to have a sit-down with Putin, the Russian leader — a seasoned veteran of espionage and intrigue as a former senior KGB official — will have a laundry list of objectives that he will hope to extract, possibly including concessions on Russia’s military role in Syria, easing of economic sanctions, and the two nations’ respective nuclear programs.
Asked about what precisely his goals for the talks, Trump responded, “I’ll let you know after the meeting,” assuring CBS correspondent Jeff Glor that “nothing bad” is going to come from the talks.
That was more or less the same thinking that the president used for his one-on-one in Singapore last month with Kim Jong Un, and many experts who have assessed the outcome conclude that Trump got his clock cleaned by the North Korean leader. Trump has little to show for those talks, while Kim boosted his standing on the world stage and got Trump to agree to cancel planned military exercises with South Korea.
As Vox News wrote, last week US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was even stood up by Kim, who failed to appear at a planned meeting last month and instead opted to visit a North Korean potato farm.
The U.S. president said after the summit that North Korea had agreed to work toward dismantling its nuclear program and that it would return the remains of U.S. servicemembers killed in the Korean War. So far neither has happened, and news reports since the summit suggest that Pyongyang has actually ramped up work on its nuclear program.
Even so, Trump says the meeting with Kim — which focused on the mere fact that the two leaders had set aside their differences after months of saber-rattling — is the template he’s using as he looks ahead to Monday’s talks with Putin. He added that in his view, there is a lot to be gained in meeting for meeting’s sake.
“I think it’s a good thing to meet. I do believe in meetings. I believe that having a meeting with Chairman Kim was a good thing. I think having meetings with the president of China was a very good thing. I believe it’s really good. So having meetings with Russia, China, North Korea, I believe in it,” he says in a video clip released early Sunday by CBS.
“Nothing bad is going to come out of it, and maybe some good will come out,” Trump says.
Those who are skeptical — or even alarmed — at the prospect of the two leaders talking without aides or advisers may have good reason. As ThinkProgress’s Aaron Rupar wrote, Trump is generally out of his depth on matters of foreign policy, as seen at his last two press conferences in which he was asked to weigh in on global affairs.
More excerpts of the CBS interview were to be broadcast later Sunday and on Monday.
TODAY: we'll air an excerpt of @CBSEveningNews anchor @jeffglor's interview in Scotland with President @realDonaldTrump, ahead of Monday's #Helsinki summit@FaceTheNation with @margbrennan airs soon! Check your local listings https://t.co/2qNYsXS7sq pic.twitter.com/NQRNkwM9ie
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) July 15, 2018
Trump had the interview with the news network just one day after a bombshell announcement that the U.S. Justice Department had indicted 12 Russian military intelligence officials on charges they hacked into Democratic National Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee servers in the run-up to the fateful 2016 presidential election.
Asked by CBS whether he would bring up with Putin the possibility of extraditing the 12 Russians, Trump said he hadn’t really considered the option.
“Well, I might,” Mr. Trump told Glor. “I hadn’t thought of that. But I certainly, I’ll be asking about it. But again, this was during the Obama administration. They were doing whatever it was during the Obama administration.”