Trump Cancels G-20 Meeting With Putin
President Trump has canceled a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the recent confrontation between Russia and Ukraine in the Black Sea.
President Trump has canceled a planned meeting with Russian President Vlaidimr Putin that was meant to take place on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Argentina due to the ongoing crisis between Russia and Ukraine over the Russian seizure of Ukrainian sailors and ships:
BUENOS AIRES — President Trump on Thursday abruptly canceled his planned meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, citing the unresolved naval standoff between Russia and Ukraine and upending his hopes of further cementing the relationship between the two leaders.
The president’s decision, announced on Twitter barely an hour after he told reporters he still expected to go through with the meeting, came shortly after new revelations that Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer was secretly negotiating to build a tower in Moscow during the 2016 presidential election.
The president has adamantly denied any collusion with Russia during the campaign and dismissed questions about business ventures or economic interests in Russia. But Michael D. Cohen, his former personal lawyer and fixer, admitted in court on Thursday that he had engaged in negotiations for a Moscow tower well into the campaign and personally briefed Mr. Trump and members of his family.
The president’s sudden decision to scrap the meeting was the latest twist in months of efforts to set up a session between the two leaders. Mr. Trump announced the cancellation in a Twitter message while on Air Force One flying to Buenos Aires for an economic summit meeting, where he was scheduled to sit down with Mr. Putin. T he Kremlin said it had not even been notified.
“Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting in Argentina with President Vladimir Putin,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter.
“I look forward to a meaningful Summit again as soon as this situation is resolved!” he added.
Speaking with reporters on the South Lawn before leaving the White House, he sounded more positive about the session.
“I probably will be meeting with President Putin,” he said. “I think it is a very good time to have a meeting.” He added that he would be getting a report on Air Force One about the clash with Ukraine “and that will determine what I’m going to do.”
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, told reporters traveling with the president on Air Force One that he opted to scrub the meeting after reviewing the report on Russia’s actions against Ukraine. Mr. Trump conferred with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and with John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, who were on the plane, and by phone with John R. Bolton, his national security adviser, who was in Brazil.
Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, told Russian reporters that they had seen Mr. Trump’s tweet but had no other word from the American government.
“We don’t have official information,” he said, according to the Tass news agency. He added, “If this is so,” then Mr. Putin “will have a few additional hours in the schedule for useful meetings on the sidelines of the summit.”
The meeting was scrapped days after Russian forces seized three small Ukrainian naval vessels and more than 20 sailors, including at least three wounded in a shooting by the Russian side, and briefly blocked passage through the Kerch Strait. Ukraine’s government declared temporary martial law.
While Mr. Trump had said earlier in the week that he was not happy about the aggression, he had left any stronger denunciation of Russia’s action to his United Nations ambassador. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle had called on Mr. Trump to take a tougher stance and even cancel the meeting with Mr. Putin.
The two leaders were to get together while both were in Buenos Aires for the Group of 20, or G-20, summit meeting of large economic powers. It was to be their first meeting since they saw each other in Helsinki and Mr. Trump appeared to equate Mr. Putin’s denial that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential elections with the firm conclusions of American intelligence agencies that it did.
Here are Trump’s tweets on the cancelation:
Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2018
….in Argentina with President Vladimir Putin. I look forward to a meaningful Summit again as soon as this situation is resolved!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2018
This announcement came as Air Force One was leaving Joint Base Andrews in Maryland for the trip to Argentina and less than an hour after the President had told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House that he expected the meeting to go forward despite the incident at sea regarding the Ukranian Navy that has been in the headlines all week. It also came mere hours after longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen pled guilty in a New York City courtroom to a charge of lying to Congress regarding a business deal to develop property in Moscow that Trump was exploring and negotiating even while campaigning and denying that he had any business interests in Russia. While it’s not obvious that the second event had any role in the decision to cancel the meeting, there had been significant pressure on the Trump Administration to cancel the meeting with Putin unless the Russians agreed to return the ships and sailors, who the Russians are now saying will be charged with crimes under Russian law since they were allegedly operating within Russian territorial waters. Until now though, there was no indication from the White House that the current situation would change their intentions at all.
In the end, though, canceling the meeting was the best decision that the U.S. could make regardless of the developments in the Russia investigation. Granting a meeting without some sort of concession by the Russians at this point would have been seen as a sign of significant weakness on the part of the United States, something that Trump can hardly afford to be seen as doing on the world stage in the wake of his weak and obsequious performance in the wake of the Helsinki Summit with Putin earlier this year. Given that disaster, Trump can hardly afford to be seen in the same light in the wake of what is unquestionably a naked act of aggression on the part of Russia toward its Ukranian neighbor. This is especially true given the fact that the United States and its allies are still considering how to craft a response to the incident on Sunday and what steps to take beyond the sanctions that have already been imposed on Russia and Russian business interests in the wake of the 2014 seizure of the Crimean Peninsula by Russian forces and its later annaexation into Russian territory.
In any case, it’s still possible that a Trump-Putin meeting will be put back on the table if Russia takes some sort of conciliatory action regarding the current situation between Russia and Ukraine. Additionally, Putin will still be at the G-20 Summit and it seems inevitable that the two men will find themselves in a room together at some point. In that regard, it’s worth remembering that at last years G-20 Summit Trump left his aides and translator behind and spoke directly with Putin for an extended period of time during a lunch event at which the two men were present. Will that happen this time notwithstanding the fact that it would be incredibly bad optics under the circumstances? We’ll have to wait and see. Given the obsequiousness that Trump has displayed toward the Russian leader in the past, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened.