- US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet for their first bilateral summit on Monday afternoon in Helsinki.
- The meeting comes days after 12 Russian intelligence officers were indicted for their alleged involvement in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee before the 2016 election.
- As a result, a former Reagan adviser has said Trump should know exactly what he is going to say in his first moments with Putin to signal to Russia and the world that these actions “will not be tolerated.”
- Trump should keep their handshake quick, maintain a stern expression, and say that the two leaders are meeting at a dire time and these issues need to be addressed.
US President Donald Trump must be firm, not friendly, when he meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, according to a a former Ronald Reagan adviser.
Trump and Putin will meet for their first bilateral summit in Helsinki and will hold a 90-minute one-on-one meeting without aides. The meeting comes days after the office of special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers for hacking into computers during the 2016 election.
According to former Reagan adviser and speechwriter Mark Weinberg, Trump must be incredibly careful in those first few moments to signal that Russia’s actions “will not be tolerated.”
“From an opening words standpoint, the president should speak first and know exactly what he is going to say,” Weinberg wrote for Fox News.
Option one, Weinberg wrote, is for Trump to tell Putin, “We meet at a serious time. I do not like what your country tried to do to ours. We have lots to discuss. Let’s get to it.”
The second option is for Trump to say, “Mr. President, there were those in my country who did not want this meeting to take place. But there are some deeply disturbing issues between us that cannot be ignored.”
Weinberg noted that Trump should address Putin as “Mr. President” and not the more friendly “Vladimir,” despite Putin’s reported claim the two are on a first-name basis. Trump should also keep the handshake short, maintain a stern expression, and most definitely not pat Putin on the back, Weinberg said.
Weinberg was involved in the planning of five meetings between Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, but said their team crucially overlooked the importance of those first few moments, and didn’t suggest to the US president what to say or do, which gave the Soviet Union leader the upper hand.
“As usual, Reagan was good-mannered and let Gorbachev speak first, and as a result, the charismatic and media-savvy Gorbachev won the initial PR battle. Reagan eventually recovered, but only after considerable scrambling on the part of White House aides,” Weinberg wrote.
Putin and Trump have met on the sidelines of conferences in the past, but this is their first dedicated summit.