President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will have their first face-to-face meeting this week on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. But experts say any big changes in US-Russia relations are unlikely to come from the encounter.
"I don't think a lot can come from this meeting, because obviously these two guys don't really know each other," said Michael O'Hanlon, a foreign policy expert at the Brookings Institution.
U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster didn't elaborate on what the two leaders would be discussing.
"It's really going to be whatever the president wants to talk about," he told reporters during a briefing Thursday.
CNN reported Monday that the two would likely discuss the war on terror, disputes in Syria and Ukraine and other unilateral agreements, but any talk about Russia's meddling in the U.S.' elections was likely off the table.
Trump repeatedly suggested on the campaign trail that it would be nice to have friendly relations with Russia, but experts say it would be a big mistake for Trump not to take a hard stance during his conversation with Putin.
"He needs to actually establish a bit of a firm line that Russia has behaved in ways that are incompatible with friendly relations with the United States," O'Hanlon said.
U.S. Intelligence officials have said they are confident Russia, at the direction of Putin, interfered in the 2016 election. Although hesitant at first, Trump has now admitted he does believe Russia meddled in the elections.
Just out: The Obama Administration knew far in advance of November 8th about election meddling by Russia. Did nothing about it. WHY?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 24, 2017
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say that Trump needs to draw a line in the sand during his meeting with Putin.
"I think there need to be consequences to that," Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) told CNN.
"He should confront Russia over what they did. He should make it plain that there will be severe reprecussions," Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California), the top ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee told CNN.
But the Kremlin has already made clear that Putin wont be playing softball. On Monday, Russian officials warned that the Kremlin's "patience is running out" with the U.S. to return two diplomatic compounds seized as part of sanctions imposed by the Obama administration in retaliation for the election meddling.
Trump isn't exactly playing nice right off the bat. He is making a pit stop in Poland before the summit to promote U.S. natural gas exports there. That might ruffle some feathers with Putin, since much of Europe depends on Russian natural gas.
O'Hanlons says the meeting is only a starting point for diplomatic talks between the U.S. and Russia, and there's much more that will need to be hashed out in the future.
"Maybe the next meeting can get back to some substance on issues like Syria or Ukraine or Eastern Europe more generally," he said.
Trump will also meet with Germany's Angela Merkel, Britain's Theresa May, Japan's Shinzo Abe, South Korea's Moon Jae-in, China's Xi Jinping, Mexico's Enrique Pena Nieto, Indonesia's Joko Widodo and Singapore's Tony Tan at the summit, the White House confirmed.