Donald Trump to Vladimir Putin in Helsinki: World Wants Us to Get Along
President Trump & President Putin at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland. (Photo: White House)

U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are holding a summit in the Finnish capital, Helsinki.

The U.S. and Russia have long been adversaries but the last decade has seen the two countries on opposing sides on multiple geopolitical issues – from Ukraine to Syria. Accusations that Moscow interfered in the U.S. presidential election in 2016 have added an extra, bitter ingredient.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump have met in the Finnish capital Helsinki to talk about "everything from trade to military to missiles to China".

Putin told Trump at the start of their summit on Monday that "the time has come to talk thoroughly about bilateral relations as well as various hotspots in the world".

Trump first congratulated Putin with the successful organisation of "one of the best World Cups of all times". He said their discussions would involve trade, the military, missiles, nuclear weapons and China, including their "mutual friend" China's Xi Jingping.

Trump also said that "getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing". "Frankly, we have not been getting along for the last number of years. And I really think the world wants to see us get along. We are the two great nuclear powers," he said.

"I've not been here too long [as president], it's getting close to two years, but we'll be having an extraordinary relationship, I hope so."

However, the intention of wanting to get along is much easier said than done as the two heads of state look at several contentious issues in front of them.

1. Ukraine: Russia’s annexation of Crimea, long a part of Ukraine was an unbelievably bold move. Since then, Putin has worked to increase his country’s linkages to the peninsula and no number of talks are likely to see him hand it back to Kiev. Except for underlining U.S.’s support for the government of Kiev and the EU, one wonders what else the U.S. President can say to his Russian counterpart

2. Syria: That Bashar Al-Assad is still the ruler of Syria even as his country is laid to waste by eight years of civil war is due to Russia’s unwavering support. Recent days has seen the Syrian government forces backed by Russian troops capture more territory. The U.S. has a small number of special forces posted in the eastern Syria, supporting the Kurdish backed forces as well as carrying out anti-Islamic State operations however, Trump has stated his unwillingness to get involved further in the quagmire that is the Syrian civil war.

3. Meddling in U.S. Elections: Shortly before the summit opened, Trump was asked if he would press Putin over alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential campaign. He said only: "We'll do just fine." Many U.S. critics had called for the summit's cancellation after new revelations surrounding the alleged election meddling. But Trump has insisted it is "a good thing to meet". Last week, Special Counsel Robert Mueller unveiled charges against 12 Russian military intelligence officers for alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election.

4. Arms control: Both leaders have bragged about their nuclear capabilities and experts say this is one of the key points to watch. US and Russia have a deal called New Start, aimed at reducing and limiting the size of their nuclear arsenals, the two largest in the world. It is in effect until 2021 and any progress in extending it will be seen as a good sign. They are also likely to discuss a missiles treaty signed in 1987 amid mutual accusations of breaches

5. U.S. sanctions: Those were imposed on companies and individuals over Russia's annexation of Crimea, its support to separatists in eastern Ukraine, its role in the conflict in Syria and its alleged interference in the 2016 election. Congress needs to approve the easing of restrictions but observers say Trump can indicate that the list of those sanctioned will not be expanded, a move that would be welcomed by Russia.