Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin will hold their first official summit together on July 16. But the pair have met before while the real estate magnate has been U.S. President.
In November, Trump and the Russian President met briefly on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (APEC) summit in Vietnam. Earlier in the year, in July, they had a summit at the G20 meeting of world leaders in Hamburg, Germany.
At both meetings, Russian election meddling was high on the agenda.
In Vietnam, Trump appeared to accept Putin’s denial of any involvement in Russian interference in the 2016 election. “He said he didn’t meddle,” Trump told reporters at the time. “You can only ask so many times. I just asked him again. He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election.”
When asked if he believed Putin, Trump replied: “Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it. […] Look, I can’t stand there and argue with him, I would rather have him get out of Syria.”
At the Hamburg meeting Trump’s then-secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, said the two leaders had agreed to “move forward” on the question of election interference, while his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, reported more bluntly that Trump had accepted Putin’s denial of any involvement.
Syria was high on the agenda at both meetings too.
After agreeing on a ceasefire in the south-west of the country at the Hamburg summit, the two leaders reached agreement in Vietnam that “there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria,” and that a political solution was the only way forward, according to a statement from the Russian side. The following month, Putin announced troops would partially withdraw from the country.
However relations between the two leaders remained tense on both occasions, thanks in part to the ongoing special counsel investigation into Russian election meddling. When reports emerged of a “secret” conversation over dinner in Hamburg that had been previously undisclosed, Trump lashed out on Twitter. “Fake News story of secret dinner with Putin is ‘sick’,” he wrote.
And in Vietnam, amidst tensions over new sanctions poised to come into effect against Russia, Trump cancelled a formal meeting with Putin at the last minute, citing scheduling issues. “They’re going to be in the same place. Are they going to bump into each other and say hello? Certainly possible,” said the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders.