Trump has agreed to hold a full-fledged bilateral meeting with Putin on Friday, White House says

President Trump will sit down for an extended meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday on the sidelines of a major economic conference in Germany, a White House official said Tuesday.

Trump’s first face-to-face interaction with Putin will be a “normal bilateral meeting” during the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said in a statement Tuesday.

The label implies a longer and more formal meeting than the brief conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Trump also has on his schedule for Friday, as well as other “pull aside” meetings with the leaders of Mexico, Japan and several other countries that day. 

The session will be the first formal conversation between Putin and a U.S. president in nearly two years, after the U.S. moved to isolate Moscow following the Russian annexation of Ukrainian territory.

It comes amid tension over Moscow’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and its support for the Syrian government. A special counsel is directing an FBI investigation into whether people associated with Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to hurt Hillary Clinton’s chances of being elected.

Trump campaigned on a promise to “get along” with Putin and forge a more cooperative relationship between the two countries. At times, he has called the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered with the election a “hoax.” 

Friday’s meeting will be the first major test of Trump’s promise of better relations. Lawmakers from both parties want Trump to use the opportunity to tell Putin to not interfere in future U.S. elections. The White House has refused to say what will be discussed.

“There’s no specific agenda,” Trump’s national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, told reporters Thursday. “It’s really going to be whatever the president wants to talk about.” 

Putin is expected to look for ways to further undermine the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and exploit divisions within NATO such as the tension between Trump and Merkel.

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