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EXCLUSIVE: An Overview of US and Russian Leaders Meeting Over the Past 60 Years
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EXCLUSIVE: An Overview of US and Russian Leaders Meeting Over the Past 60 Years

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HELSINKI, FINLAND — July 17, 2018

Stakes and expectations were high for President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin's meeting this Monday at the Finnish Presidential Palace in Helsinki, especially given the major policy gaps between the two countries.

Since the 2014 Crimean and Ukraine crises as well as allegations that Moscow meddled in the 2016 US presidential election that triggered Western economic and political sanctions, it has been widely written that Russia has been experiencing  ‘extraordinary’ international isolation.

The Russian president was extremely busy during the first two months of the summer, According to a Kremlin official, in the last 45 days president Putin has held personal meetings and negotiations with 20 different presidents, 4 heads of State (The Emir of Qatar, Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban and others) and a number of international organizations like the UN and the Council of Europe.

The U.S. president said that it was "a good start, a very good start for everybody" as the two leaders and their top advisers sat across the table from one another during a working lunch.

The statement followed more than two hours of one-on-one discussions involving just the US and Russian leaders, with only translators present. The White House had scheduled only 90 minutes for that meeting. Trump was joined at the luncheon by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman and other top aides.

After the lunch, Trump and Putin appeared at a joint news conference in Helsinki. Earlier in the day, they both briefly addressed the media.

The US president praised the Russian leader's hosting of the World Cup, which ended on Sunday, as well as the Russian national team's performance.

Mr. Trump said: "Frankly we have not been getting along very well for the last number of years. I've been here not too long, but it's getting close to two years.”

"But I think we will end up having an extraordinary relationship. I hope so.”

"I've been saying - and I'm sure you've heard over the years and as I campaigned - that getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing.”

He added: "I really think the world wants to see us get along."

"The world awaits," the US president said. "It's great to be with you", he added, before shaking Mr. Putin's hand.

Vladimir Putin told the press conference he completely trusts Donald Trump and that the feeling was mutual.

The Kremlin leader said he looks after Russian interests and that his counterpart does the same for his country. In general, he said, the talks with Trump took place in an "open and businesslike atmosphere" and he characterized them as "successful and useful."

Donald Trump said both countries have made mistakes which led to the breakdown in relations between the US and Russia.

"I think the US has been foolish," the US president said. "We should have had this dialogue a long time ago. We have a chance to do some great things."

The US president said talks between the two nations went "very well". He said the disagreements between the two countries are well known, but that together the US and Russia were going to solve the problems facing the world.

"We've seen the consequences when diplomacy is left on the table," he said. "Even during the tension of the Cold War, the US and Russia were able to maintain a strong dialogue,” Mr. Trump reminded during the press conference.

It's not the first time a U.S. president has met with Russian president Putin in person.

Here's a look back at some of the post-World War II circumstances under which the current and former presidents of the United States met with Vladimir Putin and other Russian leaders.

DONALD TRUMP AND VLADIMIR PUTIN

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The first highly anticipated, formal two-hour bilateral sit-down meeting took place on sidelines of the G20 summit in Germany in July, 2017. In his characteristically confident fashion, Trump said he and Putin were holding “very, very good talks”. As journalists were briefly allowed in to witness part of the meeting, the Russian president replied to his American counterpart: “I’m delighted to be able to meet you personally Mr. President. And I hope as you have said, our meeting will yield concrete results.”

BARACK OBAMA AND VLADIMIR PUTIN

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Obama and Putin had a tense relationship throughout Obama's time in the White House. Their first meeting happened a few months into Obama's presidency, when Putin was once again prime minister of Russia. Obama came out of the meeting saying, "We think there’s an excellent opportunity to put U.S.-Russian relations on a much stronger footing," according to media reports. Less than a year later, the two countries signed the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty.

Putin and Obama met in 2016 on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China. That meeting was described by Mr. Obama as “candid, blunt and businesslike”. He urged Mr. Putin not to let cyberspace become the "wild, wild west" but despite a number of Russian offers to collaborate on cybersecurity, none of them were ever taken up by the U.S., Ambassador Anatoly Antonov told CBS News.

BARACK OBAMA AND DMITRY MEDVEDEV

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Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev pledged they were on the path to "reset" US-Russian ties, announcing agreements on nuclear arms treaties and as well as future work on missile defense.

"We resolve to reset US-Russian relations so that we can cooperate more effectively in areas of common interest," Obama said at a press conference with Medvedev in the Kremlin in 2009.

In 2012, Obama was caught on a ‘hot microphone’ telling outgoing Russian president Dmitry Medvedev that he would have more "flexibility" to negotiate with incoming President Putin on controversial issues such as missile defense after his own presidential election.

GEORGE W. BUSH AND VLADIMIR PUTIN

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The two leaders met for the first time in Slovenia in June 2001 soon after President George W. Bush's inauguration. That meeting led to Bush's now-famous remark that he was able to look Putin in the eye and "get a sense of his soul."

Later that same year, after a meeting on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit in Genoa, Italy, Bush said at a news conference that "The two go hand in hand," when asked about his impression. Bush described himself and his Russian counterpart as "young leaders who are interested in forging a more peaceful world."

Over the years, they met again several times, including at the G-8 summits (In USA, 2004; in St.Petersburg, Russia, 2006; in Heiligendamm, Germany, 2011) and when Bush brought Putin along to meet with Texas high school students in 2001. Once in 2007, as Bush noted in his book about his father, George H. W. Bush, they even had a fishing weekend in Maine that included some talk of policy.

BILL CLINTON AND VLADIMIR PUTIN

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When Vladimir Putin was prime minister of Russia, he met with Clinton in Oslo in November 1999. The two leaders also met after Putin was sworn in as Russia's president, for a summit in Moscow in June 2000. The two were unable to agree over a national missile defense system the United States was seeking, according to the New York Times.

BORIS YELTSIN AND BILL CLINTON

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President Clinton and Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin first met during a summit in Vancouver in 1993.

Clinton promised Yeltsin strong support in the form of financial assistance to promote various programs, including funds to stabilize the economy, to house decommissioned military officers, and to employ nuclear scientists.

The two presidents then developed a genuine rapport and Yeltsin met Clinton in Washington two years later in Washington, D.C.

RONALD REAGAN AND MIKHAIL GORBACHEV

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At the Reykjavik Summit in 1986, Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan had agreed in principle on the need to reduce their nuclear arsenals. But a possible accord foundered at that meeting over Soviet insistence that the United States scrap its space-based missile-defense plans, but the pair had paved the way for future talks.

In December 1987, the leaders signed at The White House the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in a first attempt to reverse the nuclear arms race.

RICHARD NIXON AND LEONID BREZHNEV

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The two met at the Moscow Summit, in May 1972. Nuclear weapons topped the agenda of that summit, at which U.S. President Richard Nixon shook hands with General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev after signing a historic agreement which set limits to the nuclear arsenals of the two super-powers.

They also set up a hotline to prevent a nuclear war breaking out by accident.

"It is an enormously important agreement," Mr. Nixon said at the time. "But, again, it is only an indication of what can happen in the future as we work towards peace in the world. I have great hopes on that score."

The pair forged a successful working relationship but they wouldn't have much time to achieve anything else. Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace over the Watergate scandal two years later.

JOHN F. KENNEDY AND NIKITA KHRUSHCHEV

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The two leaders met each other in Vienna in 1961 just as the Cold War was raging around them.

Kennedy approached the Soviet leader via a letter during his transition to the White House, hoping for real progress on a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

However, the pair clashed over Berlin, with JFK refusing to recognize East German sovereignty over the city. Kennedy warned of a "cold winter" ahead and a few months later the Soviet Union began building the Berlin Wall.

Kennedy later said the Khrushchev meeting was the “worst thing in my life. He savaged me.”

"If the US wants to start a war over Germany let it be so," Khrushchev reportedly said.

DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER AND NIKITA KHRUSHCHEV

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The first visit by a Soviet leader to the United States in 1959 let the two came to general agreement on a number of issues, generating optimism for improved relations.

“The atmosphere of the talk was friendly and frank with agreement that the discussions should continue in this spirit to seek ways to achieve a better understanding,” both parties said.

A Joint Statement from the September meeting suggested that both “agreed that these discussions have been useful in clarifying each other’s position on a number of subjects” and they hoped it would lead to a "just and lasting peace”.

Those hopes were later dashed when the Soviets shot down an American U-2 spy plane over Russia and captured the pilot in May, 1960.

Author: USA Really