Kremlin aides said Friday that Russian president Vladimir Putin sees President Trump as a “negotiating partner” ahead of the two leaders’ first official meeting, scheduled to take place in Helsinki, Finland on Monday.
“We consider Trump a negotiating partner,” Putin adviser Yuri Ushakov told reporters, according to AFP. “The state of bilateral relations is very bad. The aim of this meeting is to begin setting right the negative state of bilateral relations, to agree on concrete measures to improve them and to establish a more or less acceptable level of trust.”
The Kremlin diplomat floated the possibility of future visits to Moscow and Washington, D.C., saying Russia hopes the negotiations will “contribute to the creation of an atmosphere that will allow us to talk about continuing contact.”
One of the main subjects to be discussed will be the Iranian military presence in Syria, he said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov will also discuss Russian election meddling.
“[Putin] is representing Russia. I’m representing the United States,” Trump said before the Brussels NATO summit this week. “So in a sense we’re competitors. [It’s] not a question of friend or enemy.”
The president remarked that his summit with Putin could end up being the “easiest of them all” after a strained NATO summit where the U.S. quarreled with European leaders over defense spending.
Beside Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election, which the Kremlin still denies, other issues have inflamed tensions between the U.S. and Russia recently, including the poisoning of an ex-Kremlin spy in Britain and Russia’s military aid to the brutal regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.