MINNEAPOLIS -- President Trump is in Hamburg, Germany for his first G20 economic summit, but most of the attention is focused on his first face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
There are some issues that carry over from the Obama years, including Russia's involvement in Syria and incursions into Ukraine. And then there's the elephant in the room, Russia's meddling in US election via cyber attacks and misinformation campaigns.
"President Trump is a novice at this kind of game and Putin is very experienced," Mary Curtin, diplomat-in-residence at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, told KARE.
"That is what has a lot of policy people really nervous, not just what points will he make but how will he respond when the demands come from Putin’s side."
Curtin spent 25 years as a US State Dept. Foreign Service officer, including extensive time in Europe. She said the complexion of the G20 Summit has changed because of President Trump's dim view of trade pacts and other multinational agreements.
"He continues with some of his campaign themes, his constant reference to how somehow the United States has been uniquely hurt by these deals, what he calls bad deals," Curtin explained.
And Trump's meeting with Putin is also drawing worldwide interest because the American president can and does go off script at times. So it's unclear whether he'll press Putin on those key issues of European security, Ukraine, Syria or interference with US elections.
"I think people feel he's so unpredictable that it's hard to tell if those things, in that order, will get raised in this meeting."
The president has downplayed the findings of US intelligence agencies about Russian meddling, and has insisted that if there was interference Russia wasn't the only nation involved.
It's expected to be a closed door meeting followed by press conferences reflecting on how the conversation went.
"These meetings are really short, and they need translators; so if it's a 15 to 20 minute meeting that's only 10 minutes of talking," Curtin explained.
She pointed out Vladimir Putin has been working on a subtle messaging campaign for years, creating the background narrative that Russians and American Christians have more in common than they realize, that both nations face a common threat from terrorists who are Muslims.
And that's reflected in a lot of President Trump's rhetoric.
On the campaign trail then-candidate Trump asserted that having good relationship with Russia would be help in the battle against ISIS. He also praised Putin for "being a great leader" because "he has great control of his country."
Curtin said it's unclear how much of Trump's opinion was shaped by his ousted National Security Director Michael Flynn, who had strong ties to Russia. And Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort worked for pro-Russian interests in Ukraine.
"Not all the expectations of a relationship should be put on one meeting like this but it is really important that leaders meet and convey to each other the most important points on their agenda."
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