Publicly, President Trump has said that he’s been preparing for this summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin his whole life, while admitting at NATO that he expects “just a loose meeting.”
But privately, a State Department official and a source familiar with preparations says summit planning was so rushed that the No. 2s at the major departments — like State, Defense and Treasury — did not convene specifically on this summit through the National Security Council.
By comparison, there were multiple deputy NSC meetings to prepare for the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month.
The State Department official compared the lack of preparation to the G-7 summit last month, when the U.S. was unable to agree on a communique with allies.
Unlike Singapore, where Trump met Kim, there is no expectation that a document will be produced from this summit.
Russian Ambassador Jon Huntsman said recently that the meeting itself is a deliverable.
This meeting is so informal that it’s being described as a “getting to know you.”
The White House is telling reporters to stop calling it a summit. Instead, officials describe it as a meeting, even though the White House originally used the term summit.
President Trump is scheduled to meet with Putin in Helsinki Monday in the long-anticipated summit. The meeting comes against the backdrop of Trump feuding with European allies, 12 Russian military intelligence officers indicted stemming from the Mueller investigation into Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential election, and Democrats back home calling for Trump to cancel the meeting.
On Sunday, Trump tweeted that the news media and Democrats won’t be satisfied with any outcome of the summit.
“Unfortunately, no matter how well I do at the Summit, if I was given the great city of Moscow as retribution for all the sins and evils committed by Russia…over the years, I would return to criticism that it wasn’t good enough – that I should have gotten Saint Petersburg in addition!” the president tweeted. “Much of our news media is indeed the enemy of the people and all the Dems…know how to do is resist and obstruct.”
Meanwhile, administration officials have told European allies not to expect any “major surprises.”
Still, with the unpredictability of both leaders, unexpected developments are still possible.
A National Security Council spokesperson declined to comment.