Trump's overseas trip will be his first since he announced that he was withdrawing the U.S. from the landmark Paris climate agreement
, photo: AP/Evan Vucci, File
03 of July 2017 15:33:37
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump will learn this week whether he gets a second chance to make a first impression as he returns to Europe and has his first encounter with Russia's Vladimir Putin.Trump's first visit to the continent in May stirred anxieties among his European allies when he declined to endorse NATO's common defense treaty explicitly and scolded world leaders for not spending more on their armed forces. This time, Trump will use stops in Poland and Germany to try to pull off the tricky balancing act of improving ties with Moscow at a time of particularly fraught relations while also presenting the U.S. as a check against Russian aggression.In what may be the most-watched event of the four-day trip, the president will meet Putin on the sidelines of an international summit meeting in Hamburg, Germany. Every aspect of the meeting between the two unpredictable leaders is sure to be closely scrutinized as investigations press on into alleged Moscow meddling in the 2016 election and potential Trump campaign collusion.Bastille Day alongside new French President Emmanuel Macron. And in late July, he'll send Vice President Mike Pence to Estonia and Georgia — two former Soviet satellites straddling the Russian border — and new NATO member Montenegro.Poland has been a staunch U.S. ally in Iraq and Afghanistan and is home to about 5,000 U.S. troops serving in separate American and NATO missions."They're betting that this relationship with the United States on defense will balance their concerns about the possible directions of U.S.-Russia policy," said Jeff Rathke, a senior fellow and deputy director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Sharing a border with Russia "is of the highest concern for Poland."U.S.-Russian relations remain tense — Trump said in April they may be at an "all-time low" — and Moscow has denounced the recent decision by the U.S. to impose sanctions on more than three dozen Russian people and firms over Russian activities in Ukraine. But Trump has expressed hopes of improved relations with the global power.White House aides said Trump did not have a specific agenda for the meeting with the Russian president and they have yet to provide details on the staging for the encounter. Trump has had three phone calls with Putin since taking office. In the past, he's offered contradictory descriptions of his connections with Putin, insisting during the campaign he had no recollection of meeting him but earlier stating that they spoke around the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.Trump's overseas trip will be his first since he announced that he was withdrawing the U.S. from the landmark Paris climate agreement, to the regret of a number of world leaders who had lobbied Trump to remain in the 2015 pact.