Trump scheduled to meet Putin at G20, Kremlin document says

US president heads to Argentina poised for possible conflict with Russia over Black Sea naval clash and with China over trade

US President Donald Trump (right) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 Summit in Hamburg, July 7, 2017. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
US President Donald Trump (right) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 Summit in Hamburg, July 7, 2017. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

US President Donald Trump will meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 in Argentina on Saturday, despite threatening to cancel the meeting over the recent takeover of three Ukrainian vessels by Russia near the Crimean Peninsula.

According to a Kremlin document reported on Thursday by Reuters, the Russian president is due to meet Trump at 11:30 a.m. local time (4:30 p.m. Israel time) on December 1.

The talks between the two leaders will focus on ways to “break out of a deadlock in relations,” as well as on strategic stability, Syria, Iran, and North Korea, the report said, citing a Kremlin aide.

On Tuesday, Trump threatened, during an interview with the Washington Post, to cancel the meeting with Putin over the capture of three Ukrainian ships and their crew in the Black Sea this week.

Ukraine’s parliament voted Monday to impose martial law in parts of the country, to fight what its president called “growing aggression” from Moscow, after the weekend naval clash off the disputed Crimean Peninsula, in which Russia fired on and seized three Ukrainian vessels, amid renewed tensions between the neighbors.

Western leaders and diplomats have urged both sides to deescalate the conflict, and the US has blamed Russia for what it called “unlawful conduct” over Sunday’s incident.

Three Ukrainian ships are seen as they docked after having been seized, in Kerch, Crimea, November 25, 2018. (AP Photo)

Primed for new conflicts

Trump jets to Argentina on Thursday for the G20 summit, keen to do battle with China on trade and sharpening his rhetoric against Russia over Ukraine.

The weekend summit is confronted with increasingly dire warnings, by the International Monetary Fund, among others, of the potential harm faced by the world economy from Trump’s trade wars.

G20 leaders, whose countries account for four-fifths of the world’s economic output, first met in November 2008 to forge a united front against the global financial crisis.

A decade on, that unity has vanished, as the “America First” Trump shreds the consensus underpinning international trade, and other G20 countries such as Brazil, Italy, and Mexico turn to populist leaders.

Trump has already rattled global markets by enacting tariffs on the bulk of Chinese imports, and is threatening to go further in January.

He will press Chinese President Xi Jinping to avert the stepped-up tariffs by throwing open China’s markets to US competition and protecting foreign companies’ intellectual property.

US President Donald Trump, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping walk together after their meetings at Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Florida, April 7, 2017. (AP/Alex Brandon)

On Wednesday, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer slammed Beijing for failing to offer “meaningful reform” on aggressive trade policies, and threatened tariffs on Chinese autos.

But how far can Xi go in overhauling the model that has powered China to second place in the world economic rankings?

He did vow on Wednesday that China would boost protection of intellectual property. But foreign firms in China complain that such promises are all too routine and ring hollow.

At best, analysts say, there will be a temporary truce at the G20 to give both Trump and Xi something to crow about.

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