"What is the point" of President Trump's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, wonders former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Does it have a "strategic purpose?" Hagel asked Monday. "Is this just a golf date with another leader?"
If you've had the same question, Trump has answers — perhaps too many answers. As The Washington Post documents, the president's explanations for why he should meet with Putin, as well as why they need to talk alone, have not been consistent in the run-up to Helsinki.
The president's discussion plan has at various points included Ukraine, China, Syria, "other parts of the Middle East," nuclear weapons, trade, military, missiles, election meddling, extradition of the 12 Russian agents indicted for election-related hacking Friday, and "many other subjects."
As for why Trump wanted to meet with Putin alone, CNN reports that the White House provided three separate reasons: "[Trump] wanted alone time to assess [Putin] better, he didn't want details of their conversation to leak and — this is key — didn't want aides who favor a hard line against Russia to undercut him."
Trump has also seemed to propose meeting just to meet ("I do believe in meetings") or to develop a positive personal relationship with Putin. "I hope we get along well," he said last week. "[I]n a sense, we're competitors. Not a question of friend or enemy. He's not my enemy. And, hopefully, someday, maybe he'll be a friend." Maybe the strategic purpose was friendship all along. Bonnie Kristian