President Trump heads to Helsinki next week to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a summit that has drawn the ire of his critics and faint praise from his supporters. There is no doubt that this meeting is timed to stick a thumb in the eye of Robert Mueller, Congress, and a skeptical media, all of which have genuine concerns over the role played by Russia in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
It is doubtful that Trump will raise the issue of Russian electoral interference in any meaningful way, despite bipartisan pressure to do so. The United States has already ceded Syria to Russia and the Assad government, perhaps to gain Moscow’s support for minimizing Iran’s influence in that region. And while the Ukraine crisis will undoubtedly be discussed, Russia has made it clear that its absorption of Crimea is irreversible and non-negotiable, which makes the rollback of economic sanctions a virtual non-starter. Beyond reaffirming the bon homme that exists between these two leaders, the Helsinki Summit offers few opportunities for accomplishments of substance—unless one considers arms control.