White House Russia expert won’t attend Putin meeting; Trump and Tillerson will join Putin alone

President Trump’s top White House expert on Russia won’t attend his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump and Putin will be joined only by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as well as translators, according to reports. That leaves a leading Kremlin critic outside the first face-to-face meeting of the two leaders, which Tillerson prefaced by outlining a proposal for significant cooperation in Syria between the United States and Russia.

“The United States and Russia certainly have unresolved differences on a number of issues, but we have the potential to appropriately coordinate in Syria in order to produce stability and serve our mutual security interests,” Tillerson said Wednesday evening.

He revealed only modest aspirations for the meeting itself, which takes place on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. “It’s difficult to say what Russia’s intentions are in this relationship,” Tillerson told reporters aboard his plane, adding that he hoped the meeting would feature “a good exchange between President Trump and President Putin over what they both see as the nature of the relationship between our two countries.”

Trump’s team reportedly considered bringing Fiona Hill, who handles Russia and European policy issues for the National Security Council, but that proposal did not come to fruition. “If she [Hill] wasn’t there it would be pretty bad, this is the most momentous thing in her portfolio,” Evelyn Farkas, a deputy assistant secretary of defense in the Obama administration, told the Daily Beast.


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