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What Agreements Did Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin Reach in Closed-Door Meeting? Russian Leader Says He Got a Deal

In the wake of Monday's summit in Finland, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday during a speech in front of Russian diplomats in Moscow that his meeting with President Donald Trump led to useful agreements and had been successful overall.

After the meeting, the Russian government immediately began discussing the implementation of the agreements the two leaders reached. “The Russian Defense Ministry is ready for the practical implementation of agreements in the area of global security reached in Helsinki between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump,” the Russian Embassy in Washington tweeted on Wednesday.

American officials, meanwhile, had no idea what the agreements were. There was no official statement released following the closed-door meeting, leaving many to speculate about what had been discussed and agreed upon.

Trump gave some clues on Thursday in a series of tweets. In language that mimicked Putin’s, he said the meeting with Russia was a “great success” and that he looked forward “to our second meeting so that we can start implementing some of the many things discussed.” Stopping terrorism, Israel’s security and nuclear weapons were high on the agenda, according to Trump’s message, which appeared to back up some of the vague statements made during the joint press conference the two leaders held Monday.  

Russian officials have also noted that the ongoing civil war in Syria and the Strategic Arms Control Treaty (START) are possible areas of cooperation between the two countries. Based on the statements made by both leaders during and after their joint press conference Monday, experts agree that both leaders likely discussed the arms agreement, Syria and the possibility of soft power initiatives like the formation of a high-level working group of industry leaders who would discuss trade and economic opportunities. Nevertheless, the details are scant.

“Not only has there been no official announcement, without any clarity, we have reports that senior government officials have heard nothing. If there were important things coming from that meeting, senior officials would have direction from the President and we would have known of that now,” John Herbst, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, told Newsweek.

“On Syria, we know that Israel has pushed hard for a reduction in Iran’s presence there. Of course, the U.S. would agree with that. There is talk as if that’s a point of agreement, and I wouldn’t rule out that Putin and Trump said that this is desirable. But the U.S. and Russia had a ceasefire agreement in June and Russia violated it just as [national security adviser] John Bolton was traveling to Moscow,” Herbst continued, suggesting that Putin’s promises regarding Syria are suspicious.

Putin has also said that he agreed to extend the START treaty, which was signed by the U.S. and the Soviet Union in 1991, when it expires in 2021. The most recent version of the treaty calls for the number of nuclear warheads and bombs to be capped at 1,550.

But experts say there are other arms issues that need resolution, including the implementation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which requires that Russia and the U.S. maintain ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles within a range of around 3,500 miles, or 5,500 kilometers.

“The cruise missile the Russians deployed has violated the INF arms treaty by going over the 5,500-kilometer threshold. Whether there is any concrete Russian offer to clarify our concern or dismantle the missile we don’t know,” Alexander Vershbow, former ambassador to Russia and former deputy secretary general of NATO, told Newsweek.

“They have reciprocal accusations that we are violating the treaty. They have 3 claims: they say launchers from missile defense systems in Romania and the one that will be in Poland next year violate the treaty. They also claim that we use illegal intermediate-range missiles for targets for missile defense. And they claim that our armed drones are the same as cruise missiles. So there’s a lot to talk about,” Vershbow continued.

One of the possibilities of cooperation that has received the most criticism from U.S. commentators and officials was the suggestion that Trump may allow Russian investigators to question U.S. citizens about a tax fraud case Moscow is pursuing against British national Bill Browder.

Furthermore, administration officials have suggested that they may allow Russia to question Americans, including former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, in exchange for allowing special counsel Robert Mueller to interrogate 12 Russians he indicted late last week. Trump described it as an “incredible offer,” and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president “will work with his team, and we’ll let you know if there’s an announcement on that front.”

The idea was immediately slammed by numerous public figures, including former secretaries of state John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, who said it is the administration’s job to protect U.S. citizens from baseless accusations by foreign governments.

“Ambassador @McFaul is a patriot who has spent his career standing up for America. To see the White House even hesitate to defend a diplomat is deeply troubling,” Clinton wrote on Twitter Thursday.

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