Both Washington and Moscow are waiting for US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s first meeting at the G20 summit with bated breath.
After exchanging several phone calls, Trump will meet Putin in person for the first time at the annual G20 meeting that begins in Hamburg, Germany on July 7.
Speculation on what the two presidents could talk about has been extensively covered in both Russian and Western media, with the war in Syria and conflict in eastern Ukraine coming up as likely conversation subjects.
But journalists in Russia also wondered whether the presidential meeting could spell something more — talk of easing sanctions, an improved US-Russia relationship or, according to some state-owned papers, a full-on staring contest.
“Citizens of our country will want to know one thing above all,” wrote Viktor Krestianinov for state-owned Argumenti Nedeli. “What will Trump see when he glances into Putin’s eyes?”
He went on to write that many people are waiting to see what the latest US president really thinks of Russia.
“Let us remind you that first President George W. Bush saw their soul while, later, known senator-Russophobe John McCain later saw three letters: K, G and B,” Krestianinov said.
Other outlets reported that Trump’s meeting with Putin would be scrutinised more heavily in the US than in Russia, where many see the meeting as merely a symbolic step in a more convoluted relationship between the two countries.
Several Russian papers argued that Trump wants to bring the two governments closer members of his own administration prevent him from doing so.
“Many of Trump’s officials would prefer for Washington to keep its distance from Russia and for Trump to conduct only a brief meeting with the Russian leader,” wrote independent paper Gazeta.ru.
But as no one really knows what Trump and Putin will talk about at the G20 summit, most newspapers were left to pontificate over what Washington is most worried about in the meeting with Putin. One paper said Trump’s officials will be anxiously analysing the “language of gestures” to figure out whether Putin would pressure Trump to ease American sanctions against the country.
“If Trump’s first May trip to Europe gave him the chance to avoid a commotion at home, the second one will throw him right into a whirpool at the center of which lies Vladimir Putin,” wrote Melor Sturua, a well-known journalist who has been writing for various Russian newspapers since the 1950s.