Russian President Vladimir Putin’s summit with US President Donald Trump in Helsinki, Finland on Monday ignited a firestorm of controversy in the US.
For the most part, the two world leaders were more friendly toward one another than Trump’s predecessors were. Putin met the last four US presidents since he took office in the 1990s.
Here’s what happened the other times Putin met with American presidents:
November 1999: Putin and former President Bill Clinton
After being sworn in as Russia’s prime minister in August 1999, Putin met with Clinton in November in Oslo, Norway. The two spoke about the Russian military’s presence in Chechnya, which Clinton reportedly told Putin was an “overreaction”.
June 2000: Putin and Clinton
The two leaders met again in June 2000 in Moscow after Putin became president of Russia and Clinton was in his final year in office.
The meeting was primarily focused on discussing a national missile defence system that the US wanted to build. Both countries also reportedly agreed to destroy weapons-grade plutonium.
Clinton and Putin apparently didn’t look or smile at one another during their joint press conference.
Source: The New York Times
June 2001: Putin and former President George W. Bush
After Bush was sworn into office in January 2001, the two leaders met for the first time in June for a summit in Slovenia. This meeting was when Bush famously said that he was able to look Putin in the eye and “get a sense of his soul.”
“He’s a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country, and I appreciate very much the frank dialogue and that’s the beginning of a very constructive relationship,” Bush said of Putin.
November 2001: Putin and Bush
Later in 2001, Bush brought Putin to Crawford, Texas where his family ranch is located. On their visit, the two met with Texas high school students.
After a three-day summit, they agreed to reduce the US’s and Russia’s nuclear stockpiles.
Sources: The White House, Getty
July 2007: Putin and Bush
The two men had numerous meetings when gathering with other world leaders at G-8 summits, but they had another private meeting in 2007 in Kennebunkport, Maine.
While visiting the family compound, Bush and Putin went fishing and discussed military defence systems in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Source: Business Insider
July 2009: Putin and former President Barack Obama
Putin met with the recently sworn-in Obama for the first time in July 2009 in Moscow. Obama reportedly emerged from the meeting feeling confident and optimistic in resetting relations with Putin.
“We think there’s an excellent opportunity to put US-Russian relations on a much stronger footing,” Obama said.
The next year, the two signed the New START treaty to reduce their countries’ nuclear weapons stockpiles. But after that, the two were increasingly at odds.
June 2013: Putin and Obama
The two leaders met again on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland in June 2013 after Obama was re-elected as president.
They discussed the conflict in Syria, on which they didn’t see eye-to-eye. Putin and Obama did have similar interests in keeping Iran and North Korea from obtaining nuclear weapons, which they also discussed.
But tensions between both leaders began to rise after Obama canceled a meeting originally scheduled for later that year due to Russia giving asylum to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden after he leaked classified documents. And their relationship continued to sour from there.
June 2014: Putin and Obama
After Russia was kicked out of the G8 in 2014 for illegally annexing Crimea, Obama and Putin spoke briefly at the 70th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy about the ongoing situation in Ukraine.
It was one of several informal meetings the two leaders had as they crossed paths on the world stage over the years. Another example was at the G20 summit in St. Petersburg in September 2013.
September 2015: Putin and Obama
Their next formal meeting was at the United Nations in 2015.
The two reportedly discussed military action and involvement in Syria and Ukraine, and didn’t come to agreement on either conflict.
September 2016: Putin and Obama
In their last formal meeting before Obama left the White House, the two leaders huddled together at the G20 summit in Beijing.
The two reportedly discussed a ceasefire in Syria, but that “gaps of trust” between the two countries prevented a peace deal.
During one of their frosty interactions in Beijing, Obama said he told Putin to “cut it out” – referring to Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
July 2017: Putin and President Donald Trump
Having been elected to the White House, Trump’s first meeting with Putin came at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany in July 2017.
Looking to thaw relations between the US and Russia, Trump said talks with Putin were “going very well”.
Trump also stopped by Putin’s seat next to first lady Melania Trump at dinner during the summit, and discussed adoptions.
Putin presumably broached the topic of adoption as part of his ongoing effort to pressure the US government to repeal the 2012 Magnitsky Act, a US law that blacklists Russians suspected of human-rights abuses. In retaliation against the law, Putin banned American adoptions of Russian children.
November 2017: Putin and Trump
After they met on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, Trump said he believed Putin when he said that Russia didn’t interfere in the 2016 US election.
“He said he didn’t meddle. He said he didn’t meddle,” Trump told reporters. “I asked him again. You can only ask so many times. I just asked him again. He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did.”
US intelligence agencies had concluded in January 2017 that Putin ordered the interference to undermine Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.
Putin’s spokesman, meanwhile, told CNN the leaders didn’t discuss Russian meddling.
Source: Business Insider
July 2018: Putin and Trump
In their first individual summit together, Trump and Putin met in Helsinki, Finland in July 2018.
During a joint press conference, Trump shrugged off Russian election meddling in 2016, casted doubt on the findings of his own intelligence agencies, and attacked the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference.
After his comments ignited a firestorm across the political spectrum, Trump said the next day that he misspoke during the press conference, and that he had full faith in the US intelligence community.
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