These Photos Of Trump & Putin Meeting Speak Volumes About The Dynamic Between Them

by Caroline Burke
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Ahead of the Russia-U.S. summit in Helsinki, photos of Trump and Putin meeting with each other offer clues as to how the leaders will interact for their third public meeting. It may sound shocking that they've met so few times in person, given how often they've talked about one another and how much of a role the topic of Russia played in the 2016 election. But Trump and Putin have only officially met in person two times during the former's presidency, leading up to their third meeting this week: in July 2017 at the G20 summit, and in November 2017 at the APEC summit in Vietnam.

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin first crossed paths when Putin attended the Miss Universe beauty pageant in 2013, according to ABC. As it was held in Moscow, Trump reportedly invited Putin to the shock of many at a time when relations between the United States and Russia were strained.

Though it's not actually clear whether they ever met in person, Trump said of Putin to Fox News, "We just left Moscow. He could not have been nicer. He was so nice and so everything." He even went on to insist that Putin sent Trump a gift, a year later.

Since then, Trump has continuously praised the Russian leader, frequently describing Putin as a better leader than President Obama. At a New York Times press conference in 2015, Trump said, "Putin is a nicer person than I am."

In turn, Putin has had kind words for Trump as well in the past. To reporters in 2015, he said of Trump, "He is a very bright person, talented without any doubt...It is not our business to asses his worthiness, but he is the absolute leader of the presidential race."

Of people who protested Trump's election, Putin said in 2017,

Mr. Trump has been elected by the American people, and at least because of this he should be respected, even if we disagree with his position. This is a sad negative element of the U.S. political system. One can argue, but one should not show disrespect, not even to him personally, but also to the people who voted for him.

Though there are very few photos of them together given how few times they've met one another in person since Trump became president, the few photos that do exist speak volumes about their relationship.

G20 Summit

Trump and Putin met officially for the first time on July 2017 at the G20 summit, in a series of meetings amongst other world leaders. They also reportedly had several private meetings. Though CNN reports that this isn't unusual at all for a G20 summit, what was unusual was that Trump reportedly didn't bring a U.S. translator and instead chose to rely on Putin's translator during their private meeting, which Senator Chris Coons described to CNN as "a basic failure in terms of national security protocol."

APEC Summit

Trump and Putin next met at the APEC summit in Vietnam, in November 2017. Though they didn't make any statements about one another specifically at the summit, they did make a joint statement of support in creating a political solution for Syria, which, at the time, was in its seventh year of a civil war.

Alongside Other World Leaders

Trump and Putin stood alongside one another surrounded by other world leaders at the APEC Summit. Though Trump and Putin reportedly proceeded to chat casually while this picture was being taken, they didn't meet privately at any point during the summit due to conflicting schedules, CNN reports.

One Of Their First Interactions

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Trump's first interaction with Putin was a brief meeting at the VIP lounge at the G20 summit in July 2017. Body language expert Patty Wood told Time magazine of the interaction,

Trump puts his left hand up underneath, which is the supportive cue, up underneath Putin’s arm and taps it three times. Now that’s going to sound odd, but three actually has a strong symbolic reference in nonverbal communication, and typically it means a true feeling or a true emotion. So you combine all those together: He’s supportive underneath Putin’s arm, he’s touching it three times in a gentle pat. It means, "I support you, I really support you."

That Famous Handshake

At the G20 summit, one particular moment between Trump and Putin caused serious speculation internationally: their handshake at a bilateral meeting. Immediately leading up to the handshake, Trump said, “We look forward to a lot of positive things happening for Russia and for the United States and for everyone concerned. ... I’m delighted and it’s an honor to meet you, Mr President.”

Body language expert Mary Civiello told BBC that Trump was the victor of the meeting, in terms of body language. Though she described both men as "alpha males," she further explained that "Trump was far more comfortable than Putin" and added that Trump maintained eye contact with the audience and Putin did not.

Of the Helsinki summit this week, Trump said he had "low expectations" for this third meeting with Putin, in conversation with CBS News. Trump said, "Nothing bad is going to come out of it, and maybe some good will come out. ... I go in with low expectations. I'm not going in with high expectations."

Trump and Putin are expected to discuss a myriad of international topics during their summit, including the current situation in Syria, Ukraine sanctions, and arms control, according to USA Today.