Trump Meets With Baltic States Amid Heightened Tensions With Russia
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
President Trump has praised Vladimir Putin and his leadership style. Today he will host the leaders of three countries who think otherwise. Trump will meet the leaders of Baltic states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania today at the White House - all countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union, and all countries particularly worried about Russia. They'll be looking for signs from President Trump that he will hold the line on Russian aggression in the region. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith is with us now.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.
MARTIN: This meeting is coming at an interesting moment in U.S.-Russian relations, right? How's that going to play into this?
KEITH: It will definitely play into it. U.S.-Russia relations are in a challenged place as a result of, well, a number of things, including Russian election interference in the U.S., the new sanctions put in place by the U.S. in response to that, then this sort of tit for tat on diplomats. Also the U.S. says that they were intelligence officials where there was that attack in the U.K. on a former Russian spy. The U.S. responded to that by expelling 60 Russians, and then Russia responded by expelling 60 Americans. So that's where we are. And these Baltic nations are coming looking for signals from President Trump that his administration is not only being tough, but that he will be tough, as well.
MARTIN: There has been talk about a possible meeting at the White House between President Trump and the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Could that really happen?
KEITH: It could really happen. It's not a done deal. This came up in a call recently where President Trump called President Putin to congratulate him on his election win. Now, of course, that election win, you know, comes with a big asterisk because President Putin didn't have any of his main opponents running against him.
MARTIN: Right. Election in quotes, sort of.
KEITH: Yes, election in quotes. And during that call, they discussed the idea of a possible bilateral meeting in the not-so-distant future. And the White House is saying they have nothing further to add on that at this point, but that it is potentially in the works and could be at the White House or other locations.
MARTIN: Meanwhile, we've got these leaders from these Baltic states who will be with President Trump today looking for harder language, more commitment from him to fight Russian aggression. And there is word that there might be a press conference today attached to this meeting. What do reporters want to know?
KEITH: Right. So there aren't a lot of opportunities in a more formal press conference-type setting to ask President Trump questions. And a lot has happened since the last time American journalists had that opportunity, including the firing of VA Secretary Shulkin, this cloud of controversy that just keeps getting worse around EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, as well as Stormy Daniels, the adult film star, has done an interview with "60 Minutes" since then. And also there are a lot of unanswered questions about the president's tweets on immigration over the last couple of days.
MARTIN: All right. We'll see if any of those questions get answered today. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith for us this morning. Tamara, thanks so much.
KEITH: You're welcome.
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