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By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Vladimir Putin (Image source: Screenshot)
While we still don't know everything Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin discussed at their summit in Helsinki last month, we now know what Putin wanted to talk about. A list of issues was leaked to the press, and one major topic they wanted to discuss was continuing talks regarding controlling nuclear arms and prohibiting weapons in space.
A U.S. government adviser provided an English-language translation of the document to Politico. Included are topics for negotiation that even Trump's top advisers have admitted they didn't know about at the time of the July 16 meeting.
Politico was also privy to a Russian-language version of the list. The Cyrillic header reads, "Dialogue on the Issue of Arms Control." The person who provided the document got it from Russian officials who said it was what Putin had discussed with Trump at their summit.
The White House did not comment on the document other than to deny that Trump had received any paperwork.
Just as Russia and the U.S. have discussed for many years, Putin wanted to discuss being willing to extend nuclear treaties while also pursuing new weapons limits. This hasn't been the most important topic as of late, as Syria and Ukraine have taken importance as well as Trump believing Putin that his country did not interfere in the 2016 election.
Yet despite the knowledge that Russia did interfere in the 2016 election and that they are attempting to do that again in this fall's midterm elections, the leaked document indicates Putin still wants to cooperate with the U.S.
"This is, 'We want to get out of the dog house and engage with the U.S. on a broad range of security issues," said the person who leaked the document who is not authorized to speak publicly about what the two leaders discussed.
There has been much concern since the summit over what Trump and Putin discussed, as they met alone with only their interpreters present. However, the document doesn't provide complete answers. It's still unknown what Trump brought to the table and doesn't address the Kremlin's comment that "cooperation in Syria" was discussed.
Just last week Dan Coats, director of National Intelligence, said he was "not in a position to either understand fully or talk about what happened in Helsinki."
Yet Putin did allude to the discussion when he and Trump spoke at a joint press conference after their meeting. Putin said that "as major nuclear powers, we bear special responsibility for maintaining international security."
Putin had noted he was interested in extending a nuclear-reduction treaty initiated during the Obama era that would ensure "non-placement of weapons in space."
He said at the news conference, "We submitted [to] our American colleagues a note with a number of specific suggestions."
While not confirming or denying the leaked document, National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said, "During the historic meeting between President Trump and President Putin, the two leaders discussed a range of subjects, including our nuclear arsenals, which when combined account for roughly 90% of all nuclear weapons.
"There were not commitments to undertake any action, beyond agreement that both sides should continue discussions," he added. "The President did not receive any written proposals from President Putin, and the President did not provide any written proposals to President Putin."
The Russian document suggests that the New START Treaty that limits nuclear arms be extended for five years. Democrats recently proposed something similar in Congress, with concerns about the U.S. and Russia upgrading their nuclear programs and Trump establishing the Space Force.
The document also mentions the Kremlin wanting to "reaffirm commitment" to "intermediate-range missiles" agreements. This reflects on the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty that former President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev negotiated.
In the joint news conference Trump said, "We're getting together, and we have a chance to do some great things, whether it's nuclear proliferation in terms of stopping, we have to do it — ultimately, that's probably the most important thing that we can be working on."
He also allowed, "Our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed as of about four hours ago. I really believe that."
While the document suggests that the U.S. and Russia "discuss the non-placement of weapons in space," the two nations were both part of the Outer Space Treaty that was signed in 1967. It prohibits putting weapons of mass destruction in space.
Relations with Eastern Europe are mentioned in the document as well. It proposes that Washington and the Kremlin "take measures in order to prevent incidents while conducting military activities in Europe, as well as to increase trust and transparency in the military sphere."
While Trump was interested in bringing Putin to Washington in the fall, only to delay that until 2019, after the midterm elections, the leaked document mentions future talks, "strategic stability" conversations, between the deputy secretary of state and deputy minister of foreign affairs. It also suggests meetings between U.S. secretaries of State and Defense and the Russian counterparts, and meetings between the heads of the U.S. and Russian armed forces.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was just in Russia this week and invited a delegation to come to Washington. John Rood, the undersecretary of defense for policy, has said they're in the process of setting up strategic stability talks that would lead to "clear understandings of how we regard nuclear doctrine."
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