The handshake the world was waiting for: Trump and Putin finally meet at G20 after US president tweets they have 'much to discuss'
President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin sat down for their much-anticipated first meeting on Friday on the sidelines of the G20 summit.
The two exchanged brief pleasantries and a friendly handshake earlier at the start of the summit in Hamburg, Germany, but waited hours before they could speak privately.
As their meeting kicked off, Trump said 'It's an honor to be with you', while Putin told the US leader: 'I'm delighted to meet you.'
Trump said he anticipates 'a lot of positive things happening, for Russia, for the United States', adding that their talks on 'various things' were 'going very, very well'.
Their first sit-down meeting is expected to last for about 30 minutes and touch upon several complex issues, from the Syrian conflict to Russia's provocations in Ukraine.
However, the meeting also falls under the shadow of accusations that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election - and Trump is under pressure to raise those concerns with Putin in their first meeting.
Trump, on Thursday, said he believes Russia may have interfered in the election, but he said that he believes other countries may have been involved as well.
His and Putin's first handshake was captured on film in a video that shows the hidden handshakes and back-slaps between political leaders at the summit.
Their surprising gesture was more familiar than anything else shown on the 40-second video clip, which was first published on Facebook.
When Putin greets UK Prime Minister Theresa May, for instance, the handshake is formal, curt and respectful – with the leaders bowing to each other slightly.
But when Trump comes up to the same table to see Putin, the how-do-you-do is more congenial – the stuff of fishing buddies or bowling teammates.
In a later clip, Trump is shown extending his left arm to pat Putin's back while he smiles broadly.
Until Thursday, the two men had reportedly never met.
Trump is trying to establish a rapport with Putin, one White House aide said Friday, in the hope that the two men can reach a detente and avoid a new Cold War.
But the US president's critics warn that Putin, a former KGB spymaster, is a master of manipulation who can meet every Trump volley with an overhand smash.
The footage was shot during the leaders' 'retreat' – an informal gathering before the more consequential meetings that form the basis of G20 policy discussions.
Trump and his colleagues will remain in Hamburg until Saturday. He earlier tweeted that he had 'much to discuss' with the Russian leader.
'I look forward to all meetings today with world leaders, including my meeting with Vladimir Putin. Much to discuss,' Trump wrote, adding the hashtag #USA and an American flag emoji.
Friday's much-anticipated encounter in Hamburg, Germany, comes at a pivotal time in US-Russian relations. Trump will be closely watched to see if he confronts Putin over Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Ahead of the G20 Summit's start, Trump vowed to fight for US interests, despite the 'Fake News Media' he claims covers him inaccurately.
'I will represent our country well and fight for its interests! Fake News Media will never cover me accurately but who cares! We will #MAGA!' he Tweeted ahead of the G20 Summit, where he will meet with world leaders.
The president arrived Friday morning after most of his international counterparts, shaking hands with German Chancellor Angela Merkel with a friendly 'How are you?' greeting.
Merkel, as the host leader, greeted every head of state personally on a red carpet as camera shutters clicked.
She got kisses on the cheek from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council President Donald Tusk, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron.
After 15 leaders had arrived, an announcer said the welcome proceedings were over. Merkel exited but came back several minutes later to greet Trump, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Trump clasped Merkel on the shoulder as they both disappeared inside the G20 meeting room.
During a brief photo call at the top of the leaders' retreat, Trump was seated between Merkel and UK Prime Minister Theresa May.
While May chatted with the US president, Merkel faced away from them and chatted with Macron.
Trump said at a news conference in Poland on Thursday that Russia 'could have' interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign, but he's not convinced that it was the sole meddler.
'I think it was Russia, and it could have been other people in other countries,' Trump said. 'Nobody really knows.'
He added that the US Intelligence Community has made high-profile mistakes in the past, so 'nobody really knows for sure.'
Trump sought to redirect any scrutiny toward his predecessor, Barack Obama, accusing him of allowing Moscow to meddle on his watch.
Though the Obama administration warned Russia publicly and privately before Election Day to stop interfering, questions have since been raised about whether the office holder acted aggressively enough to stop the threat.
'They say he choked. Well, I don't think he choked,' Trump said. 'I think he thought Hillary Clinton was going to win the election, and he said, 'Let's not do anything about it'.'
Trump said the CIA had informed Obama about the hacking months before the election but added that 'mistakes have been made.'
In Putin, Trump sees a potential ally in the war on radicalism in the Middle East.