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President Trump speaks besides Secretary of State Pompeo during a news conference at the 2018 NATO Summit on July 12, 2018, in Brussels. He will go to Helsinki next week. Photo: Jasper Juinen via Getty Images

Next week's Helsinki summit poses the risk that President Trump could make a rash offer to Vladimir Putin in an attempt to improve U.S.–Russian relations. It's possible he might recognize Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, assent to Syrian President Assad’s continued rule or waver on America’s commitment to NATO.

The big picture: As much as Trump may want to turn the page with Putin, his recent call for a one-on-one meeting without aides is risky. Putin is a shrewd negotiator. A conciliatory approach with Russia has not worked out for the past three American presidents or a long list of European leaders, and it likely won't for Trump either.

Putin has been playing leaders for years:

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel spearheaded the Minsk agreement in 2015 to end the Ukraine war, which Russia never seriously implemented.
  • Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy brokered the end to the Russian–Georgian war in 2008. Putin reportedly signed off on the ceasefire, but Russia flouted it nonetheless.
  • Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all thought maintaining a personal rapport with their Russian counterpart would advance U.S. interests. In most cases, it didn't. (Clinton's attempt to cultivate Russia ended in bitterness over the Kosovo war, while Bush's own infamous overtures preceded Russia's invasion of Georgia.)

Trump wants splashy deliverables to show he can go toe-to-toe with Putin on the global stage. But instead of agreeing to whatever Putin wants on Ukraine or Syria for the sake of a deal, Trump should articulate a vision for how his administration plans to secure U.S. interests vis-à-vis Russia. Reviving arms-control discussions or agreeing to increase educational, cultural and scientific exchanges would be good places to start. Both would help rebuild trust and lay the groundwork for future improvements in relations.

The bottom line: Trump boasts of not “preparing very much” for high-stakes diplomacy — an approach that has not secured results with North Korea's denuclearization. To avoid getting played again, he should approach the Helsinki summit with concrete objectives to avoid improvising a costly deal.

Paul Stronski is a senior fellow in the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 20 mins ago - Health

2 federal judges temporarily block Biden vaccine mandates

President Biden delivers remarks on the Omicron COVID-19 variant at the White House on Nov. 29. Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

The Biden administration was temporarily blocked from enforcing COVID-19 vaccine mandates for millions of workers by federal judges in two states on Tuesday.

The big picture: The orders, by federal judges in Kentucky and Louisiana, come one day after a federal judge in Missouri halted the mandate, which has a Jan. 4 deadline, in 10 states.

51 mins ago - World

Honduras elects first female president

Honduran President-elect Xiomara Castro, of the Libertad y Refundacion (Libre) Party, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on Sunday. Photo: Inti Ocon/Getty Images

Former Honduras first lady Xiomara Castro is set to become the country's first female president president, after the ruling party conceded defeat in the country's elections on Tuesday night, per AP.

Why it matters: The democratic socialist and her Libre Party have broken a 12-year run for the conservative National Party, which U.S. prosecutors alleged fostered a "narco-state," note Axios' Latinos' Marina E. Franco and Russell Contreras.

Food delivery "ghost kitchens" face major obstacles

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The growing popularity of food delivery has given rise to startups that open "ghost kitchens" — kitchens in warehouses or trailers that prepare food solely for delivery and have no option to dine in.

  • But they can come with a whole host of problems.

The big picture: The concept of "ghost kitchens" has been dubbed the next big thing in the future of services, with high profile backers like Uber founder Travis Kalanick. But these kitchens can be hard to run or unsafe.