For successful summit in Helsinki, Trump must choose words wisely

For successful summit in Helsinki, Trump must choose words wisely
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The meeting between Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump mocks Murkowski, Cheney election chances Race debate grips Congress US reentry to Paris agreement adds momentum to cities' sustainability efforts MORE and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki this week comes on the heels of a turbulent NATO summit that saw the American president butting heads with the other European leaders. In an era where Trump seems to be combative with allies and collegial with adversaries, the world will be watching attentively.

Simply, the agenda of the summit is to discuss relations between the two countries. One of the most important topics will be Russian involvement in the 2016 American election. This comes as the two leaders will meet just days after special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE handed down 12 new indictments of Russian nationals in relation to election hacking.

Trump suggested that after his meetings at NATO, meetings in the United Kingdom with Prime Minister Theresa May, as well as an audience with Queen Elizabeth II, his meeting with Putin “may be the easiest of them all.” However, the stakes could not be higher. In order for Trump to call this meeting a success, his language and tactics must be refined and well executed. He must deliver a consistent message on the egregious wrongs of Russian involvement in our election, and not make any concessions in regard to Crimea or NATO exercises in the Baltics.

The indictments from Friday make it clear that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election specifically to hurt the Clinton campaign. Knowing this, it is likely that the Russians will continue to meddle in future elections if there are no repercussions. With the indictments now publicly filed, Trump has clear and convincing evidence that must be used as leverage in negotiations with Putin during their meeting.

However, it is not just election meddling that Trump must press Putin on. Trump must remain staunchly opposed to the Russian invasion of Crimea, and be clear that there is no deal where the United States will accept the aggressive annexation of sovereign Ukrainian territory. America simply cannot tolerate such an outrageous action.

Additionally, Trump must reaffirm to Putin the shared commitment of the United States and NATO member states by returning to the core mission of deterring and defending against Russian aggression. America simply cannot vacillate on its commitment to Article Five, and must ensure that Russia is checked in every geopolitical sphere.

Michael McFaul, who served as ambassador to Russia under the Obama administration, has met with Putin many times. He agrees that Trump must be committed to preserving the interests of NATO. For McFaul, it is important that Trump not use “any flowery language about what a great leader” Putin is. Furthermore, McFaul believes Trump must “reaffirm that we will never under any circumstances recognize Crimea as part of Russia,” and “reaffirm our commitment to NATO” as well as “our commitment to advancing and helping a democratic Ukraine.”

As it stands now, in the face of naked Russian aggression, the West has continued to show a level of incompetence that approaches impotence. This summit gives Trump a chance to change course, and counter the unchecked attacks Putin continues to make against liberal democracy, but it remains questionable if he will take that path.

Douglas E. Schoen (@DouglasESchoen) served as a pollster for President Clinton. A longtime political consultant, he is also a Fox News contributor and the author of 11 books, including “Putin’s Master Plan: To Destroy Europe, Divide NATO, and Restore Russian Power and Global Influence.”