History of US presidents meeting with Soviet or Russian leaders

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hand with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the end of the press conference after their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

WASHINGTON (SBG) - They were words that are now enshrined in history, when President Ronald Reagan said this in June 1987: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

But long before and long after that speech, there were many attempts, including President Barack Obama being caught on a hot microphone saying this to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev: “This is my last election and after my election, we have more flexibility.”

U.S. presidents have tried throughout history to work with Russia.

“We’ve been meeting with Soviet or Russian leaders since 1943,” said Peter Brooks, a foreign policy expert with The Heritage Foundation, adding that working with Russia has always been a challenge.

“Having a conversation is good. We don’t have to say that’s success or progress, but I think it’s an important part of diplomacy.”

On Capitol Hill, many lawmakers have raised concerns about the meeting between presidents Trump and Putin, and whether Russia, which has been deceptive in the past, should be trusted.

“I stand by what I said about Mr. Putin, dealing with him is like hand-feeding a shark,” said Sen. John Kennedy, R–La.

“It’s very clear that the Russians want to undermine our democracy and they are effectively doing it and the president of the United States is allowing them to do it,” said Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Calif.

One of the president’s biggest supporters on the matter is Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.

“So, if I want Russia to pull out of Ukraine, I have a couple of options. We can put sanctions on them, we could go to war with 'em, or maybe we could encourage them that there’s an economic benefit to having more trade with us,” Paul said in an interview Wednesday.

Encouragement, he says, should start with a conversation.

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