President Donald Trump shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7, 2017. File Photo by Steffen Kugler/EPA-EFE
July 5 (UPI) -- From arms control to election meddling, President Donald Trump is expected to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin about a medley of the Kremlin's recent activities at their meeting next week.
Senior administration officials said during a call with reporters Thursday Trump is going into the meeting with his "eyes wide open" to make sure Russia is held accountable for hybrid warfare and aggression in Ukraine and Syria.
Trump and Putin will meet July 16 in Helsinki, Finland, for their first official summit. They have met just twice before, on the sidelines last year -- the G20 summit in July and the APEC conference in Vietnam four months later.
When questioned about the need for a private meeting between the two, a White House official said it's coming at the right time for direct communication and referred to Trump's recent success at the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Jon Huntsman Jr., U.S. ambassador to Russia, said U.S. officials have repeatedly confronted Russia about election hacking and said Trump wants to improve relations, but won't let Putin off the hook.
"You can't solve problems if you are not talking about them," he said.
Huntsman also said Trump is pursuing the meeting in the interests of national security, to reduce tensions and lead to constructive engagement.
The Finland summit will follow a NATO meeting in Belgium this week, where Russia also will be discussed, said U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison.
The theme of the NATO meeting, strength and unity, underscores goals of the alliance -- a strong deterrence of anyone threatening its 29 members -- which includes "major threats by Russia, its malign activities and the efforts of Russia to divide our democratic nation," Hutchison said.