After spending much of the last two years offering virtually unadulterated praise for Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump finds himself with limited options as he prepares to confront the Russian president for the first time Friday. On the campaign trail, Trump made warmer relations with Moscow a centerpiece of his foreign policy, and he remains committed to forging a stronger alliance with Russia against Islamic terrorist groups. But realpolitik and political reality have conspired to stymie the president’s best-laid plans for a U.S.-Russia détente. Embroiled in an ever-expanding Justice Department probe into whether his campaign coordinated with the Russian government during the presidential election last fall, and facing increased pressure from both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, Trump can’t risk making concessions to Putin without inciting a fresh wave of scrutiny back home. He also faces a complex series of challenges over Syria, where tensions between the U.S. and Russia have neared a boiling point after an American fighter jet shot down a Syrian plane that was attacking U.S.-allied forces. Russia has since vowed to treat any U.S. coalition aircraft west of the Euphrates as a potential target.
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