President Donald Trump's first formal meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin later Friday in Germany will be an intimate affair.
Trump is expected to be accompanied only by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in the talks while Putin will be joined by his foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov. Each side will also take a translator into the meeting.
The lineup means that the U.S. side will be outgunned in terms of diplomatic experience, since Putin has been operating at top global tables since first becoming president in 2000, and Lavrov is considered by his peers to be one of the wiliest diplomats in the world.
By contrast, Trump and Tillerson, despite their long histories of negotiating in a corporate context, are relative novices at high-powered diplomatic politics.
Unless there is a change in the delegations before the meeting, the U.S. side will go into the talks without more experienced officials, including national security adviser H.R. McMaster and National Security Council Russia specialist Fiona Hill, who was a Putin critic before entering the Trump administration. The limited size of the delegations could make it easier for Trump to control the narrative after the meeting and mean that any lower level officials who decide to talk to the media privately will do so without the benefit of being in the room.
Details of the meeting were first reported by Axios, and confirmed to CNN by a U.S. official.
Tillerson has long experience of negotiating with Russia from his previous role leading ExxonMobil. But his first encounter with Putin as secretary of state did not go well. He emerged from their consultations in Moscow in April saying there was a "low level of trust" between the two countries.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that Putin was looking forward to the discussions on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg despite Trump's criticism of "destabilizing" activities by Russia in Ukraine and elsewhere during a speech in Poland on Thursday.
Trump is going into the talks, taking place against a backdrop of allegations that Russia interfered in last year's U.S. presidential election, declaring that American news organizations can not be trusted to report fairly on the outcome.
"I will represent our country well and fight for its interests!" Trump tweeted. "Fake News Media will never cover me accurately but who cares! We will #MAGA!"
The Kremlin also attacked U.S. journalists, refuting a CNN report that it had stepped up espionage activity in the U.S. since the election.
"Don't listen to fakes," Peskov said in a text message to CNN's Matthew Chance.