US and Russia agree to hold Putin-Trump summit

Deal between Moscow and Washington is announced after Kremlin meeting

Russian president Vladimir Putin shakes hands with US national security adviser John Bolton during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on Wednesday. Photograph: AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool

Russian president Vladimir Putin shakes hands with US national security adviser John Bolton during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on Wednesday. Photograph: AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool

 

Moscow and Washington struck a deal on Wednesday to hold a summit soon between Russian president Vladimir Putin and US president Donald Trump, a move likely to worry some US allies and draw a fiery reaction from some of Trump’s critics at home.

Kremlin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov, speaking after Mr Putin met US national security adviser John Bolton in the Kremlin, said the summit would take place in a mutually convenient third country and that several more weeks were needed to prepare for it.

“This meeting has been planned for a long time,” Mr Ushakov told reporters. “It has enormous importance for Russia and America, but it [also] has huge importance for the whole international situation. I think it will be the main international event of the summer.”

Such a summit is likely to irritate US allies who want to isolate Mr Putin, such as the UK, or who are concerned about Trump’s attitude towards Russia. It is also likely to go down badly among domestic critics who question Trump’s commitment to Nato and fret over his desire to rebuild relations with Moscow even as Washington tightens sanctions on Russia.

Moscow and Washington will announce the time and place of the summit on Thursday.

Mr Ushakov, who said the Kremlin was pleased with how Mr Bolton’s visit had gone, said Putin and Trump were likely to talk for several hours when they met, and spoke of a possible joint declaration on improving US-Russia relations and international security.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov was likely to meet his US counterpart Mike Pompeo beforehand, he added.

The summit is expected to take place after Trump attends a Nato summit and visits Britain next month. A senior US official said on Tuesday that Finland’s capital Helsinki was being considered as a location.

Strained relationship

Since Trump’s election, already poor ties between Washington and Moscow have deteriorated further over the conflict in Syria and the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.

Washington and Moscow are also at odds over Ukraine and allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, something Russia denies.

Expectations for the outcome of any Putin-Trump summit are therefore low, even though Trump said before he was elected that he wanted to improve battered US-Russia ties.

A special prosecutor in the US has indicted Russian firms and individuals for meddling in the presidential election to benefit Trump, and is investigating whether anyone in Trump’s campaign helped that Russian effort. Trump denies any wrongdoing and calls the investigation a “witch hunt”.

Mr Bolton dismissed the idea that the summit proved “a nexus” between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin as “nonsense”.

Bolton, who earlier on Wednesday complimented Mr Putin on Russia’s hosting of the World Cup, told reporters he expected Moscow’s meddling in US politics to be discussed at the summit.

He also said he did not rule out Trump discussing the possibility of Russia rejoining the G7 to make it the G8 again.

Sanctions

Mr Ushakov said that the subject of US sanctions on Russia had not come up on Wednesday and named four main summit themes: strategic nuclear stability; the fight against international terrorism; regional issues like the Ukraine and Syria conflicts, and US-Russia ties.

The US initially sanctioned Russia over its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and its backing for a pro-Russian uprising in eastern Ukraine. Subsequent sanctions have punished Moscow for what Washington has called its malign behaviour and alleged meddling in US politics.

Some Trump critics say Russia has not significantly altered its behaviour since 2014 and should therefore not be given the prestige that they believe a summit would confer.

When asked on Wednesday whether Trump would use the summit to tackle Mr Putin on difficult issues, Mr Bolton said the US president would raise a “full range of issues”.

Mr Bolton said he did not necessarily expect the summit to produce specific outcomes. – Reuters