Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin announce Helsinki summit
Kremlin and White House make joint announcement of next month’s meeting
US president Donald Trump and Russia’s president Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany last year. Photograph: Saul Loeb/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 16th in Helsinki, the White House confirmed yesterday, in a meeting that will be cautiously watched by the United States’ European allies.
Though the two men have met twice on the fringes of global gatherings, this will be the first formal summit between the leaders.
Arrangements for the meeting have accelerated in recent days, as US national security advisor John Bolton visited Moscow. Mr Bolton, who was appointed by Mr Trump in March, held a one-on-one meeting with Mr Putin at the Kremlin on Wednesday.
The meeting will take place after the Nato summit in Brussels on July 11th and 12th – Mr Trump’s first meeting with senior European leaders since this month’s G7 summit in Montreal which was marred by divisions. Mr Trump reportedly told allies that Nato was “as bad as Nafta” during that summit.
The Putin meeting will take place as Special Counsel Robert Mueller continues his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Mr Mueller’s team is also examining ties between members of Mr Trump’s campaign team and Russian individuals during the election campaign.
As confirmation of the date and location of the meeting emerged on Thursday, Mr Trump tweeted: “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!” and called on Mr Mueller to investigate links between Hillary Clinton and Russia. His comment directly contradicts the findings of the US intelligence services who announced, in the final weeks of President Obama’s presidency, that Russia had interfered in the election.
The planned Russia summit is likely to unnerve European leaders, who have moved to isolate Russia since its 2014 incursion into Ukraine and Crimea. Russia-EU summits have been halted, while Russia was suspended from the G8 group as a result of international outrage about its annexation of Crimea.
Adding to fears that America is further moving away from its traditional allies and embracing more hardline regimes, Mr Bolton met with Italy’s deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini on his way to Moscow earlier this week. A visit by the recently-elected Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte to the White House has been confirmed for July 30th. The new prime minister was the only member of the G7 to back Mr Trump’s call for Russia to be readmitted to the group during the summit in Montreal earlier this month.
Confirming the visit of the Italian prime minister, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Italy was an important Nato ally and both countries would look to “deepen cooperation in addressing global conflicts and promoting economic prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic.”
As President Trump, who was campaigning in Wisconsin yesterday, continued to lash out at the Russia investigation on Twitter, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein was grilled by the house Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill. Mr Rosenstein assumed authority over the Russia investigation last year after attorney general Jeff Sessions recused himself, appointing special counsel Robert Mueller. FBI director Christopher Wray also appeared at the hearing.
The House voted – along party lines – in favour of a resolution calling on the Department of Justice to meet all requests by the intelligence and judiciary committees for information regarding FBI investigations by July 6th.
In a fiery sessions, Mr Rosenstein told Republican lawmakers that he was not trying to hide anything, and expressed full confidence in Robert Mueller.