The White House and the Kremlin made a joint announcement on the date and location of the summit between the two presidents that was announced yesterday following National Security Adviser John Bolton’s meeting with Vladimir Putin.
Helsinki, Finland will be hosting the US-Russia talks on July 16. President Trump will attend the NATO summit in Brussels from July 11-12 and then visit Great Britain. Putin will attend the closing ceremony of the World Cup in Russia on July 15 before sitting down with President Trump for what is likely to be a long meeting, Reuters reports the Kremlin as saying.
It made no secret on Wednesday of its delight that such a meeting had finally been agreed with Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov saying on Wednesday that the two men were likely to talk for several hours. He spoke of a possible joint declaration on improving U.S.-Russia relations and international security.
According to the White House, the two leaders will discuss “relations between the United States and Russia and a range of national security issues.”
About 30 minutes before the joint White House-Kremlin statement was made, a tweet from President Trump again downplayed Russia’s role in the election, in spite of the intelligence community – the CIA and the FBI – concluding in a report released in 2017 with “high confidence” that Russia had interfered in the election, seeking to influence the outcome in Trump’s favor.
Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election! Where is the DNC Server, and why didn’t Shady James Comey and the now disgraced FBI agents take and closely examine it? Why isn’t Hillary/Russia being looked at? So many questions, so much corruption!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 28, 2018
CNN reports that Bolton raised the issue of Russian meddling in the 2016 election with Putin and says Trump will bring it up to Putin as well.
Speaking in Moscow on Wednesday, US national security adviser John Bolton said Trump would likely raise the election meddling issue during his sit-down with Putin. Bolton himself addressed it during his own meeting with Putin this week.
And he brushed aside suggestions that a Trump-Putin meeting would amount to conciliation from a President who intelligence agencies assess was favored by the Russian government.
“I think a lot of people have said or implied over time that a meeting between President Trump and President Putin somehow proves some nexus between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, which is complete nonsense,” Bolton said in Moscow.
In the lead up to the NATO summit, where President Trump will be face to face with leaders who he recently clashed with at the G7 summit, NATO members are nervous after Trump has recently spoken negatively about NATO and positively about the meeting with Putin, Reuters reports.
“There is unease about this meeting, just as there is unease about Trump,” said one senior NATO diplomat, who declined to be named because of the subject’s sensitivity.
“What is he going to say, what is his preparation, is he aware of the symbolism? U.S. containment of Russia is going further than Europe would want … but if Trump then strikes up a friendship with Putin, it could leave us more in the dark about U.S. policy,” the diplomat added.
At a time when Russia is accused of poisoning the Skripals in the UK town of Salisbury and the US has imposed sanctions on Russian nationals for interfering in a presidential election, allies who see the need to isolate Russia find Trump’s friendliness with Putin concerning.
At home, Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee encouraged the president to confront Putin over election meddling, war crimes in Syria, the attack in the UK, and the invasion of Ukraine. In a statement Schiff said, “But instead, I fear that this summit will prove to be another blow to NATO and our allies, and a gift to the Kremlin.”
⊕ Presidents Trump and Putin have met twice and spoken at least eight times by phone.
⊕ Finland has played host to Cold War summits in the past. Breznhev/Ford in 1975, Gorbachev/ Bush in 1990, and Yeltsin/Clinton in 1997.
⊕ Donald Trump congratulated Vladimir Putin on his re-election win in March, against the advice of his national security advisers.
⊕ The Kremlin has pushed for a summit, although they rejected President Trump’s initial invitation to the White House, instead preferring a third country as a meeting place.
⊕ Maria Zakharova, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman suggested a pragmatic and realistic view of the meeting while she cautioned reporters to not get too excited.