U.S. President Donald Trump is planning to meet with Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, during Trump’s visit to Europe next month, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Two possibilities for the meeting are either before the NATO summit in Brussels on July 11 or after Trump’s visit to Britain on July 13, one of the people said. Both people asked for anonymity to discuss the plans, because they aren’t final.
The White House declined to comment on Wednesday evening. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, declined to comment on a conference call with reporters on Thursday, in which he also said that the Kremlin expects U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton to visit Russia. Bolton may visit Moscow next week to discuss preparations for the summit, the Interfax news service reported, citing people in Washington it didn’t identify.
Trump had two meetings with Putin last summer at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.
The president has shown keen interest in restoring Putin’s place in the international community. At the G-7 summit in Quebec earlier this month, he proposed that Russia should be re-admitted to the Group of Eight countries, which was reduced to a Group of Seven following Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Although Trump has seldom criticized Russia or Putin and has largely downplayed allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, the relationship between Moscow and Washington has been rocky since he took office.
Trump twice ordered air strikes against the Syrian government of Bashar Al-Assad, a Putin ally. And his administration imposed sanctions on wealthy members of Putin’s circle earlier this year.
Other leaders in the group of industrialized nations rebuked Trump, who made the off-the-cuff remark as he left the White House for the G-7 summit.
“You know, whether you like it or not, and it may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run,” Trump said. “And in the G-7, which used to be the G-8, they threw Russia out. They should let Russia come back in, because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.”
Trump appears to be alone among his party and even within his administration in seeking to repair U.S. relations with the Kremlin.
Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, castigated Trump for his remarks on Putin and for his animosity toward U.S. allies and trading partners.
“The president has inexplicably shown our adversaries the deference and esteem that should be reserved for our closest allies,” McCain said in a statement.