As both President elect Trump’s and Russian President Putin’s press spokesmen both deny a claim published by the London Times of a planned Putin-Trump summit in the Icelandic capital Reykjavik – Trump’s spokesman called it “100% false” – the London Times incredibly still continues to lead with the story, which it sources to the usual anonymous officials.
Note that claims that The London Times obtained confirmation of the planned summit from officials of Russia’s embassy in London are not actually borne out by the report itself. What the report actually says is this
Sources who have discussed the plans with officials at the Russian embassy in London say Moscow is set to agree to a summit between the two leaders.
(bold italics added)
In other words the London Times has not been speaking directly to Russia’s London embassy. Rather its anonymous sources claim to have done so, and the London Times is therefore publishing a story it obtained at second hand.
The London Times does say that “a Trump adviser” confirmed the plan for the summit. However the word “adviser” can mean all sorts of things, and it does not follow that this individual is a member of Trump’s transition team.
There has been some speculation as to the reasons for this story, with some suggestions that it is intended to continue the campaign against Donald Trump by keeping the story of his supposed links to Russia at the top of the news cycle. Whilst that is possible, this story is so easy to refute that it seems more likely that it is simply the product of the over-active imagination of certain British officials. If so, it does however show how panicked by the prospect of a detente between the US and Russia some sections of the British establishment have become.
A Trump-Putin summit before long is a certainty, and on the day after Donald Trump was elected I even speculated that it might happen before Inauguration Day. However I had not imagined when I wrote that piece the vast firestorm that would come over the Russian hacking claims or Donald Trump’s supposed Russian links. Whilst this firestorm will not prevent Donald Trump being inaugurated President of the United States, it will have caused whatever plans either Trump’s team or the Russians might have had for an early summit to be put on ice, at least for the moment.
I would also add that I would expect that President Putin would prefer to avoid meeting Trump in Reykjavik. The summit meeting in 1986 between Reagan and Gorbachev in Reykjavik led eventually to the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, which many Russian officials consider to be the first big unacceptable concession made by Gorbachev to the West. I doubt Putin would want to associate himself with that summit by holding his first meeting with Trump in the same venue.
Putin has spoken openly of his willingness to travel to the US to meet with Trump there, and on the assumption that it would be politically awkward at the moment for Trump to travel to Russia or to meet with Putin in Europe, it seems most likely that the first summit between the two men will take place in the US.