Russian President Vladimir Putin and US National Security Adviser John Bolton met Wednesday in a preparatory meeting regarding a long-awaited and anticipated summit with President Donald Trump. That summit has been looking more and more likely to happen since the first known reports in The Wall Street Journal on 2 June, and today’s meeting appeared by all accounts to be very positive.
Putin warmly greeted Bolton in a grand oval meeting hall at the Kremlin, flanked by statues of Russian czars set before lime-painted walls.
Putin opened the meeting by repeating to Bolton his frequent contention that U.S.-Russian relations are in a poor state in large part because of the domestic political environment in the United States.
“Your visit here to Moscow inspires hope that we will be able to take first steps to restore full-fledged relations between Russia and the United States,” Putin said. “Russia never sought confrontation, and I hope that today we will be able to talk about what we can do from both sides in order to restore full-fledged relations on the foundation of equality and of respect for each other’s interests.”
Bolton in turn said he hoped Russia and the United States could find “areas where we can agree and make progress together.” He quipped that he looked forward to “hearing about how you handled the World Cup so successfully,” drawing a big smile from the Russian president.
“Even in earlier days when our countries had differences, our leaders and their advisers met,” he added. “I think that was good for both countries, good for stability in the world, and President Trump feels very strongly on that subject.”
The Post further reported that Bolton also met with Russian Foreign Defense Minister Sergey Lavrov and Kremlin Foreign Policy Adviser Yuri Ushakov, who with Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu met all together with the Russian President. The Post continued:
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that Trump and Putin will likely meet “in the not too distant future” following Bolton’s visit to Moscow. Russian officials have sought such a meeting for months and have blamed U.S. domestic politics for the difficulty in making it happen. Trump himself has also pushed for a meeting with Putin despite resistance from senior political aides and diplomats.
The Trump-Putin summit would be the first meeting of the two presidents not taking place on the sidelines of a broader international gathering. It would garner intense scrutiny because of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between Moscow and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. And it could overshadow the July summit meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, raising fresh questions about Trump’s commitment to America’s traditional alliances.
The Trump-Putin meeting is expected to take place while Trump is in Europe in mid-July. He is scheduled to attend the NATO summit meeting July 11 and 12 in Brussels and to visit Britain on July 13. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on news reports that a Trump-Putin meeting could take place in Vienna or Helsinki.
“We cannot boast about a wealth of bilateral contacts in our bilateral relationship,” Peskov said, describing the purpose of Wednesday’s meetings with Bolton. “Such contacts are used to exchange views on the main problems in international affairs – they are rather clear and obvious – and to discuss the sad state of our bilateral relationship.”
The Russian News Agency TASS had more comments on the meeting:
At the talks, the Russian head of state suggested discussing “what both sides could do to mend full-fledged relations based on equality and respect for each other’s interests.”
Trump’s adviser said he expects to talk with Putin about ways of bolstering Russian-US cooperation in the areas where both sides see eye to eye. Bolton noted that even when Russia and the US had serious differences, the two leaders and their advisers met and this laid the groundwork for ensuring global stability.
Bolton assured Putin that Trump is committed to achieving these goals.
Putin congratulated the United States upon gaining the right to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup and noted that Russia was ready to share its experience in organizing such a sporting event. “I would like to congratulate you upon the United States getting the right to host the FIFA World Cup in 2026,” Putin told Bolton. “For now, we’ve arranged the tournament in the proper fashion. It will be a pleasure for us to share this experience with you.”
Bolton replied that the United States was glad to learn that Russia was so successful in hosting the World Cup.
Tass reported in two parallel pieces that there were apparently two meetings, one lasting for two hours and the other about 90 minutes. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the parties discussed Syria, Ukraine and the present state of Russia – US relations.
It was widely hoped in Russia that President Trump’s election would mark a turning point in the worsening bilateral relations between the two countries. Since at least 2014, the Russian Federation has endured constant struggle as Western countries contended that Russia was interfering with Ukrainian sovereignty and acting illegally in the alleged “annexation” of Crimea which also happened in that year.
The withering sanctions, while having some effect on Russia’s ability to engage in commerce with the West, have at the same time galvanized the country‘s support of its own President, who has helped Russia to become much stronger internally and in its economic alliances with China, Saudi Arabia, India and other nations.