Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin to meet July 16 in Helsinki
Moscow and Washington announced the time and place of the meeting simultaneously
US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet on July 16 in Helsinki, the Kremlin and the White House said on Thursday, a first official summit that will be closely watched by nervous US allies in Europe and critics of Russia in America.
The two countries announced the details simultaneously a day after striking a deal on holding the meeting following a visit to Moscow on Wednesday by US national security adviser John Bolton.
“The two leaders will discuss relations between the United States and Russia and a range of national security issues,” the White House said in a statement.
Trump and Putin have met twice before on the sidelines of international gatherings.
Their summit could irritate US allies who want to isolate Putin, such as Britain, or who are concerned about what they see as Trump’s overly friendly attitude toward the Russian leader.
It is also likely to go down badly among critics who question Trump’s commitment to the Nato alliance and who have been concerned about his frictions with long-time allies such as Canada and Germany over trade.
Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg quickly welcomed news of the Trump-Putin summit, saying it was in line with the alliance’s policy of talking to Moscow while maintaining strong defence.
“I welcome the upcoming meeting between President Trump and President Putin because I believe in dialogue. Nato’s approach to Russia is what we call a dual-track approach, it is defence and dialogue,” Stoltenberg said as he arrived for an EU summit.
Trump has long expressed a desire for better relations with Moscow, even as Washington tightens sanctions.
Hanging over relations with Russia since Trump took office in January last year is the conclusion of US intelligence community that Moscow sought to interfere in the 2016 presidential campaign to tilt the election in Trump’s favour.
Moscow has long denied any meddling. A special counsel is investigating possible collusion by the Trump campaign with Russia, which Trump has denied.
Bolton told reporters in Moscow he expected Russian meddling in US politics to be discussed at the summit.
He said he did not rule out Trump discussing Russia rejoining the Group of Seven industrialised countries to make it the G8 again.
After Trump and Putin met briefly in Vietnam in November 2017, Trump was criticised in the United States for saying he believed Putin when the Russian president denied accusations that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.
In a Twitter post on Thursday before the Helsinki meeting was announced, Trump again appeared to cast doubt on Russian involvement. “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!” he wrote.
In Washington on Wednesday, Trump hinted that the summit venue might be the Finnish capital and listed Syria and Ukraine as being among the many subjects he would discuss with Putin.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse