Trump, Putin to hold first summit

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed to hold a summit meeting, with the time and place to be announced tomorrow, a Russian official said Wednesday.

The summit — the first meeting between the two men not on the sidelines of a larger gathering of world leaders — is expected to occur in mid-July, when Trump is scheduled to be in Europe to visit Belgium and Britain, and will take place in a third country, said Russian foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov, according to Russian state media.

“The two countries have discussed the issue for a long time, it has been discussed through closed channels. I can say that an agreement has been reached on holding the summit, even an agreement on the time and venue. We will presumably announce that tomorrow together with our U.S. counterparts,” Ushakov said.

The announcement of the Trump-Putin summit, which is likely to draw intense interest given special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Kremlin’s election interference and the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia, follows meetings in Moscow this week between Putin and Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton.

Putin said that his meeting with Bolton could be an opportunity to begin repairing relations between the U.S. and Russia, blaming the erosion on the “bitter internal political struggle in the U.S.”

“Your visit to Moscow gives us the hope that we will be able to make at least first steps towards restoring full-fledged relations between our countries,” Putin said during the meeting with Bolton, according to TASS, a Russian news agency. He then claimed, “Russia has never sought confrontation.”

Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who is also widely viewed as a foreign policy hawk, joined the Trump administration in March.

Trump has met Putin in-person twice — once at the Group of 20 nations summit in Germany last July and later at the Asia-Pacific summit in Vietnam last November.

Trump also recently proposed that Russia be reinstated in the Group of Seven nations — which current membership includes the U.S., the U.K., France, Japan, Germany, Italy and Canada — after it was expelled in 2014 for annexing Crimea.

“They threw Russia out. They should let Russia come back in because we should have Russia at the negotiating table,” Trump said as he was en route to the summit in Canada earlier this month.

Trump immediately faced pushback from foreign diplomats and members of his own party in Congress for the suggestion.

“This is weak,” Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said at the time. “Putin is not our friend and he is not the president’s buddy. He is a thug using Soviet-style aggression to wage a shadow war against America, and our leaders should act like it.”
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