Putin Says Bolton Visit Gives Hope For Steps To ‘Restore Full-Scale Relations’
(Article ©2018 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – June 27, 2018 – also appeared at rferl.org/a/russia-us-trump-putin-summit-on-agenda-as-bolton-heads-to-moscow/29322852.html)
Russian President Vladimir Putin has told U.S. national security adviser John Bolton that his visit “instills hope” that steps can be taken to improve badly strained relations between the countries.
Putin and Bolton, who was in Moscow to discuss U.S.-Russian ties and a possible summit between Putin and President Donald Trump, spoke briefly with reporters present at the start of their meeting in the Kremlin on June 27.
Putin said he regretted that ties between the former Cold War foes are “not in the best shape” and suggested their dire state is due in large part to what he called “the internal political struggle” in the United States — indicating he does not blame Trump.
“Russia has never sought confrontation, and I hope that we can talk today about what can be done by both sides to restore full-format relations on the basis of equality and respect,” Putin said.
Bolton said he was looking forward to discussing “how to improve Russia-U.S. relations and find areas where we can agree and make progress together.”
When Moscow and Washington had differences in the past, Russian and U.S. leaders met and that was “good for both countries, good for stability in the world,” Bolton said. “President Trump feels very strongly on that subject.”
Bolton met with Putin after holding separate talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and a senior member of Putin’s Security Council, Yury Averyanov.
At least part of the Kremlin meeting between Bolton and Putin was also attended by Lavrov, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman, Trump adviser Fiona Hill, and others.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders tweeted that Bolton was meeting with Putin and other Russian officials “to discuss United States-Russia relations, as well the potential for a Presidential meeting.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that, in addition to bilateral ties, Lavrov and Bolton discussed current global issues including Syria and Ukraine — where Moscow’s involvement in military conflicts is a source of U.S.-Russian tension.
Bolton traveled to Moscow after meetings with U.S. allies in London and Rome on June 25-26.
He is due to hold a news conference after his meetings in Moscow at 7:30 p.m. local time, during which he could potentially announce the date and location of a summit.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a television interview over the weekend that Trump is likely to meet Putin “in the not-too-distant future.”
The meeting seems likely to take place at some point after Trump attends a NATO summit in Brussels on July 11-12 and visits Britain on July 13. Some reports have said July 15 is a likely date.
It is unclear where the meeting would be held. Vienna and Helsinki have been cited as possible venues, and there is speculation that Trump could travel to Moscow for a meeting coinciding with the soccer World Cup final on July 15.
At the Kremlin meeting, Bolton said he would like to hear Putin’s account of “how you handled the World Cup so successfully.” The United States will co-host the 2026 World Cup with Mexico and Canada.
An Austrian newspaper earlier this week said teams from the United States and Russia were already in Vienna preparing for a July 15 meeting between the two leaders.
However, a senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters on June 26 that Finland’s capital, Helsinki, was the likeliest choice, but the final decision depended on the outcome of Bolton’s talks.
Trump and Putin have met twice on the sidelines of international summits and they have spoken at least eight times by telephone. Trump telephoned Putin to congratulate him in March after the Russian president’s reelection and said the two would meet soon.
However, Russian officials have since complained about the difficulty of setting up such a meeting, as ties between Washington and Moscow have further deteriorated over the conflict in Syria and the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain, which the West blames on Moscow.
Relations were already severely strained by tension over issues including Russia’s seizure of Crimea, its role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, and what U.S. intelligence agencies concluded was an “influence campaign” ordered by Putin in an attempt to affect the U.S. presidential election, in part by bolstering Trump and discrediting his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Democrats and some Republicans have accused Trump of being soft on Russia. Trump made clear during his campaign and into his presidency that he wants better relations with Russia and Putin, and has often praised the Russian president.
Bolton’s trip and the movement toward a Trump-Putin summit comes after Trump unnerved allies this month by calling for Russia to be readmitted to the G7, the group of industrialized nations it was ejected from in 2014 over its interference in Ukraine.
Trump has also sharply criticized a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the alleged Russian meddling and whether his associates colluded with Moscow.
Russia denies it interfered, despite substantial evidence, and Trump says there was no collusion.
With reporting by AFP, Reuters, AP, TASS, and Interfax
[featured image is file photo]