It’s official: President Donald Trump will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 17 days — making America’s allies even more nervous about the growing closeness between Washington and Moscow.
According to the White House, Trump and the Russian leader will meet in Helsinki on July 16, just four days after he NATO summit concludes on July 11 and 12.
“President Trump believes so strongly that it was time to have this kind of meeting and as you can see, President Putin agreed,” said National Security Adviser John Bolton, who traveled to the Russian capital on Wednesday to meet with Putin and spoke with reporters at a Wednesday press conference.
The summit is expected to last several hours as both leaders discuss US-Russia relations, the war in Syria, and possibly nuclear weapons issues.
This summit was months in the making. Trump called Putin in March to congratulate him on winning his rigged election (despite Trump’s staff imploring the president not to) and even invited him to meet at the White House.
That led Trump’s aides to scramble to set up a summit with the Russian leader which will now happen in just over the two weeks.
The two men have met before on the sidelines of international gatherings. But this will be the first time Trump and Putin meet without another reason for being in the same room.
There is concern that Trump is putting his desire to grow closer to Putin ahead of the feelings of America’s friends. “I hope that we will see signs that the administration is proceeding cautiously and with consideration for European allies,” Alina Polykova, a Russia expert at the Brookings Institution, told me.
Others seem less troubled. “I’m not as concerned about the meeting as some other people are,” says Rachel Rizzo, a European security expert at the Center for a New American Security think tank. “Trump already has such animosity toward Europe that we can expect the NATO summit to be highly contentious no matter what. Meeting or not meeting with Putin isn’t going to drastically swing the president’s views in either direction. They’ve been pretty consistent since the beginning of his presidency.”
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