John Bolton, Kremlin Agree on Date and Time for Trump-Putin Summit

White House hunts leaker after Trump congratulates Putin
SPUTNIK/AFP/File Mikhail KLIMENTYEV

National Security Adviser John Bolton helped finalize a time and place for a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Monday. The Kremlin confirmed it would announce summit details on Thursday.

Prior to his meetings with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Putin himself on Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Bolton was in Moscow to discuss “the sad state of our bilateral relations,” according to Russian news outlet TASS.

Putin has previously stated that he believed a summit with Trump “may prove to be constructive” because Trump is “a serious-minded person who knows how to listen to people and respond to their arguments.”

Russian Presidential aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters following the meetings that Russia and the United States had discussed setting up an in-person meeting between the two heads of state “for a long time” and had finally agreed upon a time and place.

“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 US counterparts,” Ushakov said.

Ushakov described the venue as “a very convenient place for us and the American side” outside both nations.

The summit would be the first of its kind for the two leaders, though they have met twice. Trump held his first in-person meeting with Putin at the G20 summit in July 2017. “President Putin and I have been discussing various things and I think it’s going very well. We’ve had some very, very good talks,” Trump said at the time.

Speculation has already begun regarding where the summit will take place. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reports that Austria and Finland are considered the likeliest host countries. Local reports in Vienna suggest that American and Russian officials are already in the city planning the summit. The Finland guess comes from a comment by an anonymous U.S. official in a Reuters report, who said on Tuesday that Helsinki is the most likely location.

Putin issued a short optimistic statement following his conversation with Bolton.

“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 reportedly said. “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.”

The Kremlin confirmed that bilateral ties were paramount in discussions with Putin, though among other conversation points were the hosting of the FIFA World Cup – ongoing currently in Russia, and soon to move to North America – and geopolitical concerns. The Russian Foreign Ministry noted that Lavrov and Bolton discussed ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, the former caused largely by the Russian invasion and colonization of Crimea, and the latter greatly exacerbated by Russia’s support for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

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