The White House announced Thursday that President Donald Trump will meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, on July 12. The announcement follows a meeting between Putin and Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton, in Moscow this week.
The sparse White House announcement stated only that Trump and Putin “will discuss relations between the United States and Russia and a range of national security issues.”
The Kremlin announced the meeting at the same time, adding little detail. According to Russia, the two will discuss the “current state of U.S.-Russia ties” and “relevant international issues.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the bilateral relationship as “sad” in remarks to reporters on Tuesday, before Bolton’s planned discussions with Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Trump is scheduled to travel to Europe on July 11 for a summit of NATO member countries in Belgium, and will likely travel to Finland from either there or the United Kingdom, where he is also scheduled to visit – as reports before the official confirmation of the Trump-Putin summit occurred on Thursday.
While Trump and Putin have met in person twice and exchanged several phone calls, this meeting will be the first summit dedicated specifically to the two meeting and exchanging ideas. The men have met at the sidelines of larger events, like the G-20 summit, but not planned explicitly to meet.
The Russian news agency TASS reported Thursday that Russia’s Foreign Ministry is expecting the next step in planning to be a meeting between Lavrov and American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said may happen within the next two weeks.
“The meeting is being worked out, we understand the difficulties for the sides to find spare windows in the top diplomats’ schedules,” Ryabkov reportedly said. “We made the proposals and we are waiting for an answer.”
Bolton’s visit to Moscow was intended to finalize the details of the Trump-Putin summit. Putin reportedly told Bolton that he “hope[d] 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 claimed that Bolton and senior Russian officials discussed the ongoing civil war in Syria, Russia’s invasion and colonization of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula, and the FIFA World Cup, which Russia is currently hosting and North America recently won a bid to host.
Russia has been Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s most reliable ally in the Syrian civil war, sending its air force to conduct strikes on Syrian rebels and likely stabilizing the Assad regime’s position of dominance over the country. The United States opposes Assad’s continued power over the country, noting that his last “election” occurred in conditions that made it impossible for most Syrians to vote freely and that Assad’s repeated use of chemical weapons disqualifies him from being a legitimate head of state. The Russian government claims that Assad handed over all his chemical weapons in 2013, though significant evidence exists that Assad has used such weapons since them.