Moscow (AFP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin will host US National Security Advisor John Bolton on Wednesday to lay the groundwork for a highly-anticipated summit between the Kremlin chief and Donald Trump, a spokesman said.
The meeting with the US president’s hardline advisor is part of attempts by Putin and Trump to ease tensions between Moscow and the West.
Trump said this month that Russia should be re-admitted to the G7 group of industrialised democracies, from which it was suspended for its annexation of Crimea in 2014.
“The president will host Bolton at the Kremlin,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.
The meeting will be used to discuss “the sad state” of bilateral relations as well as top international issues, he added.
Bolton’s visit is aimed at exploring the prospect of a summit between the US and Russian presidents which may take place next month.
The former US ambassador to the UN, Bolton is known for his hawkish stances and has repeatedly called for tough sanctions against Russia.
“We negotiate with Russia at our peril,” he wrote in a column for the Daily Telegraph in 2017.
Earlier Monday Bolton met behind closed doors with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the first deputy head of Russia’s security council, Yury Averyanov, Russian media reported.
Trump is due to participate in the July 11-12 NATO summit in Brussels before heading to Britain to meet Prime Minister Theresa May and Queen Elizabeth II.
Putin and Trump discussed holding a summit when the US leader congratulated the Russian president on his re-election in March, reportedly ignoring advice from his advisors.
Moscow said Trump had invited Putin for a summit at the White House but a decision was later made to meet on neutral ground.
Earlier this month, Putin said he was ready to meet Trump as soon as Washington gave the green light, adding that Vienna was a possible venue.
But US-based news website Politico reported this week that the two could meet in the Finnish capital Helsinki instead.
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said Helsinki is “always ready to offer its good services if asked.” He did not provide further details.
In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Peskov declined to discuss details of a possible summit.
– ‘Triggers for new sanctions’ –
US-Russian relations have suffered from years of disagreement over the Syrian conflict, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its involvement in eastern Ukraine.
More recently bilateral ties have been strained by a probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and suspected collusion with the Trump campaign, as well as by the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.
The last, brief meeting between Putin and Trump took place in November 2017 in Vietnam during an APEC summit.
Analysts expect the Putin-Trump summit to be more style than substance.
Observers say Putin is unlikely to make any major concessions on the Ukraine crisis or other sensitive issues, giving Washington little incentive to review its sanctions.
“A Trump-Putin meeting would temporarily ease US-Russia tensions, but new US sanctions are still likely later this year,” said the Eurasia Group think tank in a note.
“There remain multiple triggers for new sanctions this year, including past cyber operations linked to Russia, continued Russian involvement in Syria, or any evidence of Russian interference in the November US midterm elections.”