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Trump Set To Meet Putin At U.S.-Russia Summit

The U.S. President confirmed Helsinki was a possible venue.

Moscow and Washington struck a deal on Wednesday to soon hold a summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump.

It is a move likely to worry some U.S. allies and draw a fiery reaction from some of Trump’s critics at home.

 Speaking after Putin met U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton in the Kremlin, foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov said the summit would take place in a mutually-convenient third country and that several more weeks were needed to prepare for it.

Vladimir Putin shakes hands with U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton in June. Image: AP

Moscow and Washington will announce the time and place of the summit on Thursday. In Washington, Trump said their meeting likely would take place after a July 11-12 summit of NATO leaders he is due to attend.

Trump confirmed that Helsinki was a possible site.

The two men last met in November on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit in Vietnam. After those talks, Trump said he believed Putin’s denials that Russia had meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election -- remarks Trump later backed away from.

A summit could irritate U.S. allies who want to isolate Putin, such as Britain, or who are concerned about what they see as Trump’s overly friendly attitude toward the Russian leader.

It is also likely to go down badly among critics who question Trump’s commitment to the NATO alliance and fret over his desire to rebuild relations with Moscow even as Washington tightens sanctions.

“It is entirely possible for a U.S.–Russia summit to be constructive, but I’m very concerned that after his recent performance at the G7 in Canada, President Trump will once again clash with our closest allies at the upcoming NATO summit, only to then engage in fawning photo ops with President Putin afterwards,” Democratic Senator Chris Coons said in a statement.

Presidents Trump and Putin last met at the G-20 Summit in Germany last year. Image: AP via AAP

Ushakov, who said the Kremlin was pleased with how Bolton’s visit had gone, said Putin and Trump were likely to talk for several hours. He spoke of a possible joint declaration on improving U.S.-Russia relations and international security.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was likely to meet his U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo beforehand, he added.

Bolton, a lifelong hawk who warned last year before his own appointment that Washington negotiated with Putin’s Russia at its peril, robustly defended the summit. He said many European politicians had met the Russian leader.

“A lot of the president’s critics have tried to make political capital out of theories and suppositions that have turned out to be completely erroneous. I think the president determined that despite the political noise in the United States that direct communication between him and President Putin was in the interests of the United States."

Trump congratulated Putin by phone in March after the Russian leader’s landslide re-election victory.

Since then, already poor ties between Washington and Moscow have deteriorated over the conflict in Syria and the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain which sparked big diplomatic expulsions in both countries.

Expectations for a summit are therefore low, even though Trump said before he was elected that he wanted to improve battered U.S.-Russia ties.

A special prosecutor in the United States has indicted Russian firms and individuals for meddling in the presidential election to benefit Trump, and is investigating whether anyone in Trump’s campaign helped the Russian effort.

Trump denies wrongdoing and calls the investigation a “witch hunt”.