White House: Trump ‘open’ to invitation to meet Putin in Russia

Days after a White House invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Washington, D.C., for a fall summit was met with criticism on Capitol Hill, the Trump administration announced it is weighing an overture from the Kremlin to visit Moscow and hold meetings.

Seeking to escape bipartisan criticism over a surprise invitation for Mr. Putin to travel to the U.S. sometime in the waning months of 2018, the White House abruptly said it would not hold bilateral meetings with Putin until after the beginning of next year.

In a statement explaining the postponement of any such meeting with Putin, national security aide John Bolton referred to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election as a “witch hunt,” and said meetings between the two world leaders would occur after January of next year.

Among the issues the two men are expected to address at any future meeting: Nuclear arms control, conflicts in the Middle East and the Iran deal.

Amid the controversy over meeting in the future, Putin weighed in on the matter while on a foreign trip to Johannesburg, South Africa.

Speaking to reporters at the BRICS Summit, Putin acknowledged President Trump’s willingness to meet, but coyly hinted political circumstances will prevent a visit to the U.S., a meeting before the end of 2018, and extended an invitation to Trump to visit Moscow.

“I understand perfectly that President Trump has a desire to hold further meetings, and I am ready for that. But there would need to be the appropriate conditions. (Trump) has, in fact, the same invitation [to come to Moscow], and I told him so. I am ready to go to Washington but I repeat: if the right conditions will be established,” Putin told journalists.

Responding to the proposal to meet in Russia, at a White House press briefing, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Friday:

“President Trump looks forward to having President Putin to Washington after the first of the year, and he is open to visiting Moscow upon receiving a formal invitation.”

The rescheduling of future meetings between Trump and Putin is not expected to affect an anticipated meeting between Defense Secretary James Mattis and Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu.

 

[BBC] [The Guardian] [Photo courtesy SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images via Foreign Policy]