US President Donald Trump is pursuing a meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to determine whether Moscow is willing to make progress in the bilateral relationship, the White House has said.
Trump and Putin will meet on July 16 in Finnish capital Helsinki to mend bilateral relations and discuss a range of national security issues, the White House and the Kremlin had announced on Thursday.
The announcement followed a meeting between President Putin and US National Security Adviser John Bolton, who was in Moscow this week to lay the groundwork for the summit.
“We’re looking forward to it. If we could all get along it would be great. The world has to start getting along,” Trump told reporters travelling with him in Wisconsin on Thursday.
His spokesperson asserted that Trump is meeting Putin because he believes that this is in the national interest.
“The president is pursuing this meeting in the interest of America’s national security to determine whether Russia is willing to make progress in our relationship,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters told reporters aboard Air Force One.
Trump, she said, hopes that the meeting can help reduce tensions and lead to constructive engagement that improves peace and security around the world. The July 16 Helsinki meeting would be the first US-Russia summit under the Trump Administration.
From the beginning of his presidential campaign, Trump has insisted that he wants to have a better relationship with Russia and that it is good for the US and the world.
However, he has been facing backlash from the Opposition Democrats and the think-tank community who believe that Russia under Putin interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Moscow has denied the allegations.
Democratic Senator Jack Reed, Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee, said the proposed meeting should concern all Americans that Trump is eager to stage a summit with Putin right on the heels of a critical NATO meeting in Brussels.
“This decision to cozy up to Vladimir Putin right now is ill-advised, ill-conceived, and if past summits are any indication, President Trump will be ill-prepared,” he said.
“Instead of focusing on rebuilding NATO alliance unity after his disastrous performance at the G-7 summit, President Trump seems more interested in another photo-op with an authoritarian ruler seeking to harm America’s and the West’s interests,” Reed said.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry told Aspen Ideas conference that in principle, he favoured Trump meeting with Putin.
“I met with him more than anybody (else) in the Obama Administration. And for longer. And we got things done. Russia cooperated with us on the Iran Nuclear Agreement, significantly, on the Paris Climate Accord Agreement and on getting the declared chemical weapons out of Syria,” he said.
At the same time, he called for better preparation before the summit.
“The way you approach the summit is to have done your homework with those nations, build up an agenda which they support and understand, and go in united in a way that doesn’t play in to the narrative that President Xi and President Putin have been working overtime to push, which is the liberal order, the West, is coming apart, America is weak, and we are the future,” Kerry said.
“The president has played into that narrative in very, very dangerous ways, and I mean we don’t have time to go into all of the implications of it, but it’s a very tricky moment for the world, as a result of that,” he said.