MOSCOW — National security adviser John Bolton is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, the Kremlin spokesman said, in a prelude to a long-anticipated summit with President Trump that now looks increasingly likely.
Bolton is in Moscow ahead of an expected meeting between Putin and Trump in mid-July. Bolton is also meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Kremlin foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
“The president will receive Bolton at the Kremlin,” Peskov told reporters. “Such a meeting will happen today.”
There had been some speculation about whether the meeting would take place. Before he joined the White House in April, Bolton had made a number of critical comments about Russia, calling its interference in U.S. elections an “act of war” and suggesting that Putin had lied in the past.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that Trump and Putin will likely meet “in the not too distant future” following Bolton’s visit to Moscow. Russian officials have sought such a meeting for months and have blamed U.S. domestic politics for the difficulty in making it happen. Trump himself has also pushed for a meeting with Putin despite resistance from senior political aides and diplomats.
The Trump-Putin summit would be the first meeting of the two presidents not taking place on the sidelines of a broader international gathering. It would garner intense scrutiny because of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into possible collusion between Moscow and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. And it could overshadow the July summit meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, raising fresh questions about Trump’s commitment to America’s traditional alliances.
The Trump-Putin meeting is expected to take place while Trump is in Europe in mid-July. He is scheduled to attend the NATO summit meeting July 11 and 12 in Brussels and to visit Britain on July 13. Peskov declined to comment on news reports that a Trump-Putin meeting could take place in Vienna or Helsinki.
“We cannot boast about a wealth of bilateral contacts in our bilateral relationship,” Peskov said, describing the purpose of Wednesday’s meetings with Bolton. “Such contacts are used to exchange views on the main problems in international affairs — they are rather clear and obvious — and to discuss the sad state of our bilateral relationship.”
Bolton is scheduled to hold a news conference in Moscow early Wednesday afternoon Washington time. Trump administration officials say that despite disagreements with Russia, there are areas such as counterterrorism where Washington and Moscow can find common ground.
Pompeo told MSNBC host Hugh Hewitt last week that the United States is working “to find places where we have overlapping interests but protecting American interests where we do not.”
“The president’s been unambiguous since he took office that there are places where Russia is working against the United States but many places where we work together,” he said.