Tags: Russia | vladimir putin | john bolton | russia | summit

Putin to Meet Bolton as Russia Keeps Summit Hopes Low

Putin to Meet Bolton as Russia Keeps Summit Hopes Low

(Nicholas Kamm and Alexey Nikolsky/Getty Images)

Wednesday, 27 June 2018 07:55 AM

Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton in Moscow, but the Kremlin is keeping expectations low for the outcome of a possible summit with President Donald Trump.

The Kremlin announced Wednesday’s meeting after Bolton arrived in Moscow for talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on a potential venue, timing and agenda for the encounter between the Russian and U.S. leaders. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said his Nordic nation is ready to host the summit after Politico reported that the White House is eyeing Helsinki in mid-July as the preferred option.

Putin and Lavrov will discuss “the sad state of our bilateral relations” in their meetings with Bolton, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Amid the worst tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals since the Cold War and relentless pressure on Trump over the investigation into alleged Russian involvement in his 2016 presidential victory, the atmosphere for a summit is hardly auspicious. It would mark the third time Trump and Putin meet, following talks on the sidelines of a Group of 20 gathering in Germany a year ago and a brief conversation at a regional forum in Vietnam in November.

Trump, who will be in Brussels from July 11-12 for a meeting of the NATO military alliance and is due to travel to the U.K. on July 13, had considered Vienna as the location for the summit. Putin is to host the final of the World Cup soccer championship in Moscow on July 15.

To have something to show for the meeting, the two sides may manage to produce some agreement to try and prevent the collapse of decades-old arms control treaties in a bid to halt the downward spiral in ties. Both leaders have spoken publicly of the need to avoid a new nuclear arms race.

Bolton, who became Trump’s security adviser in March, is a long-time hawk on Russia who accused Putin shortly after Trump’s election of being “on the prowl in Eastern Europe and the Middle East in ways unprecedented since the Cold War.”

After Trump met Putin at the G-20, Bolton wrote that “it should be a highly salutary lesson about the character of Russia’s leadership to watch Putin lie to him,” and that the talks offered a warning to “negotiate with today’s Russia at your peril.”

As an arms-control expert, though, he is the right person to lead negotiations on the U.S.-Russia nuclear disagreement even if these may end in failure, said Stephen Sestanovich, a senior fellow at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations.

Putin and Trump should find it “relatively easy to agree” on steps to resolve accusations that Russia is violating a 1987 treaty that bans the deployment of intermediate-range missiles on land and extend another landmark treaty, New START, which expires in 2021, said Sergei Karaganov, a former Kremlin foreign policy adviser.

But “no major issues will be tackled because the level of trust is close to zero and because the Trump administration will immediately come under attack domestically if it strikes any deal,” Karaganov said. “No one needs any big agreements right now.”

While Russia is interested in playing the “spoiler” to diminish U.S. influence, there can be no real change for the better in relations with Moscow as long as Putin remains in office, said Alexander Vershbow, a former top U.S. defense official and NATO deputy secretary general.

Still, using Cold War tools such as arms control can help to manage the competition, he said in a commentary. In particular, the U.S. could propose on-site inspections of Russian and U.S. military facilities to safeguard the 1987 INF treaty.

Russia and the U.S. are at loggerheads over a series of issues, ranging from the Kremlin’s continued support of separatists in eastern Ukraine to the conflict in Syria, where a Russian-backed government offensive on U.S.-supported rebels in the south of the country has drawn Washington’s ire.

That hasn’t stopped Trump, who has argued for closer ties with Putin, from publicly calling for Russia’s readmission to the G-8 group of major industrialized nations. Western powers suspended Russia’s membership after the 2014 annexation of Crimea. Among other members, only Italy, now ruled by a populist government favorable to the Kremlin, backed Trump’s proposal. Bolton met Italian leaders Tuesday on his way to Moscow.

“Trump still seems to believe there’s a grand bargain to be forged with Russia, if he can just get in the same room with the Russian president,” said Vershbow, warning that “fundamental differences cannot easily be overcome.”

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Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton in Moscow, but the Kremlin is keeping expectations low for the outcome of a possible summit with President Donald Trump.
vladimir putin, john bolton, russia, summit
Wednesday, 27 June 2018 07:55 AM
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