The White House is working on trying to set up a summit between President Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. The Wall Street Journal, which reported on the preliminary plans, notes that the meeting “would bring to the international stage one of the world’s most enigmatic political relationships.” Why would the leaders need a sitdown? To “resolve longstanding differences,” including on Syria, Ukraine, and nuclear weapons, according to the paper.
Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, has been working behind the scenes in Washington to try to turn the meeting into a reality. “This has been an ongoing project of Ambassador Huntsman, stretching back months, of getting a formal meeting between Putin and Trump,” the paper’s source said.
Trump and Putin met twice in 2017 on the sidelines of international meetings and Trump invited Putin to visit the White House during a March phone call. Many have questioned Trump’s seeming eagerness to get along well with Putin, noting, for example, how he went against his advisers and congratulated the Russian leader on his election victory when the two spoke on the phone three months ago. “Getting along with Russia (and others) is a good thing, not a bad thing,” Trump tweeted after the call.
Any meeting between the leaders would come at a time when Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election continues. “Of course there are discussions of the political perception,” an official told the Journal about the summit taking place while Mueller’s probe continues.
Some experts immediately questioned what possible good could come from a meeting between Trump and Putin. “Things are so far apart between the US and Russia right now that this meeting between Trump and Putin shouldn’t even be happening in the first place. The US has nothing to gain here and everything to lose,” said Richard Kauzlarich, a former deputy assistant secretary of state who is a Russian policy expert. Kauzlarich noted that Putin has been “seething” about not being able to establish a closer relationship with Trump. “That this meeting is even being considered gives Putin everything and the US nothing,” he said.