Trump and Putin Will Hold Summit Meeting, Officials Say

WASHINGTON — President Trump plans to meet President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia next month in a one-on-one summit meeting, a politically sensitive encounter that could exacerbate strains with NATO allies even if it eases tensions between the United States and Russia. It would be the first formal summit meeting specifically for Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin, who have met twice at annual gatherings of world leaders. And it comes at a particularly delicate moment, with midterm elections looming in the United States and the special counsel’s investigation of Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia grinding on. But the president has expressed a determination to meet with Mr. Putin, administration officials said, especially in the aftermath of his encounter with Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, which Mr. Trump celebrated as a diplomatic triumph — even if it has produced little in the way of tangible results. Mr. Trump dispatched to Moscow his national security adviser, John R. Bolton, who met on Wednesday with Mr. Putin. Afterward, Mr. Bolton said a time and place for the meeting would be announced Thursday. Other administration officials said Helsinki, Finland, was a prime candidate. “Getting along with Russia, and with China, and with everybody, is a very good thing,” Mr. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office later Wednesday. “So we’ll probably be meeting sometime around my trip to Europe.” Mr. Trump is scheduled to attend a NATO summit meeting in Brussels on July 11 and 12, followed by a long-delayed visit to Britain. He could add another stop on the European trip to get together with Mr. Putin. You have 4 free articles remaining. Subscribe to The Times The prospect of a high-level encounter — one that would presumably focus on the American-Russian relationship and related issues, including Syria and arms control — has stirred anxieties in Europe given Mr. Trump’s clashes with allies like Germany, France and Canada. European officials have expressed fears that it could overshadow or undermine the NATO meeting, particularly if that gathering ends in acrimony, as did the recently concluded meeting of the Group of 7 major industrial powers in Canada. American officials said they were drafting language for a NATO statement that would reaffirm the importance of a “rules-based order.” But they acknowledged that Mr. Trump could decide to jettison it, as he did last year when he deleted an endorsement of Article Five, the principle of mutual defense, from his speech dedicating NATO’s new headquarters.

Instead, Mr. Trump assailed other NATO members at that meeting for not shouldering their fair share of military expenses. More recently, he has clashed with some of those same countries over trade and migration. At the same time, Mr. Trump has stubbornly refused to criticize Mr. Putin, despite recurring tensions over Ukraine, Syria and meddling in the 2016 election. Mr. Bolton briefly raised the election issue on Wednesday with Russian officials, according to Yuri Ushakov, an aide to Mr. Putin. “We declared clearly that the Russian government did not meddle in U.S. processes, does not meddle and moreover did not meddle in the 2016 elections,” Mr. Ushakov said. In a televised portion of the meeting in Moscow, Mr. Putin told Mr. Bolton, “I have to say with regret that Russian-American relations are not in the best shape.” “And I’ve already said this repeatedly in public and am saying this to you now: I think that this is largely a result of the acute internal political struggle within the United States,” Mr. Putin said. For his part, Mr. Bolton, an avowed hawk on Russia, opened with a compliment, telling Mr. Putin he looked forward to hearing “how you handled the World Cup so successfully.” Mr. Trump picked up that theme later in the Oval Office. Russia is doing “a fantastic job with the World Cup,” he told journalists as he welcomed the president of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. “It’s exciting,” Mr. Trump said. “My son loves soccer and he loves watching the World Cup, and they have really done a fantastic job.” Mr. Trump has sought a meeting with Mr. Putin since March, when he called to congratulate the Russian president for winning another term in an election that was widely viewed in the West as a sham. Mr. Trump has also broached the idea that Mr. Putin could visit the White House, something the Russian leader has not done since 2005. Some administration officials have resisted such a meeting, as have Mr. Trump’s political allies, given the continuing scrutiny of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its possible links to the Trump campaign. The two countries also recently expelled some of the other’s diplomats after the poisoning in March of a former Russian spy living in Britain. But this month, Mr. Trump urged other members of the Group of 7 to readmit Russia, which was expelled after its armed intervention in Ukraine in 2014 and seizure of Crimea. A summit meeting could score some easy diplomatic advances for the two men. “The presidents may agree on a joint statement, which could outline further steps for both countries to improve bilateral relations and for some joint actions on the international arena,” Mr. Ushakov said. Sergei A. Karaganov, an adviser to the Kremlin on foreign policy, said the two presidents also could, for example, formalize cooperation in Syria that is already taking place and extend or modify strategic arms agreements. “There cannot be a breakthrough,” Mr. Karaganov said, though he added that a meeting “could start the process of civilizing a relationship that is outright dangerous and uncivilized now, to the extent that it even exists.” Michael McFaul, a former American ambassador to Russia, said that he favored high-level summit meetings, if only to dispel misperceptions about the other side. But he questioned whether Mr. Trump would bring concrete objectives to the meeting — for example, an agreement to begin negotiating a successor to the New Start arms treaty. “I fear his eagerness to get along with Putin might produce concessions that do not serve American national interests,” Mr. McFaul said. “If Trump heaps the kind of praise on Putin that he devoted to Kim Jong-un, that will be a giant victory for Putin. That’s all Putin needs for a successful meeting.”