National Security Adviser Bolton Arranging A Summit Between Trump And Putin

Jun 27, 2018
Originally published on June 28, 2018 9:43 am
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Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump will finally get the summit they've been seeking since the 2016 presidential election. Today, Putin welcomed Trump's national security adviser John Bolton to the Kremlin to lay the groundwork for that meeting. NPR's Lucian Kim reports from Moscow. At this point, we still don't know where and when the summit will take place.

LUCIAN KIM, BYLINE: Vladimir Putin is famous for making presidents, prime ministers and popes wait for him, sometimes for hours. But when Trump's national security adviser John Bolton came to Moscow, he was whisked from his meeting with foreign minister Sergey Lavrov straight to the Kremlin, where Putin greeted him with a smile.

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PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: (Speaking Russian).

KIM: Putin said bilateral relations are not at their best but that domestic political strife in the U.S. is to blame, not Russia. The two leaders have met only twice, on the sidelines of large international gatherings. Trump suggested holding a full-fledged summit during a phone call in March when he congratulated Putin on his re-election to a fourth presidential term. Bolton, speaking to reporters in Moscow, said the purpose of his trip was to lay the groundwork for such a meeting.

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JOHN BOLTON: The fact is that it's important for the leaders of these two countries to meet. There are a wide range of issues, despite the differences between us, where both President Trump and President Putin think they may be able to find constructive solutions. I'd like to hear someone say that's a bad idea.

KIM: Bolton said it was complete nonsense to imply that the summit would prove a nexus between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. He said he discussed Russian interference in the U.S. election in Moscow today and expects it will come up during the summit as well. Bolton's visit was met with some trepidation in Moscow, where he is viewed as a hawk on Russia. Before being appointed national security adviser in April, he accused Putin of lying to Trump, called Russian election interference an act of war and said sanctions on Russia should be made even tighter. Now he sounds very different.

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BOLTON: I don't really address what I've written in the past or what I've said on television. It's all out there. Right now, I'm an advisor to President Trump. It's his agenda that we're pursuing.

KIM: It was just a year ago that Bolton asserted the U.S. negotiates with Russia at its own peril. Today, he said the mere fact the two leaders are meeting is an accomplishment, even if they don't produce any concrete agreements. There have been reports the summit could take place in a neutral European capital in mid-July after Trump attends an annual NATO summit and pays his first presidential visit to Britain. Bolton said the exact time and place will be announced simultaneously tomorrow in Moscow and in Washington. Lucian Kim, NPR News, Moscow.

(SOUNDBITE OF JAKOB'S "RESOLVE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.