The ink is barely dry on US President Donald Trump’s “deal” with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and already Trump is eager to stride back onto the international stage for another attention-grabbing drama. This time around, Trump wants to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It could happen as soon as July.
Trump, who has thus far had only two brief face-to-face encounters with Putin, has been pushing for a summit ever since he called to congratulate the Russian president on his reelection in March. “There’s no stopping [Trump],” a senior administration official told The New Yorker. “He wants to have a meeting with Putin, so he’s going to have a meeting with Putin.”
The Kremlin and White House have reportedly discussed the possibility of holding a summit in Vienna while Trump is in Europe this summer. Trump is scheduled to attend the annual NATO heads-of-state meeting in Brussels on July 11–12 and might even meet with Putin before the NATO summit. (A reminder: NATO is the alliance that Putin “seeks to shatter,” said US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in a commencement address at the US Naval War College a few days ago.)
Putin is greasing the summit skids by praising Trump for attending the Singapore meeting with Kim, saying that such meetings help to ease tensions. Russia would certainly welcome a reduction in the continued tensions that have arisen from findings by US intelligence agencies and Congressional committees that its agents tried to sway the 2016 election—and that the influence campaign was personally ordered by Putin. Trump advisers worry that a Putin summit would be politically problematic, but The New Yorker reports that they are “steeling themselves for the possibility of a lavish, televised lovefest between the president and Putin.”
It’s not clear why Trump wants to meet with Putin, other than to satisfy his insatiable appetite for media coverage. Maybe Trump and Putin can work out a deal like the one Trump negotiated with Kim, only larger in scale: to “work toward complete denuclearization” of the world. Of course, that would be nothing more than a renewal of existing vows. As ratifiers of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty—which will be 50 years old in July—the United States and Russia have already declared their intention “to achieve at the earliest possible date the cessation of the nuclear arms race and to undertake effective measures in the direction of nuclear disarmament.”
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