President Donald Trump has been planning a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin behind the scenes for months, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal that cites a senior administration official.
The meeting does not yet have a time or date for the summit, according to the report, but Ambassador John Huntsman has been working with the Kremlin to lay the necessary groundwork. However, Trump’s more prominent upcoming meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has apparently taken priority.
Reporters Brett Forrest, Peter Nicholas, and Michael R. Gordon write that though the meeting might help ease tensions between the U.S. and Russia, the main goal would not be any sort of grand bargain but instead to make progress negotiating on specific issues, such as Syria and Ukraine.
While there’s nothing inherently suspicious about an American president trying to have talks with Russia, Trump’s long and bizarre history with Putin — which include excessive praise of the authoritarian leader as well as the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential collusion with the Trump campaign — makes the plan more noteworthy.
Given Trump’s repeated unwillingness to condemn many of the Putin regime’s greatest abuses, there’s reason to be worried about the substantive outcome of any summit between the two leaders and the message it sends to other autocratic leaders around the world.