WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet on July 16 in Helsinki, Finland, both of their governments announced yesterday.
The meeting, planned in recent days, signals a growing rapprochement between the United States and Russia. Both men have pursued the tete-a-tete in the hope of soothing tensions over Russia's interference in the 2016 US presidential election and its aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere, despite retaliatory actions taken by both governments this year.
"The two leaders will discuss relations between the United States and Russia and a range of national security issues," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
Finland, officially neutral during the Cold War and not a Nato member, shares a border with Russia, and its President, Mr Sauli Niinisto, has fostered a relationship with Mr Putin.
The date falls after previously planned stops during a trip to Europe by Mr Trump for a Nato summit meeting on July 11-12 in Brussels and a visit to Britain on July 13. It also allows Mr Putin to be in Moscow for the World Cup final on July 15.
Mr Trump plans to fly to Helsinki after a weekend of golf in Scotland, officials said. Mr Trump owns two golf courses in Scotland.
The Guardian newspaper reported last month that he planned to play in Scotland with a professional golfer, or possibly a member of the royal family.
Plans for the Trump-Putin summit were finalised on Wednesday by National Security Adviser John Bolton, who held marathon meetings in Moscow that included talks with Mr Putin at the Kremlin.
Mr Trump has long sought to cultivate a warm friendship with his Russian counterpart as a means to resolving intractable problems around the world, and he has said he admires the strength of Mr Putin's authoritarian rule.
US Vice-President Mike Pence said he expects Mr Trump to discuss Russian interference in US elections, the Kremlin's military incursions into Ukraine and Syria and other touchy subjects when he meets Mr Putin.
Mr Trump has said he has confronted Mr Putin about Russia's involvement in the election in previous meetings.
He has enacted new sanctions Congress ordered against Russia to punish the country for its election activities and has not lifted sanctions put in place by his predecessor, Mr Barack Obama.
Mr Bolton said it is "not unusual" for Mr Trump and Mr Putin to meet because other world leaders have also had such talks with Mr Putin.
Mr Bolton added that "the summit itself is a deliverable".
"I don't think that we expect necessarily any specific outcomes or decisions" from the meeting, he said.
"It's important after the length of time that has gone by without a bilateral summit like this to allow them to cover all the issues they choose."
WASHINGTON POST, BLOOMBERG