FILE - In this Nov. 11, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump, right, and Russia President Vladimir Putin talk during the family photo session at the APEC Summit in Danang. The Trump administration is opening the door to a potential White House meeting between Trump and Putin. It would be the first time Putin has been at the White House in more than a decade and come at a time of rising tensions between the two global powers. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

US raises prospect of Trump-Putin meeting at the White House

The Trump administration is opening the door to a potential White House meeting between Trump and Putin.

The Trump administration says it is amenable to a White House meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, raising the prospect of the Russian president’s first Washington visit in more than a decade even as relations between the two powers have eroded.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the White House was among “a number of potential venues” discussed in Trump’s telephone call last month with Putin. The Kremlin said earlier Monday that Trump invited Putin during the call.

Both sides said they hadn’t started preparations for such a visit.

If it happens, Putin would be getting the honour of an Oval Office tete-a-tete for the first time since he met President George W. Bush at the White House in 2005. Alarms rang in diplomatic and foreign policy circles over the prospect that Trump might offer Putin that venue without confronting him about Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election or allegations that Russia masterminded the March 4 nerve agent attack on a former Russian double agent.

“It would confer a certain normalization of relations and we’re certainly not in a normal space,” said Alina Polyakova, a foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution. “Nothing about this is normal.”

Related: President Trump fires Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

Much has happened since Trump and Putin spoke in the March 20 phone call. Trump said afterward he hoped to meet with Putin “in the not too distant future” to discuss the nuclear arms race and other matters. But their call was followed by reports that Trump had been warned in briefing materials not to congratulate the Russian president on his re-election but did so anyway.

Since the call, two dozen countries, including the U.S. and many European Union nations, and NATO expelled more than 150 Russian diplomats in solidarity with Britain over the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, the former spy, and his daughter Yulia. Moscow has denied any involvement in the nerve attack and retaliated by expelling the same number of diplomats from each nation.

Putin’s foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, told reporters Monday that when the two leaders spoke by phone, “Trump suggested to have the first meeting in Washington, in the White House,” calling it a “quite interesting and positive idea.”

Ushakov voiced hope that tensions resulting from the diplomatic expulsions wouldn’t derail discussions about a summit.

Trump has said maintaining a strong personal relationship with Putin is in the U.S. interest and has signalled to allies that he trusts his own instincts in dealing with the Russian president.

A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe private discussions, said Trump raised the possibility of a White House meeting in a “casual, open-ended” fashion during the call. The official reiterated that no extensive preparations had taken place.

Talk of a White House summit comes as Trump is preparing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at an undetermined location. White House welcomes are typically reserved for friends and allies.

Trump has avoided criticizing Putin personally even as his administration has crossed Moscow by providing Ukraine with lethal weapons and upholding Obama-era sanctions against Russia and its shuttering of diplomatic outposts.

Michael McFaul, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Russia under President Barack Obama, said the “symbolism of Putin standing in the East Room with the president at a news conference” would be a major goal for the Russian leader. “The only reason you should do it is if you’re going to obtain a concrete objective that serves America’s national security interest before the meeting,” he said.

McFaul said he feared that Trump “thinks that a good meeting with Putin is the objective of his foreign policy with Russia. That should never be the objective. That should be the means to achieve things that are actually of importance to the United States.”

Related: McMaster out, Bolton in as Trump’s national security adviser

Trump had already fallen under sharp criticism from some Republican lawmakers for congratulating Putin on his re-election during the call and for not raising the ex-spy’s poisoning. The fact that Trump also extended a White House invitation during that call was likely to increase concerns that Trump, when in direct contact with Putin, is inclined to offer olive branches and reluctant to raise difficult issues.

“I worry that Trump wittingly or unwittingly may be sending a more positive signal to Putin than he deserves,” said Nicholas Burns, a top State Department official during the Bush administration who also served as U.S. ambassador to NATO.

Russia’s disclosure of the invitation came the day before the leaders of three Baltic countries — Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia — were to visit the White House. The three NATO nations are seen as a bulwark against Russia’s aspirations of extended influence west of its border.

Trump has met Putin twice as president, at the Group of 20 summit in Germany last summer and briefly at the Asia-Pacific economic summit in Vietnam in November.

Putin, who was president of Russia once before, visited the White House in 2005, when Bush welcomed him in the East Room as “my friend.”

Putin has been to other parts of the U.S. frequently in recent years, including a visit to the Bush family compound in Maine. Putin’s meetings with Obama occurred at international summits and along the sidelines of the United Nations gathering in New York.

Obama met Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the White House in 2010, when the pair also chowed down on burgers at a popular hamburger joint outside the capital.

__

Associated Press writers Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Josh Lederman in Washington contributed to this report.

Ken Thomas, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Okanagan Wildfires: The latest on wildfires and evacuations

A Saturday morning look at the major wildfires impact the Okanagan and Similkameen.

Revelstoke Art Gallery hosts exhibition in honour of Pat Wells

Barbara Maye Special to the Review Stone Carving and Revelstoke have a… Continue reading

Wildfires in Mt. Revelstoke National Park not currently a threat to people or assets

Since the lightning storm on Tuesday there have been three fires on… Continue reading

UPDATE: Revelstoke RCMP looking for information on missing person John Cunliffe

The Revelstoke Royal Canadian Mounted Police Detachment is continuing to ask for… Continue reading

UPDATED: Mount Eneas fire grows to 1,374 hectares

Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen issues evac alerts for properties in Area F.

Victoria woman recounts driving past wildfire near Peachland

Jenna Smith compared the fire to an apocalypse movie

Race walker breaks 18-year-old BC Games record

Zone 6 athlete Olivia Lundman crossed finish line with ease, to loud cheers in Cowichan

PHOTO GALLERY: BC Games Day 2

A brief look at action from the 2018 BC Summer Games in the Cowichan Valley

Wildfire near Keremeos still burning at 255 hectares

The Placer Mountain wildfire is still active

Sheryl Crow hits West Kelowna for Mission Hill Winery concert

Songstress seems struck by the natural beauty of the Okanagan

2017 wildfires give B.C. mom chance to say thank you to officer who saved her son

An unlikely encounter in the rural community of Likely, near Williams Lake

UPDATED: Kinder Morgan pipeline protesters defy eviction order

Demonstrators at Camp Cloud in Burnaby say they won’t leave, but will meet with city officials

B.C. tent city camper arrested for taking coins from fountain

The man, who built a shelter at a Saanich park, says homeless people are unfairly targeted

Ex-Raptor DeMar DeRozan says goodbye to Toronto on Instagram

The guard was traded to the San Antonio Spurs earlier this week for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green

Most Read