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Putin wants to meet Trump and discuss dangers of arms race

Sheetal Sukhija - Monday 11th June, 2018

QINGDAO, China - A week after blaming America’s “fierce domestic politics” for the delay in planning a meeting with the U.S. President Donald Trump, the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin has now called for face-to-face talks.

Speaking to reporters at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit in Qingdao, China, Putin said that he was ready for a face-to-face meeting with Trump, to discuss the dangers of a new arms race.

The Russian President also pointed out that Trump had called for such a meeting several times and had reportedly expressed his concerns on the issue, including in their most recent phone call.

Putin added, "I agree with him, and to have a meaningful discussion, our ministries of foreign affairs and experts should get involved and work closely together, and of course a meeting in person is necessary.”  

Last week, even as the U.S. was preparing for Trump’s historic summit with the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, reports had confirmed that a possible Trump-Putin meeting was in the works. 

It was also revealed that the White House had been making plans for Trump’s possible summit with the Russian President.

Reports also stated that while the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman had been in Washington to work on plans to organize the meeting between the two world leaders, a date or location had not been set so far.

Meanwhile, Putin added on Sunday, "As soon as the U.S. side is ready, this meeting shall take place, of course, fitting my working schedule. We did not discuss a specific location but many countries offer their support, including Austria.”

The Russian President visited Austria last week, following which, the Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that in their most recent phone call, Trump and Putin had discussed “the need for such a meeting” and the possibility that it could take place in the Austrian capital.

Readouts distributed by the White House show that Trump and Putin have spoken by phone eight time and the two leaders held a telephonic conversation last on March 20.

If the meeting eventually takes place, it would be the third meeting between the leaders.

Previously, Trump and Putin met on the sidelines of Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, in July last year.

They again met in Vietnam during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November last year.

Months later, in March this year, during a phone call made by Trump to congratulate Putin on his predictable presidential win, the U.S. President had extended an invitation to Putin to visit Washington.

After the phone call, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed that the two presidents had discussed “a bilateral meeting in the ‘not-too-distant future’ at a number of potential venues, including the White House.”

However, the call was overshadowed  by the criticism Trump drew for making the controversial congratulatory call despite several international experts pointing out that Putin was re-elected due to harsh crackdowns on rivals and dissidents. 

Further, it was revealed that Trump made the phone call to the Russian President, despite opposition from his own security officials.

At the time, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) slammed Trump and said, “An American president does not lead the Free World, by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections.”

Last week, in an interview with the Austrian broadcaster ORF, Putin was asked why a meeting with Trump hasn’t taken place despite plans being discussed more than two months back, and reportedly said, “You have to ask our colleagues in the U.S.A. In my view it is the consequence of the fierce domestic political contest in the United States.”

However, with Trump trying to score a breakthrough with North Korea and also making efforts to reset U.S. trade ties globally - his plans to strengthen ties with Russia - which was one of his key campaign vows - has taken a back seat.

Instead, the already tense relations with Russia have only worsened in the last few months, especially after the U.K. blamed Russia for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Salisbury - a claim which led to U.S. expelling Russian diplomats in solidarity with its close ally, Britain.

At the same time, concerns over a global arms race continue to intensify and despite both the leaders expressing the need to discuss the dangers - the meeting hasn’t taken shape yet.

In key speeches, Putin has strategically touted the new nuclear weapons Russia possesses - especially during his most recent speech in March.

To tout Russia’s new firepower, during the speech, Putin even used a concept video showing Russia’s unlimited range nuclear warheads that were seen to be raining down on Florida.

Similarly, Trump too has openly boasted about U.S. nuclear capabilities several times. 

In April, after Trump warned Russia that it should "get ready" for a U.S. missile strike on Syria, Russia threatened to shoot down any U.S. missiles fired at Syria, whose leader Bashar Al Assad has received Putin’s backing in the war against militants and rebels, 

The Syrian war has been the cause of conflict between Washington and Moscow.

Recently, the Russian leader said that he had previously discussed with Trump, their shared concern regarding a “new arms race,” which has been a common ground for the two men.

Putin said, “In one of our last discussions, Donald said he is concerned about the danger of a new arms race. I agree with him entirely.”

Experts have said that if a Trump-Putin summit does take place, it is set to feature talks not just on the civil war in Syria, but also on Russia's military intervention in eastern Ukraine.

However, the prospective meeting would prove to be a challenge for Trump, who continues to remain the subject of a criminal investigation being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, into Russia's role in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election and whether Trump's campaign colluded with Moscow.

Meanwhile, Putin also acknowledged Trump’s recent appeal for Russia to be allowed to rejoin the group of the most powerful industrialized nations of the world, the G7.

Trump told reporters over the weekend, "I think it would be an asset to have Russia back in. I think it would be good for the world. I think it would be good for Russia. I think it would be good the United States. I think it would be good for all of the countries of the current G7. I think the G8 would be better."

In 2014, Russia was suspended from the group, then called G8, after it annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.

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