MOSCOW – U.S. President Donald Trump didn’t just propose a summit meeting to Vladimir Putin when he called the Russian leader last month. He invited him to the White House, according to the Kremlin.
“When our presidents spoke on the phone, Trump suggested having the meeting in Washington at the White House,” Kremlin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters on Monday. “This is quite an interesting, positive idea.”
The two sides have had no preparatory discussions since the March 20 call because of their tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats over the poisoning of a former spy in the U.K., Ushakov said. “I hope the Americans won’t abandon their proposal to discuss the possibility of holding the summit,” he said.
The prospect of Putin visiting Washington is likely to sharpen divisions in the U.S. over relations with Russia amid continued tensions regarding alleged Kremlin meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. Russia denies meddling. Trump won bipartisan praise in Congress for ordering the expulsion last week of 60 Russian diplomats regarded as spies, the most since 1986, in a display of unity with Europe after the U.K. blamed Putin’s government for the March 4 nerve-agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal in England.
While Trump and Putin ordered summit preparations to begin after their phone call, the expulsions meant “there was no time for discussion and there wasn’t even anyone to discuss it with,” Ushakov said. The Kremlin hopes the U.S. has now stopped its actions against Russia so that “serious and constructive dialogue” can start, he said.