Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied that Donald Trump can secure concessions on key issues by dangling the prospect of a new one-to-one meeting, but reiterated that Moscow is ready for fresh talks.
The US president has repeatedly insisted that he will speak face-to-face with Putin at the G20 summit in Osaka next week, and US National Security Advisor John Bolton confirmed on Sunday that Trump was “looking forward to it.”
However, the Kremlin says that the White House has not finalized its diplomatic request, and Putin was asked on TV whether Trump is using the uncertainty as an opportunity to “steamroll” Russia into softening its positions on Iran and Venezuela.
“I don’t think anyone is trying to steamroll us on anything – they must understand that is a far-fetched possibility. But we do need the dialogue,” Putin told Russian channel NTV.
He nonetheless repeated Moscow’s position that it will not make the first move, particularly after Trump called off a scheduled sideline summit at the G20 in Argentina last year.
“As soon as they are ready to talk, we will happily develop our relations,” said Putin.
In a follow-up question, the Russian president said that it is “up to [the US] to decide if they want to grow relations with Russia or not.”
In addition to the simmering issue of alleged Russian election interference in the US, the two powers are also engaged in two flaring proxy disagreements. The first is in Venezuela, where Washington is helping to topple Nicolas Maduro, who is a close ally of Moscow. The second is in Iran, where Putin has said that any armed intervention by the West would be a “catastrophe.”
Nonetheless, Putin was also prepared to give Trump customary leeway over the domestic pressures he faces, particularly in any dealings with Russia.
“We can see that the system is built in such a way that many things that Trump wants to do, he is unable to. Though, of course, much also depends on [the administration’s] political will,” he said.
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