WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will meet next week with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, the White House national security adviser said on Thursday, announcing highly anticipated talks that come amid escalating tensions over Moscow’s interference in the 2016 election and a series of investigations into whether Trump’s associates colluded with Russia.
The White House would not say whether Trump plans to press Putin on the issue of Russia’s meddling in last year’s election — a topic the president has avoided talking about despite deep concern inside his own administration and on Capitol Hill. The meeting between the two presidents will occur on the sidelines of the Group of 20 economic summit in Hamburg, Germany.
“There’s no specific agenda — it’s really going to be whatever the president wants to talk about,” said Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the president’s national security adviser.
The meeting will be the first face-to-face discussion with Putin since Trump took office, and comes as congressional committees and a special counsel are digging more deeply into possible ties between the president’s campaign and Moscow.
While his administration has sought to develop friendlier ties with Russia, the relationship is under continued strain over Moscow’s seizure of Crimea and interference in Ukraine, as well as recent revelations about the extent to which Putin directed cyber intrusions into the 2016 election.
McMaster said the president’s aims would be to confront “Russia’s destabilizing behavior,” whether through cyber threats or political subversion, and to deter it, saying, “nobody wants a major power war.” He also said Trump wants to try to identify potential areas of cooperation with Russia.