World News

Putin Invites Trump to Moscow for Second Meeting After Washington Postponed Plans

Posted July 27, 2018 8:30 p.m. EDT

MOSCOW — Just two days after the White House postponed plans to have President Vladimir Putin of Russia visit Washington in the fall, the Russian leader said Friday that he had invited President Donald Trump to visit him in Moscow.

Praising Trump as a leader “who seeks to keep his promises,” Putin continued to push for a second summit, although their first, this month, generated intense criticism of his U.S. counterpart. Putin said he was ready to meet either in Washington or Moscow, adding that he had already told Trump that he had an invitation to visit the Russian capital.

The White House quickly responded favorably to the idea.

“President Trump looks forward to having President Putin to Washington after the first of the year, and he is open to visiting Moscow upon receiving a formal invitation,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, told reporters.

The Kremlin released a transcript of Putin’s comments, made at a news conference in Johannesburg at the end of a visit to South Africa.

While cautioning that “conditions have to be provided” for a follow-up to their July 16 summit in Helsinki, Putin said that Trump “has a wish to hold further meetings, and I am ready for that.”

Unlike Trump, who came under heavy fire from critics at home for what many viewed as his fawning behavior in Finland, Putin has won only praise in Russia for the meeting, which the foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, described as “better than super.”

The White House said last week that Trump would invite Putin to visit Washington in the fall — news that surprised even some of his top advisers. But Wednesday, U.S. officials said the plan had been postponed until after the investigation of the special counsel, Robert Mueller, had concluded.

Referring to U.S. backlash against Trump over his performance in Helsinki, Putin said that political turbulence in the United States would not derail contacts between the two leaders.

“Despite the difficulties, in this particular case, difficulties linked to the internal political situation in the United States, life goes on and our contacts continue,” he said.

Putin’s remarks reaffirmed what have long been articles of faith for Russia’s political elite: that Trump is eager to deliver on his campaign promise to “get along with Russia” and that he has only been held back by the machinations of his political enemies and a “deep state” cabal of spies, Obama-era holdovers and Russia-fearing Cold Warriors.

The summit in Helsinki, however, seems to have raised the Kremlin’s hopes that Trump will stand by his repeated pledges to improve relations with Moscow, despite a series of tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats and a raft of new sanctions imposed on Russia since Trump took office.

“It is a great virtue of President Trump that he seeks to keep his promises, first of all those given to voters,” Putin said. “As for our meetings, they are useful, I think.”

Trump stirred fury among his opponents and also among some Republican lawmakers for suggesting in Helsinki that he trusted Putin’s denials of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election over the conclusions of his own intelligence community.

In what some interpreted as an act of defiance toward his critics, Trump revealed unexpectedly that he planned to invite Putin to Washington for a follow-up meeting in the fall. But less than a week later, the White House said it had postponed the plan, and that Putin would not visit while Mueller’s investigation was underway.

Addressing the delay, the U.S. national security adviser, John R. Bolton, said in a statement Wednesday that Trump had decided “the next bilateral meeting with President Putin should take place after the Russia witch hunt is over so we’ve agreed that it will be after the first of the year.”

Putin did not specify Friday when he had told Trump about the invitation to Moscow, which he announced at the end of a summit for the so-called BRICS nations — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

It was a characteristic piece of political theater by a leader who is always eager to show that Russia has many irons in the fire other than United States, and who never wants to appear to be a supplicant to Washington.