John Bolton heads to Moscow to discuss Trump-Putin meeting - and possible World Cup visit

27 june 2018

Alec Luhn - Russia correspondent for The Telegraph

Resume: Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton is travelling to Moscow to discuss a meeting between the US president and Vladimir Putin that could coincide with the World Cup final.

The timing of the summit has raised questions about whether Mr Trump, who bragged this month about bringing the 2026 World Cup to North America, could defy expectations and visit the Russian capital for the denouement of the 2018 tournament.

Benjamin Netanyahu is also considering coming to the game, and Mahmoud Abbas has already accepted an invitation from Mr Putin to attend, raising the possibility of an Israeli-Palestinian summit at the international sporting event.

Mr Bolton will meet with foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Wednesday, the Russian side said this week.

State news agency TASS said the pair would “hold consultations about the potential meeting between the American and Russian presidents”.

Garrett Marquis, a special assistant to the president and Mr Bolton's former spokesman, tweeted last week that the national security adviser would head to the Russian capital after London and Rome to discuss a meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Putin.

Any summit is expected to happen when Mr Trump travels to Europe in July. He will attend a Nato summit in Brussels on July 11-12, where discussions may be strained by his decision to impose tariffs on Canada, Mexico and the European Union, all major trade and security partners of the United States.

Then on July 13 he will begin his long-delayed visit to the UK and stay until at least the next day, holding talks with Theresa May and meeting the Queen at Windsor Castle.

The World Cup final is on July 15 at Moscow's Luzhniki stadium, the main venue of the 1980 Olympic Games, which the United States boycotted.

The timing of the championship match after Mr Trump's UK visit has led to rumours that he could meet with Mr Putin on that day and perhaps even come to Moscow for the game.

The US president has been basking in football-related goodwill after Fifa awarded the 2026 World Cup to a combined bid from the United States, Mexico and Canada on June 13.

Asked earlier this month whether Mr Trump would come to the World Cup, Mr Putin's spokesman said the Russian president “would be glad to see all guests here in Moscow and certainly this concerns the guests from the United States at the highest level”.

A source in the Kremlin told The Telegraph on Tuesday that the information that the US president might attend the World Cup final was “distorted” and “not accurate”, but admitted that several issues were being discussed with Washington via diplomatic channels.

“I think this is possible, Mr Trump is person who is able to defy expectations,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, a leading foreign policy analyst in Moscow, “but to come to Moscow to meet the person they have been accusing him of colluding with for a year and a half, to demonstrate powerful political support for him, to come to a World Cup which his allies sought to boycott, even weakly, well no, it's too much.”

Mr Lukyanov said the two leaders would probably meet on neutral ground in Vienna and discuss trying to restart cooperation on nuclear arms control.

Recent reports have said the White House was considering the Austrian capital for the summit.

Mr Trump, who has long called for better ties with Russia, met Mr Putin in November when the two were in Vietnam for an Asia-Pacific summit.

Mr Netanyahu is considering attending the World Cup final if security requirements are met, according to Israeli reports this week. The Palestinian ambassador to Moscow has already confirmed Mr Abbas's attendance.

Emmanuel Macron said after his meeting with Mr Putin at the St Petersburg economic forum in May he would come to Russia if France reach the semi-finals.

While top officials including the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, who watched with Mr Putin and Fifa head Gianni Infantino as Russia beat his country's side 5-0 in the opening match, have visited Russia since start of the World Cup, major Western leaders have shied away.

UK ministers and royal family members are boycotting the event in the wake of the Salisbury poisoning.

The Telegraph

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