Vladimir Putin won’t be dropping by the White House in the fall. National Security Adviser John Bolton said in a statement Wednesday that President Donald Trump now believes that a follow-up meeting between himself and the Russian leader “should take place after the Russia witch hunt is over, so we’ve agreed that it will be after the first of the year.” It’s not exactly clear why he believes the “witch hunt” will be over by then.
The Helsinki summit last week wasn’t exactly a political winner for Trump. More than half of American voters now believe the Russian government has compromising information about him. So it may be that Trump’s advisers talked him out of a sequel. But the real reason for the postponement may be that Putin wasn’t into the idea.
Last week, Trump asked Bolton to invite Putin to Washington in the fall, but the Russians were coy about the idea, as Reuters reported Tuesday, with Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov saying that no preparations for a visit were under way and that there would be “other options” for the two leaders to meet, including on the sidelines of an upcoming G-20 meeting in Argentina.
The wariness makes some sense. Putin more or less got what he wanted out of Helsinki, and there’s probably not much more he’d gain by going to Washington, where he’d be in the middle of a partisan fight and face much larger protests than he did in Helsinki.
Ushakov also hinted that the Kremlin has been taken aback by the negative reaction to the summit in the international media, saying, “After the summit you know what kind of atmosphere there is around its outcome. I think it would be wise to let the dust settle and then we can discuss all these questions in a business-like way. But not now.”
Even the Russians, it seems, thought that summit was a little much.