U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton: Direct communication between Trump and Putin is in the interests of peace and security around the world
U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton visited Moscow on June 27 to lay the groundwork for the first full-fledged meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump.
Photo: US Embassy Press Service
While in Moscow, Bolton was received by Putin and held meetings with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Security Council First Deputy Secretary Yury Averyanov.
Bolton told Russian and foreign journalists about the results of his visit to Russia during a press conference at Interfax‘s main office.
|Thank you all very much for being here. I want to thank Interfax again for hosting. It‘s been 14 years, by my calculation, since I‘ve been in this room, but I‘m glad to be back.|
"[U.S.] President Trump asked me to come and speak to Russian authorities about the possibility of a meeting between him and President Putin," Bolton said.
Trump believes that his meeting with Putin will benefit both countries and help strengthen peace worldwide, despite all of the political noise, he said.
"A lot of the president‘s critics have tried to make political capital out of theories and suppositions that have turned out to be completely erroneous," Bolton said.
"But I think the president determined that despite the political noise in the United States, that direct communication between him and President Putin was in the interests of the United States, in the interests of Russia, and in the interests of peace and security around the world," he said.
Photo: US Embassy Press Service
Nothing unusual about meeting of Russia and U.S. leaders
There‘s nothing unusual about the upcoming meeting; both leaders believe it is important to discuss issues of mutual concern, Bolton said.
"Both President Trump and President Putin feel that it‘s important for these two leaders of these two critically important countries to get together and discuss their mutual problems and areas of cooperation. It‘s something that I think both feel will contribute to improvements in the US-Russia bilateral relationship and in stability around the world," he said.
He pointed out that over the past year, Trump met with the leaders of the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Greece, Finland, Austria, and other countries, and Putin had meetings with many European leaders.
Bolton described the Kremlin‘s reported ties to Trump‘s electoral campaign as nonsense.
"Well, I think a lot of people have said or implied over time that a meeting between President Trump and President Putin would somehow prove some nexus between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, which is complete nonsense. But I don‘t think that‘s been helpful and as I say, I think the president recognizes that there may be some criticism of this decision to have the meeting," he said.
The Trump administration is not paying attention to "political criticism at home" over the upcoming summit, he said.
"But what must guide his conduct of American foreign policy is the pursuit of American national interest. And he judges – correctly, in my view – that this bilateral summit between himself and President Putin is something that he needs to do," Bolton said.
Photo: US Embassy Press Service
Trump to raise all pressing issues at meeting with Putin
At the meeting, Trump will raise every pressing issue in relations between the two countries, including the situation surrounding Crimea, the MH17 crash investigation, Russia‘s alleged interference in the U.S. election, and the state of affairs in Syria, Bolton said.
"I think he‘s going to raise the full range of issues between the two countries," he said.
Other topics could include strategic stability, arms control, including New START and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and missile defense problems, Bolton said.
Trump may revisit the issue of returning Russia to the G7, he said.
"I can say today we didn‘t discuss the G7/G8 idea, but I don‘t exclude that the two leaders could talk about it when they meet," he said.
The United States‘ position on Crimea and the need to maintain anti-Russian sanctions remains unchanged, according to Bolton.
"That‘s not the position of the United States," he said when asked whether Washington recognizes Crimea‘s accession to Russia.
"Well, the subject of the sanctions did come up in the meeting with the [Italian] Prime Minister [Giuseppe Conte] yesterday, and I told him that the U.S. position remained that the sanctions should stay in place," Bolton said.
Photo: US Embassy Press Service
Washington doesn‘t expect concrete results fr om summit but doesn‘t rule them out
Washington does not expect specific results from the summit; the mere fact that high-level negotiations will take place is important, Bolton said.
"I don‘t think we expect necessarily specific outcomes or decisions. I think it‘s important after the length of time that‘s gone by without a bilateral summit like this," he said.
However, Bolton did not rule out that specific agreements could still be reached following the summit. "I think the fact of the summit itself is a deliverable, and I don‘t exclude that they will reach concrete agreements," he said.
"There are a lot of issues to talk about," he said.
The presidents could meet "either in the one-on-one or the expanded" format, he said.
"We‘ll follow their lead after that discussion takes place," Bolton said, replying to a question as to whether the matters of arms control, including with respect to New START and the INF Treaty, were discussed during his meetings in Moscow and if Washington expects specific decisions on issues in this sphere to be adopted at the summit.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will hold a preparatory meeting ahead of the summit between the presidents, Bolton said.
"So there will be other preparatory meetings. I don‘t doubt that Mike Pompeo and Sergei Lavrov will get together, and I would expect there‘d be other preparatory meetings as well," he said.
Full transcript of Bolton‘s press conference John Bolton: Thank you all very much for being here. I want to thank Interfax again for hosting. It‘s been 14 years by my calculation since I‘ve been in this room but I‘m glad to be back. I‘ve been here in Moscow today with Ambassador [Jon] Huntsman and our colleagues. We‘ve had a series of meetings with senior Russian officials from their National Security Council with Sergei Lavrov the foreign minister, with Yuri Yushakov, the presidential aide for international affairs, and obviously, most importantly with President [Vladimir] Putin. We had wide ranging discussions during the course of the day, about really all the issues common to the United States and Russia. President [Donald] Trump asked me to come and speak to Russian authorities about the possibility of a meeting between him and President Putin, and there will be an announcement on that tomorrow simultaneously in Moscow and Washington on the date and the time of that meeting. And with any luck I won‘t give away either of those pieces of information today, so that the Kremlin and the White House can announcement them tomorrow. And I should also say that I was pleased to be able to meet with Gianni Infantino, the FIFA president, to discuss the U.S., Canada and Mexico hosting the 2026 World Cup just to get an early jump on our preparations. And so with that I would be happy to answer your questions. Question: Are you sure they have given you a multiple entry Russian visa. I mean it would be nice to hold a summit on the day of the final [of the FIFA World Cup]. Using the football terminology, there have been a lot of offside traps and controversial penalty kicks in the relationship. What has impeded it? Answer: Both President Trump and President Putin feel that it‘s important for these two leaders of these two critically important countries to get together and discuss their mutual problems and areas of cooperation. It‘s something that I think both feel will contribute to improvements in the U.S.-Russia bilateral relationship and in stability around the world. I don‘t think it‘s anything unusual for President Trump and President Putin to meet. If you just look at meetings in the past year, the leaders of the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Greece, Finland, Austria, Belgium, and Italy have all had bilateral meetings with President Putin. So just taking Europe as an example, many many leaders of Europe have met with President Putin in this kind of context, and I think that President Trump felt and President Putin agreed that now is the time for the two of them to get together. Q.: A year ago when President Trump met President Putin in Germany, President Putin denied to Trump that Russia had interfered in the U.S. election. After that your wrote an article for the Daily Telegraph calling the Russian election interference a true act of war. You said that the episode in Germany was an instance of Putin lying to Trump and you said that it showed the perils of negotiating with today‘s Russia. Today, after your meeting with President Putin, your counterpart Yury Ushakov told us that the election inference did come up briefly at the meeting with President Putin today and that the Russia side denied having ever interfered or interfering in the U.S. domestic politics. I‘m wondering how you have reacted to that, whether you would say as you did back then that it was the instance of Putin lying and whether it still shows the perils of negotiations with Russia. A.: Well, I appreciate all this research into my prior writings, and as I‘ve said many times in Washington, I‘m now happy to say for the first time in Moscow, I don‘t really address what I‘ve written in the past or what I‘ve said on television; it‘s all out there. Right now, I‘m an advisor to President Trump; it‘s his agenda that we‘re pursuing, and that‘s the agenda I intend to advance. We did indeed talk about the Russian interference in the elections and I expect it will be a subject of conversation between the two presidents as well. Q.: Mr. Ambassador, I would like to hear about any specific results that you expect from the meeting of the two presidents, specifically in the areas of arms control, continuation of the New START Treaty and the INF Treaty? A.: Well we certainly discussed these issues today and in the various meetings that I had. The purpose today was not to reach any conclusions but to help lay the basis for the conversation between the two presidents. I expect that between them, they will proceed along the issues that they regard as most important. But I don‘t think we expect necessarily specific outcomes or decisions. I think it‘s important after the length of time that’s gone by without a bilateral summit like this to allow them to cover all the issues that they choose; either in the one-on-one or the expanded meeting and we‘ll follow their lead after that discussion takes place. Q.: Will there be another preparatory meeting between the foreign ministers before the summit? And on the summit itself, you have just said that you don‘t expect any real deliverables. So how would you judge the success of the summit? And the last but certainly not the least question, when will you return the illegally seized Russia‘s diplomatic property? A.: Well we‘re off to a great start... I think the fact of the summit itself is a deliverable, and I don’t exclude that they will reach concrete agreements, but there are a lot of issues to talk about, that have accumulated, and I think it was one of the reasons why President Trump believes so strongly that it was time to have this kind of meeting and as you can see, President Putin agreed. So there will be other preparatory meetings. I don‘t doubt that Mike Pompeo and Sergei Lavrov will get together and I would expect there‘d be other preparatory meetings as well. Q.: And what about the seized diplomatic property? A.: The premise of your question is wrong since they were not illegally seized. Q.: Mr. Bolton, why do you think it is appropriate for the U.S. president to have a summit meeting with Vladimir Putin given that Russia has not changed any of the behavior for which it had been sanctioned? And also  meeting that you said you discuss mutual problems, what about issues of the annexation of Crimea, the war in Syria, the downing of MH17, meddling in the U.S. election that you yourself described as an act of war, will that be discussed substantively as well or will it brushed aside? A.: You know, I love the first amendment even here in Moscow. The fact is, that it‘s important for the leaders of these two countries to meet. There are a wide range of issues despite the differences between us, wh ere both President Trump and President Putin think they‘ll be able to find constructive solutions. I‘d like to hear someone say that‘s a bad idea. Q.:  bad idea, you said this is a national security policy based on the  of regimes like Russia will honor their commitments is doomed to failure, have you changed your mind? A.: Well as I said a few moments ago; perhaps you didn‘t hear me; I don‘t address what I‘ve said before. It‘s out there, it‘s in writing; you‘re free to comment on it. But I‘d spend a lot of time recapitulating my past remarks if all of the thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, of words that I‘ve written and spoken over the years were read back to me. I always appreciate hearing them, don‘t get me wrong, but that‘s not my job. Q.: But will Mr. Trump raise the issues that I mentioned? A.: I think he‘s going to raise the full range of issues between the two countries, absolutely. Q.: During the recent G7 meeting in Canada there was a statement by President Trump that he would welcome President Putin and in Russia back into G7 or G8. Also we have heard that at a dinner later at G7 President Trump to Crimea as Russia territory, because people speak Russian there but we have not heard any official confirmation of these spoken words. Could you confirm that these words were officially spoken? A.: No, and I can say today we didn‘t discuss the G7/G8 idea, but I don‘t exclude that the two leaders could talk about it when they meet. Q.: As we know in September there will be the Eastern Economic Forum held in Vladivostok. Kim Jong Un is planning to attend the forum, at least he is invited to take part, the U.S. delegation is going to be there. Are there any plans for President Trump may be to attend? A.: I don’t know the answer to that, it‘s possible, but I do expect that following on to the meeting in Singapore that discussions with North Korea on the denuclearization of North Korea are going to proceed quickly; at least that’s our hope and expectation. Q.: What are the main reasons preventing the summit between President Trump and President Putin? What are the insurmountable impediments? And my second question. Do have any cultural activities in Moscow, maybe today or tomorrow? A.: Well the second question is easy. I get up in the morning, I go to work and I go home at night. That‘s all I do. Look, I think there were a number of issues raised in connection with the possible summit; a lot of the president‘s critics have tried to make political capital out of theories and suppositions that have turned out to be completely erroneous, but I think the president determined that despite the political noise in the United States, that direct communication between him and President Putin was in the interests of the United States, in the interests of Russia, and in the interests of peace and security around the world. So there may be a certain element of criticism from some in the United States but I think the president believes he‘s acting in the best interests of our country despite that, that’s why he wants to this. Q.: You have been treated with greater respect during your stay here, then the Pope, Queen Elizabeth II, Angela Merkel and other world leaders, President Putin was on time for the meeting. Does that not make you slightly suspicious that President Putin is trying to do everything to please you and what is more importantly President Trump? A.: You know that‘s the hardest question I‘ve been asked here today. I could either agree with you that he wasn‘t delayed, or I could tell you when he actually arrived and be accused of saying that he was late. And meaning no disrespect to the Pope or anybody else you mentioned I think I‘ll just duck the question. Q.: Will President Trump recognize Russia‘s annexation of Crimea? A.: That‘s not the position of the United States. Q.: Yesterday you were in Rome and had consultations with Prime Minister [Giuseppe] Conte. Today the leading group in the parliament passed a resolution asking the Italian government to ease and probably reconfigure the EU sanctions against Russia. My first question is, are you aware of that? Is it happening so to speak with the blessing of the White House? And secondly, may the easing of sanctions be a concrete result of the summit between Trump and Putin? A.: Well, the subject of the sanctions did come up in the meeting with the prime minister yesterday, and I told him that the U.S. position remained that the sanctions should stay in place. The issue obviously arises in the context of the European Council meeting on Thursday and Friday but I reiterated what the U.S.‘ position was. Q.: You were also a member of the Bush administration in which your formulated the policy and you are instrumental in the U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, which is seen in Moscow as a kind of a watershed moment in the deterioration of relations. Yury Ushakov said that the issue of arms control also came up. I am curious what you discussed and did President Putin bring up the issue of the ABM Treaty? A.: Yes, we did discuss the ABM Treaty, and a number of other arms control issues, and I‘m sure many of these will come up in the meeting between the two presidents. I think our position remains clear and is exemplified by President Trump‘s budget request for a significant increase in funding for national missile defense capabilities for the United States which congress approved in substantial part. Q.: Mr. Ambassador, we have heard that domestic political issues and problems between the parties in the U.S. prevent effective relationship between Russia and the United States. Do you agree with that or not? A.: Well, I think a lot of people have said or implied over time that a meeting between President Trump and President Putin would somehow prove some nexus between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, which is complete nonsense. But I don‘t think that‘s been helpful and as I say, I think the president recognizes that there may be some criticism of this decision to have the meeting; you‘ve heard some of it here today. But what must guide his conduct of American foreign policy is the pursuit of American national interest. And he judges correctly in my view that this bilateral summit between himself and President Putin is something that he needs to do, regardless of political criticism at home.