U.S. President Donald Trump is set to hold the first summit of his presidency with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 16 in Helsinki, the White House said Thursday.
In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the leaders would meet to discuss relations between their two nations and a “range of national security issues.”
The Kremlin, which announced the details of the meeting at the same time as the White House, said the meeting would discuss “the state and future outlook for developing Russian-American relations, as well as topical international issues.”
Before meeting with Mr. Putin, the U.S. president is scheduled to attend a North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit next month in Brussels and is also planning to visit the U.K.Mr. Trump met twice with Mr. Putin last year on the sidelines of international conferences, but has yet to take part in a formal summit meeting with the Russian leader.
On Wednesday, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton met with Mr. Putin in Moscow at Mr. Trump’s request to broker a meeting between the two leaders.
A U.S. congressional delegation will arrive Saturday in Russia and is expected to meet with Russian lawmakers in Moscow next week, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Thursday.
The delegation of U.S. senators and congressmen will be headed by Sen. Richard Shelby, the foreign ministry said. They will visit Moscow and St. Petersburg and meet with their counterparts in Russia’s congress, as well as other foreign policy officials.
“I hope this visit will give an impulse to restarting inter-parliamentary exchange between our countries,” the foreign ministry spokeswoman said.
Mr. Trump’s meeting with Mr. Putin is likely to draw scrutiny. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether Trump associates colluded with Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election. Mr. Trump has denied collusion, and Moscow has denied election meddling.
Mr. Trump has also repeatedly expressed skepticism about U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Moscow sought to meddle in the 2016 election. On Thursday morning, he tweeted: “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!”
Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which also investigated Trump associates’ ties to Russia, in a statement Thursday called for the president to “confront” Mr. Putin about Russia’s election meddling. He added: “But instead, I fear that this summit will prove to be another blow to NATO and our allies, and a gift to the Kremlin.”
Top Russian officials cautioned against expecting any breakthroughs from the Helsinki meeting. “In our relations with the U.S. we have reached such bottom that we can only go up from here. To go any lower would be to clash militarily, which for two nuclear powers would mean mutual destruction,” the head of the Russian Senate’s foreign relations committee, Konstantin Kosachev, wrote on his blog Thursday. “However, there shouldn’t be any illusions about the possibility of results [of the meeting] at this stage.”
Mr. Kosachev said progress is most likely to be made on issues of equal importance to both sides, such as international terrorism, disarmament and conflict in the Middle East.
Meeting Mr. Putin last year on the sidelines of a G-20 summit in Germany, Mr. Trump voiced concerns about Russian interference in the election, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at the time. Mr. Putin, during a two-hour meeting that lasted twice as long as planned, denied any involvement.
On Air Force One, Mr. Trump later said of Mr. Putin: “He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times.”
Since Mr. Trump took office, the U.S. has heightened sanctions on Russia over its interference in the 2016 presidential elections and its alleged role in the nerve-agent poisoning of an ex-spy and his daughter in the U.K. in March, including expulsions of diplomats and restrictions on some Russian companies and tycoons. Russia has hit back with its own diplomatic expulsions.
At the same time, Mr. Trump has frequently expressed an interest in working with Mr. Putin on a range of international crises, particularly Syria.
Mr. Trump this month suggested that Russia should be allowed back into the Group of Seven industrialized nations. Russia was kicked out of the group after its invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014.