United States Donald Trump reportedly wants to hold a bilateral meeting with Vladimir Putin, despite caution from several officials in his administration.
Both Mr Trump and Mr Putin are expected to attend a multinational summit next month in Germany.
While the US President is eager for a meeting with all the diplomatic trimmings, calling for media access and all the typical protocol associated with such engagements, many officials from the State Department and the National Security Council reportedly believe it would be better for the two to maintain their distance in the midst of probes into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election.
Jeh Johnson, Homeland Security Secretary under Barack Obama, said last week that the Russian President directed the cyber attacks aimed at disrupting and discrediting the US’s presidential race. Congressional and federal investigators are also probing whether Trump campaign officials colluded with Russian operatives.
Some advisers have reportedly suggested that instead of having a full bilateral meeting, Mr Trump and Mr Putin should do either a short, informal “pull-aside” on the sidelines of the summit, or that the US and Russian delegations hold “strategic stability talks”, which usually don’t involve presidents.
Asked about the report that Mr Trump wants a full bilateral meeting, Mr Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow that “the protocol side of it is secondary”.
The two leaders will be attending the same event in the same place at the same time, Mr Peskov said, so “in any case there will be a chance to meet”. However, the spokesman added that no progress in hammering out the details of the meeting had been made.
Mr Trump has only recently appeared to acknowledge that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
In a series of tweets, the President criticised the Obama administration’s response to Russia’s alleged meddling, which he had previously labelled as fiction created by Democrats.
In the coming weeks, Mr Trump is likely to have to make a decision about whether to veto a bipartisan bill that imposes new sanctions against Moscow. The legislation would also make it impossible for the President to act alone to lift economic penalties that were levied by Mr Obama.