WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that he will not meet with President Vladimir Putin of Russia this weekend, contradicting the Kremlin, which said earlier in the day that the two would have a discussion while in Paris for an unrelated gathering of world leaders.
The on-again, off-again meeting has been the subject of confusion and conflicting reports. At one point last month, the two sides indicated that the presidents would meet in Paris, then Trump said earlier this week that they would probably not, then the Kremlin said Wednesday that they would at least meet briefly on Sunday.
At the White House later Wednesday, Trump said that was not the case. They would both attend a lunch for world leaders, he said, but were not set to have a conversation. “I don’t think we have anything scheduled in Paris, and I’m coming back very quickly,” he said. “I don’t think we have time set aside for that meeting.”
Instead, Trump said he expects to sit down with Putin later in the month in Buenos Aires on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the Group of 20, or G-20. “That’s where we’re actually looking forward to meet,” Trump said.
Whenever it takes place, it would be the first meeting between the American and Russian presidents since they got together in Helsinki in July — when Trump, with Putin at his side, publicly challenged the conclusion of his own intelligence agencies that Moscow interfered in the 2016 presidential election. After bipartisan condemnation back home, Trump said he misspoke and did not mean to undercut the agencies’ conclusion.
Trump and Putin are both scheduled to travel to Paris for a ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. But French officials had asked the Americans and Russians not to hold the meeting between the presidents for fear that it would overshadow their event.
“The French partners actively brought their concerns to the Russian and U.S. sides and, with these considerations in mind, Washington and Moscow decided against holding a full-scale meeting of the presidents,” said Yuri Ushakov.
But Ushakov said Putin and Trump will meet during a lunch on Sunday and then have “a more detailed conversation” in Buenos Aires.
The two nations are at odds over a number of issues, including Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, its support for Syria’s government, the poisoning of a former Russian spy on British soil and the fate of a 1980s arms control treaty that Trump has threatened to pull out of.
Just this week, the Trump administration said it was preparing to impose new sanctions on Russia over the poisoning of the former spy, Sergei V. Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, after Moscow failed to meet a 90-day deadline to comply with a U.S. law on preventing the use of chemical weapons.
For all the tension between the two countries, Trump has made it a priority to establish friendly personal relations with Putin. Russian officials have said they want direct conversations between Putin and Trump to circumvent what they see as a deep-state cabal surrounding the U.S. president that is trying to sabotage his efforts to foster closer ties between the countries.