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Tug of War over Whether Trump Will Meet with Putin

Aug. 17, 2020 (EIRNS)—Robert O’Brien, President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser, made confusing comments during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” yesterday on whether Trump wants to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Asked about a summit meeting with Putin at the UN General Assembly, O’Brien said “We’ve rejected that.” Then minutes later he said, “No, we’re not doing a meeting with Putin in the United States. We’d love to have Putin come here, hopefully, to sign a terrific arms control deal that protects Americans and protects Russians.”

Just before O’Brien appeared on the air, NBC reported that Trump has told aides he’d like to hold an in-person meeting with Putin before the November election. The purpose of such a meeting would be to announce progress towards a new nuclear arms control agreement between the United States and Russia, according to the usual unnamed sources. They said Trump sees a summit as an opportunity to be presidential and demonstrate he’s able to negotiate agreements. “He wants it to show his deal-maker abilities,” one of them said.

The White House, however, declined to comment on the details of any possible arms deal. “There is no current planning for a [one-on-one meeting] between President Trump and President Putin,” the official said. “We are negotiating on arms control. Hopefully we can make some progress in Vienna next week. Getting ahead of the meetings next week would be premature.” The reference to “meetings next week” is to the strategic stability and arms control talks which reconvened in Vienna this morning, with Marshall Billingslea, the Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control, leading the American side, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.

NBC indicated in the same report the obvious: Some of Trump’s aides (O’Brien among them) oppose Trump’s meeting with Putin, based on the entirely false narratives about Russia’s “malign behavior.” “The aides are concerned that a summit with Putin would embolden the Russian leader at a time when Moscow is provoking the U.S., including interfering in the 2020 election and possibly offering money to militants in Afghanistan in exchange for killing American troops,” NBC reported. Thus, O’Brien and others telegraph that they are trying to stop Trump from participating in a major powers summit meeting prior to Election Day.

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