The White House and the Kremlin are “exploring” a possible meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a White House aide.
Richard Hooker, a senior director for Europe and Russia on the National Security Council, told the Russian news agency TASS Wednesday that the idea is in the works, but he offered no specifics.
“I think that both sides are exploring an opportunity to meet, yes. I don’t think any decisions have been made, or details have been worked out, but I believe both sides are exploring an opportunity to try to do that,” Hooker told TASS.
The White House did not respond to requests about whether a meeting is being pursued.
Talk of a Trump-Putin meeting — which would be sure to generate controversy in a Washington gripped by special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe — began when the two leaders spoke by phone April 20. The Kremlin revealed that Putin and Trump had exchanged invitations for the other to visit their respective capitals.
More recently, Putin has explored the possibility of a meeting in the Austrian capital of Vienna, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report. The paper reported that, during a June 5 visit to Vienna, Putin asked Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz to host a meeting with Trump.
Hooker said that Austria — a non-NATO member which often hosts diplomatic talks — would be a logical venue for a meeting. “I am sure this is an option under consideration,” he said.
Trump is scheduled to travel to Brussels for NATO’s annual summit, to be held July 11-12.
The Wall Street Journal also reported earlier this month that the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, had come to Washington to meet with Trump administration officials to help arrange the meeting.
A meeting with Putin could be Trump’s next dramatic diplomatic move after his historic nuclear summit with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.
Putin has also sought to engage Kim. In a Thursday meeting with a senior North Korean official, according to the Kremlin, the Russian leader extended an invitation for Kim to visit him, possibly at a September conference in Russia’s Pacific port city of Vladivostok.