Better political sense prevails
Donald Trump's ambition of a grand summit with Russia in Helsinki not long after the one with North Korea in Singapore seems set to be fulfilled. American "political will" has shifted in a positive manner toward better US-Russian dialogue, Moscow said on Monday, while adding that it was "too early" to speak of a thaw in relations. Ahead of the Helsinki Summit on July 16, Putin's spokesman said there were hopes of "repairing and expanding the bilateral dialogue" between the two countries. But, the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov went on to add: "There are quite a lot of issues between Moscow and Washington where our points of view are dramatically divided. But you can see now that the political will [in the US] has finally prevailed, and now the understanding that the presence of such points for discussion should not be an obstacle on the path to repairing and expanding the bilateral dialogue..." His comments come a week after Putin told US national security adviser John Bolton that Russian-American relations "were not in the best shape," during a meeting in Moscow, according to Russia's TASS news agency. The US and Russia have been at odds over a number of issues including Russian interference in the 2016 US Presidential elections, Russian actions in Syria and its 2014 annexation of Crimea. Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine has led to economic sanctions being placed on Moscow, but the subject will not be discussed in the Finnish capital, Peskov said. While gently encouraged by the progress made between the two countries, he cautioned it was "too early" to speak of a thaw in US-Russia relations, ahead of a visit to Moscow by a US Congressional delegation. "Let's not rush into talking about a thaw," Peskov said of relations between Moscow and Washington. "Of course it's a very pleasant fact that contacts are intensifying but it is too early to talk about a thaw. First, we need to resolve those disputes and irritants that we have in our bilateral relations." Asked about whether the visiting US lawmakers would meet Putin, Peskov said: "For now, it is not on the president's schedule, but we know that the American officials have planned quite wide-reaching contacts with their colleagues." If anything, Trump would like to carry back something that would help him boost his image given the 2016 Russian collusion charges that are still under investigation. Given his penchant for political drama, it remains to be seen how the script unfolds. As his track record has shown, there are few to match him on that score even if it means playing down his allies.