After President Trump’s roundly criticized genuflection to Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin at their July summit meeting in Helsinki, apprehension over the interaction between the intertwined world leaders during the centennial Armistice Day memorial in France this weekend was running high.
Initially, Trump planned on meeting the Kremlin chief during a working lunch that would take place amidst the pomp and pageantry of the memorial ceremonies.
Yet, despite having time for a quick photo op and a brief chat on the sidelines of the solemn memorial events, Emmanuel Macron’s French government thwarted any plans for a more in-depth conversation between the two conspiratorial leaders by executing a last minute change in the seating arrangements at the formal luncheon where the pair intended to have their tête-à-tête, according to the BBC.
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“Several world leaders also held bilateral meetings at the events. Mr Putin told journalists he had a brief conversation with Mr Trump and that it went well. However, the French organisers of the lunch event changed the lunchtime seating arrangement at the last minute so Mr Trump and Mr Putin would not be sitting next to each other, Russian media reported,” the BBC said.
The Washington Post also cited Russian state media as reporting that the planned discussions were called off over French objections after the Kremlin consulted with American officials,
“Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s foreign affairs adviser, said on Russian state television that a preliminary agreement on a Trump-Putin meeting had been reached but was dropped after taking into account what he called French considerations. He said this decision was made in consultation with American officials,” The Post reported.
French Press agency AFP stated that the French were concerned that any meeting between the two foreign leaders on their soil would draw the media’s attention away from the primary reason for the memorial commemoration.
“The Kremlin said earlier that the prospect of a full meeting between the US and Russian presidents had prompted huge international media interest, leading to concern from the French organisers this could overshadow the commemorations.”
“Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Russian leader and Trump greeted each other during lunch in Paris but had no opportunity to have a full-blown meeting. When they parted they told each other “until we meet again”, Peskov said,” according to AFP
While the change in plans may have saved President Trump for now from another embarrassing display of submissive behavior in thrall to his Russian handler, Trump still wants to have a second summit meeting with Putin.
National security adviser John Bolton announced back in July that the meeting, which was originally scheduled for this fall, would be pushed into the first half of 2109 after the point when the administration believes the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign should be over.
“The President believes that the next bilateral meeting with President Putin should take place after the Russia witch hunt is over, so we’ve agreed that it will be after the first of the year,” Bolton said.
It remains to be seen whether the Mueller probe will indeed be completed by the first of the year and how anything the inquiry has discovered about Russian interference in the American electoral process will affect the environment for a future summit.
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