The White House said last week that President Donald Trump would not meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit, in a move meant to show U.S. displeasure over Moscow’s aggression toward Ukraine.
Somehow though, the two leaders met after all, the Kremlin has revealed. News reports said Trump and Putin talked on the sidelines of the gathering of global leaders, which wrapped up late Saturday in Buenos Aires.
And that’s not the last of it. Putin says he’d like to meet Trump again before the middle of next year.
“Of course a new meeting is possible,” Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters, according to Reuters. “Now we need to again have talks about preparing such a meeting.”
The White House confirmed that Trump and Putin held what was described as an “informal conversation” at dinner on Friday evening.
The issue of how often Trump and Putin meet — usually outside the earshot of others — has become a more salient issue than ever. The question has increased in importance after revelations last week that Trump had been in negotiations, deep into his presidential campaign, to build a massive tower in Moscow.
This, despite numerous occasions during his presidential campaign when Trump claimed to have “nothing to do” with Russian business interests. Now, following revelations that he had been planning a major real estate venture in Moscow, Trump insisted last week that it was all above board.
“There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won,” he said on Thursday, “in which case I would have gotten back into the business, and why should I lose lots of opportunities?”
Trump’s business dealings with Russia are a key component of Robert Mueller’s probe into Moscow’s efforts to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
As is often the case when Trump and Putin talk, it’s not entirely clear what all was said between the two leaders at the G20, but Putin said late Saturday that he and Trump discussed Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian vessels in the Kerch Strait.
“He has his position on that and I have mine,” Putin told reporters, adding that the dialogue did not cause the two leaders to change their views.
Putin told reporters that he has not spoken with Ukraine about freeing their sailors, who were detained when Russia seized three Ukrainian naval vessels and their crews on November 25.
The Russian leader said it was a “pity” that he was unable to have a full-fledged meeting with Trump because “the time is ripe, particularly with the problems around strategic stability.”
Putin also spoke with Trump about how it is “essential to revive economic and trade issues” he said, adding that continued dialogue was needed between the U.S., Russia and other nations as well on the issues of Syria, Afghanistan and North Korea.