Putin Invites Trump to Moscow, 2 Days After White House Postponed Summit Plans
MOSCOW — Just two days after the White House postponed plans to have President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia visit Washington in the fall, the Russian leader said on Friday that he had invited President Trump to visit him in Moscow.
Praising Mr. Trump as a leader “who seeks to keep his promises,” Mr. Putin continued to push for a second summit meeting, though their first, this month, generated intense criticism of his American counterpart. Mr. Putin said he was ready to meet either in Washington or Moscow, adding that he had already told Mr. Trump that he had an invitation to visit the Russian capital.
The White House quickly responded favorably to the idea. “President Trump looks forward to having President Putin to Washington after the first of the year, and he is open to visiting Moscow upon receiving a formal invitation,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, told reporters.
The Kremlin released a transcript of Mr. Putin’s comments, made at a news conference in Johannesburg at the end of a visit to South Africa.
Unlike President Trump, who came under heavy fire from critics at home for what many viewed as his fawning behavior in Helsinki, Mr. Putin has won only praise in Russia for the meeting, which the foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, described as “better than super.”
The White House said last week that Mr. Trump would invite Mr. Putin to visit Washington in the fall — news that surprised even some of his top advisers. But on Wednesday, American officials said the plan had been postponed until after the investigation of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, had concluded.
Referring to the backlash against Mr. Trump in the United States over his performance in Helsinki, Mr. Putin said that political turbulence in the United States would not derail contacts between the two leaders.
“Despite the difficulties, in this particular case, difficulties linked to the internal political situation in the United States, life goes on and our contacts continue,” he said.
Mr. Putin’s remarks reaffirmed what have long been articles of faith for Russia’s political elite: that Mr. Trump is eager to deliver on his campaign promise to “get along with Russia” and that he has only been held back by the machinations of his political enemies and a “deep state” cabal of spies, Obama-era holdovers and Russia-fearing Cold Warriors.
The summit meeting in Helsinki, however, seems to have raised the Kremlin’s hopes that Mr. Trump will stand by his repeated pledges to improve relations with Moscow, despite a series of tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats and a raft of new sanctions imposed on Russia since Mr. Trump took office.
“It is a great virtue of President Trump that he seeks to keep his promises, first of all those given to voters,” Mr. Putin said. “As for our meetings, they are useful, I think.”
Mr. Trump stirred fury among his opponents and also among some Republican lawmakers for suggesting in Helsinki that he trusted Mr. Putin’s denials of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election over the conclusions of his own intelligence community.
In what some interpreted as an act of defiance toward his critics, Mr. Trump revealed unexpectedly that he planned to invite Mr. Putin to Washington for a follow-up meeting in the fall. But less than a week later, the White House said it had postponed the plan, and that Mr. Putin would not visit while Mr. Mueller’s investigation was underway.
Addressing the delay, the American national security adviser, John R. Bolton, said in a statement on Wednesday that Mr. Trump had decided “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.”
Mr. Putin did not specify on Friday when he had told Mr. Trump about the invitation to Moscow, which he announced at the end of a summit meeting for the so-called Brics nations — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
It was a characteristic piece of political theater by a leader who is always eager to show that Russia has many irons in the fire other than United States, and who never wants to appear to be a supplicant to Washington.