U.S. President Donald Trump will join Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday for talks with visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the White House announced.
The three will “discuss the state of the bilateral relationship,” a senior Trump administration official said Monday.
The meeting, which was originally announced to involve only Pompeo and Lavrov, was widely speculated to be attended by Trump, as well.
White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said such a visit by Trump would reciprocate a courtesy extended by President Vladimir Putin to Pompeo during his last visit to Moscow.
“When Pompeo has gone to Russia, Putin’s seen him. And one of the things that we’ve said with the Chinese and the Russians is, we want reciprocity,” O’Brien said on the “Face the Nation” television program.
The trio is expected to meet for a half-day of talks that include a working lunch and a news conference. U.S. officials say the three will discuss arms control, as well as the situations in Ukraine and Syria, among other issues.
The meeting comes as bilateral ties between the United States and Russia are strained over allegations of election meddling, as well as the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.
The talks appear to have been initiated after Putin said last week that Moscow was eager to extend the New START nuclear arms control treaty by the end of this year “without any preconditions.”
At the recent NATO summit in London, Trump said that he was aware of Moscow’s desire to “do a deal” on arms control, and said that China could also be brought into the process.
Pompeo and Lavrov met several times this year, including in Russia and in New York at the United Nations. Lavrov has not been in Washington since he met Trump at the White House in May 2017, a meeting that led to accusations that Trump divulged classified information during the talks.
The talks come at a time when Washington is embroiled over the ongoing impeachment inquiry against Trump, which has focused on allegations that he withheld aid to Ukraine in order to pressure Kyiv into launching an investigation into Trump’s potential Democratic rival in the 2020 U.S. presidential elections.
Russia has also been drawn into the conversation, with some Democrats arguing that the scope of the impeachment trial should include allegations of obstruction of justice by Trump for his dealings with special counsel Robert Mueller, who investigated Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Mueller’s report concluded that Russia did interfere to try to tilt the vote in favor of Trump. Moscow has denied any interference.
While Mueller’s report concluded that Trump did not collude with Russia, it also did not fully exonerate the president on possible crimes of obstruction of justice.