Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that he is "ready" to visit Washington to hold another meeting with President Donald Trump, who he said was also ready to meet, but that the "conditions" must be right for the reunion.
Mr. Trump met Putin earlier this month at a much-anticipated summit in Helsinki, Finland, and was sharply criticized by both Democrats and Republicans for appearing submissive to the Russian leader.
Mr. Trump claimed days after the joint news conference with Putin that he had misspoken, and never meant to suggest there was no reason to suspect the Russian security services meddled in the 2016 election that won him the White House. His initial remarks raised concerns that Mr. Trump trusted the Russian leader’s denial of such interference in American over the conclusions of the entire U.S. intelligence apparatus.
In the following days, Mr. Trump surprised even his own director of national intelligence by inviting Putin to Washington for a follow-up conversation this autumn. The White House then amended that invite, saying Mr. Trump had decided it was better to delay a second sit-down with Putin until Special Counsel Robert Mueller concludes his investigation into Russia’s election meddling — or the "witch hunt," as the White House calls it.
In his remarks Friday in South Africa at a summit for leaders of developing nations, Putin said the high-level dialogue between Moscow and Washington was continuing in spite of the harsh reaction to Mr. Trump’s Helsinki performance in the U.S.
"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," the Russian leader said.
"Regarding our meetings, I understand very well what President Trump said. He has a desire to have further meetings, to hold further meetings. I am ready for that. We need for the appropriate conditions to exist, to be created, including in our countries," Putin said according to the Reuters news agency. "We are ready for such meetings. We are ready to invite President Trump to Moscow. By all means. By the way, he has such an invitation, I told him about that… I am ready to go to Washington. I repeat once again, if the right conditions for work are created."
Putin, who has ruled Russia for most of the last two decades, also lauded Mr. Trump for what he said was a unique quality in a politician; keeping his promises.
"You can criticize him for what he is doing, and some people do criticize him, however, one thing remains absolutely clear — he is committed to fulfilling his campaign promises."
"As a rule, some leaders quickly forget what they had promised to the people once the elections are over," Putin said, according to Russia’s state-run news agency TASS. "But Trump doesn’t."