Trump cancels meeting with Putin at G-20 summit
President Donald Trump on Thursday canceled a one-on-one meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina, a decision he announced just hours after the Kremlin had publicly confirmed the time and date.
In a tweet from Air Force One en route to Buenos Aires, Trump blamed the cancellation on Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian ships and sailors in the Black Sea over the weekend. Other top administration officials, including U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, had condemned Russia’s actions, but Trump had equivocated in recent days.
Trump had signaled in an interview with the Washington Post on Tuesday that he might forgo meeting Putin after Russia’s naval action sparked global condemnation and a sharp escalation in tensions between Russia and Ukraine.
But he seemed to reverse course as he left the White House on Thursday, telling reporters that the meeting “probably” was still on and that he planned to read a “finalized report” on the Black Sea standoff while on the plane.
Early in the flight, however, Trump tweeted: “Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting in Argentina with President Vladimir Putin.”
“I look forward to a meaningful Summit again as soon as this situation is resolved!” Trump added.
Trump’s decision was cheered by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. He later took to Twitter and wrote in English: “This is how great leaders act!”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters on Air Force One that Trump did not make a decision until talking on board with Chief of Staff John Kelly and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as well as by phone with national security adviser John Bolton, who is in Brazil.
Sanders said she was “not aware” whether Trump had directly informed Putin of the cancellation but said “there was some back and forth” through other channels, without elaborating.
Sanders also told reporters that Trump’s scheduled meetings at the G-20 with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would be downgraded to more informal “pull-aside” conversations.
That announcement appeared to surprise South Korean and Turkish officials and left them scrambling to find out more.
Trump’s scheduled meetings with the leaders of Argentina, China, Japan, India and Germany appear to still be moving forward as planned.