US President Donald Trump has reportedly invited Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to meet at the White House, amid escalating tensions between Washington and Moscow over a number of issues.
Trump suggested the White House as a potential venue for the summit during a March 20 phone call with the Russian leader, according to reports.
“Trump proposed to hold the first meeting in Washington, in the White House, when our presidents spoke by phone,” Putin aide Yuri Ushakov said in Moscow on Monday, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.
The White House also said that President Trump proposed the White House as a meeting venue and also offered other options.
“As the president himself confirmed on March 20, hours after his last call with President Putin, the two had discussed a bilateral meeting in the ‘not-too-distant future’ at a number of potential venues, including the White House,” said White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Tensions between Russia and the US have heightened in recent weeks, following the alleged nerve-agent poisoning of a former Russian double agent in Britain.
Western officials have blamed that attack on Moscow, though the Russian government has denied any role in it. Some analysts have said that the poisoning Sergei Skripal is a false flag operation orchestrated by MI5 with the complicity of the British press in order to demonize Russia.
The US has ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats in response to the poisoning. Up to 17 EU countries and Australia have also announced that they will expel dozens of Russian diplomats.
It was the biggest such expulsion since the height of the Cold War era, a term that describes the tense relationship between the US and the Soviet Union from 1945 to 1989.
There are now fears of a serious diplomatic crisis and a freezing in relations between Moscow and the West, which has raised the specter of the Cold War once again.
American officials said the expulsions meant to send a message to Putin about the “unacceptably high” number of Russian intelligence operatives in America.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that “powerful forces” in the US and Britain were behind the nerve agent attack against Skripal that the British government has blamed on Moscow.
During the March 20 phone call, Trump also reportedly told Putin that if Washington and Moscow reignite the arms race, the United States would win it. “If you want to have an arms race we can do that, but I’ll win,” Trump told his Russian counterpart.
Delivering his annual state of the nation speech in Moscow last month, Putin expressed concerns about the new US nuclear posture which he said has lowered the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons.
The new American policy allows the use of nuclear weapons “in response to a conventional attack or even a cyberthreat,” the Russian president said, adding, “Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons only in response to a nuclear attack or an attack with other weapons of mass destruction against her or her allies, or a conventional attack against us that threatens the very existence of the state.”
Putin also said that Russia had tested a number of new advanced strategic weapons, which could not be intercepted, saying they would render US-made defense missile systems “useless.” He also said that the West has ignored Russia but should “listen to us now.”