Trump Invited Vladimir Putin to the White House, Fueling Speculation About Relationship with Russia

President Donald Trump invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to potentially visit the White House for a bilateral meeting, a gesture that comes in sharp contrast to the recent hostile moves from both the Kremlin and the American government.

“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," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Monday. "We have nothing further to add at this time.”

Her statement implied that there was no new information here, but the revelation is deeply troubling. Proposing a meeting (and congratulating Putin on a sham election) was bad enough—but inviting Putin to the White House makes the idea even worse.

Meeting at the White House is perceived as a sign of the American government's respect and recognition of legitimacy. Some leaders conspicuously undeserving of this honor have been invited in the past—the dictatorial monarchs of Saudi Arabia are a notable example—but those meetings are at least defended on the grounds of strategic partnerships between the nations. Despite Trump's best hopes, the United States has no strategic partnership with Putin.

In fact, Putin's recent provocative chemical attack on British soil spurred the Trump administration to expel Russian diplomats. The U.S. has also slapped sanctions on Russian entities for interfering in the 2016 elections, and special counsel Robert Mueller recently indicted 13 Russians for criminal efforts to aid the Trump campaign.

Trump's decision to invite Putin for a White House visit—even if it never ends up happening—sends a bizarre and incoherent message to both Russia and the international community. The overture will certainly bolster suspicions that there is some undisclosed connection between the leaders driving Trump's inscrutable need to strengthen ties with Russia.

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