WASHINGTON -- As Donald Trump presses ahead with plans for a summer summit with Russia's Vladimir Putin, the U.S. president is jolting relationships with some of America's longest and strongest allies. Amid concerns over Trump's apparent desire to be cozy with the Russian leader, he is pursuing increasingly nationalistic foreign and trade policies and delivering scathing personal attacks on traditionally friendly leaders who don't share his views.
"We're looking at the possibility," Trump said Thursday of a potential meeting with Putin.
The White House announced Thursday that national security adviser John Bolton would travel to Moscow next week, after stops in London and Rome, to discuss the potential Trump-Putin meeting, expected to be held in the Austrian capital of Vienna in the days after NATO's July 11-12 leaders' summit in Brussels. Administration officials say a White House advance team has traveled to Vienna to scout locations and make other logistical preparations for a summit should it come off.
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, declined to comment on a conference call with reporters on Thursday, in which he also said that the Kremlin expects Bolton to visit Russia.
Trump had two meetings with Putin last summer at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.
Although Trump has seldom criticized Russia or Putin and has largely downplayed allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, the relationship between Moscow and Washington has been rocky since he took office.
Trump twice ordered airstrikes against the Syrian government of Bashar Assad, a Putin ally. And his administration imposed sanctions on wealthy members of Putin's circle earlier this year.
Other leaders in the group of industrialized nations rebuked Trump, who made the off-the-cuff remark about readmitting Russia as he left the White House for the G-7 summit.
"You know, whether you like it or not, and it may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run," Trump said. "And in the G-7, which used to be the G-8, they threw Russia out. They should let Russia come back in, because we should have Russia at the negotiating table."
Trump appears to be virtually alone in his party and even within his administration in seeking to repair U.S. relations with the Kremlin.
Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, castigated Trump for his remarks on Putin and for his animosity toward U.S. allies and trading partners.
"The president has inexplicably shown our adversaries the deference and esteem that should be reserved for our closest allies," McCain said in a statement.
Bolton's stops in Britain and Italy may be designed to assuage nervous Europeans about Trump's intentions for the Putin meeting.
Yet the hawkish Bolton's discussions in the European capitals are unlikely to smooth over what are becoming widening fractures in the trans-Atlantic relationship that the president has seemed to welcome.
To Trump, the tough approach to allies constitutes a long-needed reassertion of U.S. sovereignty after a worrying period of decline in which Washington was too deferential, too politically correct on the world stage and too trusting of global institutions to look out for America's best interests. Those who complain that the status quo is being upended, Trump argues, are correct -- and missing the point.
And the list of spurned parties is quickly growing. Trump's pursuit of his "America First" agenda has put the U.S. at odds with the rest of the G-7 democracies, sowed major divisions with Europe, Canada and Mexico, and risks altering the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific.
Nowhere, though, have the tensions crystallized more than in Europe, where concerns about Moscow are visceral and closer to home. In recent weeks, Trump has attacked Germany's chancellor, ignored her and the leaders of Britain and France, embraced Italy's new populist prime minister and congratulated Hungary's authoritarian premier.
The result has alarmed many who view the trans-Atlantic partnership to be a bedrock of post-World War II international stability and security. But it has also left America isolated as administration promises that "America First does not mean America Alone" appear to fall by the wayside.
Supporters of Trump's approach say that's easy for Europe and other allies to say. They argue that the allies have taken advantage of the U.S. for decades, with America shouldering much of the burden for the West's security and defense. They have also benefited from trade and economic policies that Trump's administration believes are robbing the American economy.
"The era of American complacency in the international marketplace is over," Trump's trade adviser Peter Navarro wrote this month in an op-ed in The New York Times.
Information for this article was contributed by Matthew Lee and Josh Lederman of The Associated Press; and by Jennifer Jacobs, Margaret Talev and Toluse Olorunnipa of Bloomberg News.
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a Security Council meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Thursday, June 21, 2018.
A Section on 06/22/2018
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