Russian President Vladimir Putin has told U.S. national security adviser John Bolton that his visit to Moscow gives him hope that steps can be taken to improve badly strained relations between the countries.
Putin and Bolton, who was in Moscow to discuss U.S.-Russian ties and a possible summit between Putin and President Donald Trump, spoke briefly with reporters present at the start of their meeting in the Kremlin on June 27.
Putin said he regretted that ties between the former Cold War foes are "not in the best shape" and suggested their dire state is due in large part to what he called "the internal political struggle" in the United States -- indicating he does not blame Trump.
"Russia has never sought confrontation, and I hope that we can talk today about what can be done by both sides to restore full-format relations on the basis of equality and respect," Putin said.
Bolton also said he was looking forward to discussions about improving relations. He said that Trump is committed to the goal of global stability and suggested that the meeting could further that goal.
Bolton met with Putin after holding separate talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and a senior member of Putin's Security Council, Yury Averyanov.
Bolton headed to Moscow after meetings with U.S. allies in London and Rome on June 25-26.
He is due to hold a news conference in Moscow at 7:30 p.m. (1630 GMT/UTC) after his meetings. He could potentially announce the date and location of a summit.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a television interview over the weekend that Trump was likely to meet Putin "in the not-too-distant future."
The U.S.-Russia summit is expected to take place after Trump attends a NATO summit in Brussels on July 11-12 and visits Britain on July 13. It is unclear where it would be held. Vienna and Helsinki were cited as possible venues.
An Austrian newspaper earlier this week said teams from the United States and Russia were already in Vienna preparing for a July 15 meeting between the two leaders.
However, a senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters on June 26 that Finland's capital, Helsinki, was the likeliest choice, but the final decision depended on the outcome of talks Bolton is having with the Russians.
Trump and Putin have met twice on the sidelines of international summits and they have spoken at least eight times by telephone.
Trump telephoned Putin to congratulate him in March after the Russian president's reelection and said the two would meet soon.
However, Russian officials have since complained about the difficulty of setting up such a meeting, as ties between Washington and Moscow have further deteriorated over the conflict in Syria and the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain, which the West blames on Moscow.
Relations were already severely strained by tension over issues including Russia's seizure of Crimea, its role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, and what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded was an "influence campaign" ordered by Putin in an attempt to affect the U.S. presidential election, in part by bolstering Trump and discrediting his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Democrats and some Republicans have accused Trump of being soft on Russia. Trump made clear during his campaign and into his presidency that he wants better relations with Russia and Putin, and has often praised the Russian president.
He has also sharply criticized a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the alleged Russian meddling and whether his associates colluded with Moscow. Russia denies it interfered, despite substantial evidence, and Trump says there was no collusion.