Putin to Trump: ‘The ball is in America’s court’

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin made a new personal appeal to President Trump for holding a summit meeting between the two leaders and improving ties between Russia and the United States.

Putin told a state TV interviewer that it was time for Trump to keep his campaign promise of promoting a friendlier relationship between the two countries. The interview was recorded on Thursday — before Trump’s call for Russia to be readmitted to the Group of Seven countries — and published on Saturday.

“A lot of things deserve to be criticized” in Trump’s actions, Putin said. “But there’s one circumstance that I’ve mentioned previously: Trump keeps the promises that he made in his campaign.”

He went on: “One of those promises was to improve Russian-American relations. I hope that this also takes place. At any rate, we are ready for this. I believe that the ball is in America’s court.”

The interview highlighted Putin’s effort to continue to show personal deference to Trump even as the overall relationship between Moscow and Washington plumbs new depths. Putin has been referring to the U.S. president as “Donald” in public appearances and praising his acumen.

Russian officials, meanwhile, have made it clear that they’re eager to see a meeting between the two presidents that they say Trump initially proposed in a phone call with Putin in March. According to Russian officials and reports on state television, the main obstacle to such a meeting is the U.S. Congress and the Washington foreign-policy establishment, which are set against allowing ties with Russia to improve.

“The experience I have with the president of the United States tells me that even though his actions are often criticized, especially recently, including on the international arena and in the economic sphere, he is still a reflective person, and he is able to listen and react to another person’s arguments,” Putin said. “All this tells me that dialogue can be constructive.”

Putin didn’t comment directly on a Wall Street Journal report that Austria had offered to host such a summit in Vienna. He said the possibility of a meeting between himself and Trump was discussed “from the very beginning, meaning after Mr. Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. We responded from the very beginning that such personal meetings were not just a possibility but were useful. … The only question is: Will the domestic political situation in the United States allow this to be done?”