MOSCOW — President Barack Obama has accepted an invitation to meet with President Vladimir Putin ahead of a Group of 20 conference in Russia this fall, officials here said on Monday — signaling a new opportunity to ease tensions even as the Kremlin continues to bristle over a U.S. effort to punish Russian citizens accused of violating human rights.
The announcement of a "bilateral summit" meeting in Russia in September, and of the planned meeting between the two presidents on the sidelines of a Group of Eight meeting in Northern Ireland in mid June, came as Obama's national security adviser, Tom Donilon, met in Moscow on Monday with Putin and other top officials to push for renewed cooperation on security issues.
In a series of meetings, first at the Russian Foreign Ministry and then at the Kremlin, Donilon pushed for more cuts in the two nations' nuclear weapons stockpiles, for expanded cooperation in containing the threat of a missile strike from Iran or North Korea, and for stronger economic ties, Russian and American officials said. Donilon also delivered a letter to Putin from Obama that addressed many of those topics.
Donilon's visit came just three days after the Obama administration banned more than two dozen Russians from traveling to the United States or maintaining assets there, because of purported human rights abuses. Although the step, required under a law approved in December, was widely expected, it still drew outrage and swift retaliation from Russia, which published its own list of Americans to face similar sanctions.
Officials said that Russian displeasure was made clear at each of Donilon's four meetings, but that given the context, the overall outcome seemed rather positive. They officials said his appearance in Moscow despite the simmering diplomatic contretemps also sent a loud signal that the White House was ready to get down to business with the Kremlin, and to look past the recent sour tone of their relations.