By Alexandra Topping
Sunday 15 January 2017 15.21
Donald Trump’s first foreign trip is to be to Iceland for a summit with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, according to reports.
In a move that echoes Ronald Reagan’s cold war meeting in Reykjavik with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986, Trump and his team have reportedly told British officials that the summit will take place within weeks of him becoming US president.
The Icelandic capital is thought to be the most likely place host the talks as it did three decades ago, according to the Sunday Times.
The summit would be an attempt to rest reset western relations with the Kremlin, with the agenda thought to include a deal limiting nuclear weapons. The news comes as Trump continues to face claims that Russia holds material which could be used to blackmail him.
On Saturday the president-elect said he would consider dropping sanctions against Russia if Moscow helped tackle terrorism and worked with the US on other goals, although they would remain in place “at least for a period of time”.
He also said he was willing to meet Putin. “I understand that they would like to meet, and that’s absolutely fine with me,” he said.
A source who discussed the plan with Trump and officials at the Russian embassy in London told the Times: “The idea of a summit with Putin is definitely on the cards. The Russians are also keen on it.”
A Trump adviser confirmed the president-elect’s intention to meet Putin very soon and said that Reykjavik was under active consideration.
“What does Putin want?” the adviser said. “Prestige, center stage at the summit, the one-on-one meeting, the hand on the back from Trump. That gives the US tremendous leverage. Mr. Trump is master of the photo op and he will use that skill.”
The news is unlikely to be welcomed by senior figures in the British government, who fear a deepening relationship between the US and Russia under Trump risks leaving Britain out in the cold. It is understood Downing Street expects Theresa May to visit Trump at the White House in the second half of February.
Britain has called for sanctions against Moscow over Putin’s aggression in Ukraine and Syria. It is understood that British intelligence has sought reassurance from the CIA that UK agents in Russia will be protected when intelligence is shared, the Times reported.
A British intelligence source with extensive transatlantic experience said US spies had labelled Trump and his advisers’ links to the Kremlin problematic. “Until we have established whether Trump and senior members of his team can be trusted, we’re going to hold back,” the source told the Times. “Putting it bluntly, we can’t risk betraying sources and methods to the Russians.”
Russia has caused further alarm by announcing plans to move thousands of tanks and tens of thousands of troops to Nato’s borders this year in a development that has caused concern among the Baltic states.
Trump’s claims that he has “nothing to do with Russia” appear to have been contradicted by his son Donald Jr, who reportedly said in a speech in 2008 that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section” of a lot of the Trump Organisation’s assets.
The Russian embassy in London referred calls to the foreign affairs ministry in Moscow, which did not comment.