Putin may be invited to G7 summit – despite Russian bounty hunters

Trump may invite Putin to "Extended G-7 Summit" despite claims in the US media that Russian Intelligence has been paying bounty money to Afghan contractors for the killing of American and allied soldiers. Perhaps Trump administration does not trust intelligence leaks to New York Times.

Putin US summit

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday left the door open to President Vladimir Putin attending a US summit but insisted the administration has been firm over Moscow’s activities in Afghanistan. He was referring to the story of Russian bounty hunters. Few in Washington will be satisfied by his explanation.

President Donald Trump “gets to decide if he wants him to come to a summit or not. That’s his decision,” Pompeo told reporters.

“I’ll certainly leave that to him. But I do believe it is absolutely important that we have more frequent engagement with the Russians.”

Trump, who has repeatedly reached out to Putin to build relations, mused last month about inviting him to an expanded summit of the Group of Seven industrial democracies — which kicked out Russia over its takeover of Crimea. Many in the US politics have never liked Trump’s approach of engaging Russia or of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.

Read more: Trump debunks Russian attacks on troops stationed in Afghanistan

Russian Bounty Killers in Afghanistan killing Americans? 

In the last few days, Washington has been in uproar over reports, initially in The New York Times, that Russian intelligence offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to target troops of the US-led coalition in Afghanistan.

New York Times in its story, “Afghan Contractor Handed Out Russian Cash to Kill Americans, Officials Say” had claimed that Russians had been using a little known Afghan contractor, Rahmatullah Azizi, to offer bounty killings to Afghan Taliban for targeting US and allied soldiers.

Here is the link to NYT: Afghan Contractor Handed Out Russian Cash to Kill Americans, Officials Say – NYT

According to New York Times, “Azizi stands as a central piece of a puzzle rocking Washington, named in American intelligence reports and confirmed by Afghan officials as a key middleman who for years handed out money from a Russian military intelligence unit to reward Taliban-linked fighters for targeting American troops in Afghanistan” NYT made these claims after talking to series of American and Afghan intelligence officers.

Pompeo won’t discuss Intelligence 

Pompeo, while saying he would not discuss the intelligence, said the United States has long voiced concern to Russia.

“The Russians have been selling small arms and put Americans there at risk for 10 years, and we have objected to it,” he said.

“When we see credible information that suggests that the Russians are putting American lives at risk, we’re responding in a way that is serious,” he said.

“Do we warn them, do we talk to them? I think the answer is, of course we do.”

From Pompeo’s response – and merely mentioning Russian sale of small arms to Afghans – it is clear that Trump Administration does not trust the New York Times story. Administrations have remained very distrustful of intelligence leaks in the US media. New York Times has been used repeatedly by unnamed intelligence sources to shape narrative on important foreign policy issues. – ranging from Afghanistan and Pakistan, to Russia and China.

Read more: US in desperate need of Pakistan as leaks reveal Russian Intelligence paying cheques to Taliban

It is believed that at times Administrations have used such leaks themselves to strengthen their hands on a certain issue. In the Obama time period, between 2009 and 2016, stories were repeatedly published in New York Times to compel White House to take a more stronger position against Pakistan for instance. And President Trump has often condemned New York Times for inaccurate reporting. He clearly does not trust New York Times which he sees as a democratic leaning platform.

Russia’s chances for readmission into the G7 summit

Donald Trump has offered to invite Vladimir Putin to an expanded G7 meeting in September, but the invitation has already been adamantly opposed by the UK and Canada.

Originally, in 1997 Russia was admitted to the group of advanced democratic economies – the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan – but then evicted in 2014 after the annexation of Crimea.

The UK and Canada quickly rejected any suggestion that Russia be readmitted as long as Russia behaved aggressively on the world stage.

Read more: Is Russia using oil to maintain influence over India?

A Downing Street spokesperson said Russia should not be a member “unless it ceases aggressive and destabilizing activity that threatens the safety of UK citizens and the collective security of our allies”.

Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, said: “[Russia’s] continued disrespect and flaunting of international rules and norms is why it remains outside of the G7 and why it will continue to remain out.”

Trump has repeatedly pressed for Russia’s readmission at the G7, bringing it up at earlier summits, but each time it has been rejected by his fellow leaders.

GVS News Desk with input from AFP and other sources

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