Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, despite nixing a planned trip to Moscow, still is expected to travel to Sochi, Russia on Tuesday for high-level meetings with Vladimir Putin and other senior Kremlin officials—a trip that one source said could result in helping drive a “wedge” between Russia and China on key issues.
Pompeo’s travel plans have been fluid. The secretary of state spent Monday in Brussels, instead of Moscow as originally planned, and held discussions on Iran and other issues with European officials.
Pompeo’s trip to Sochi on Tuesday to meet Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will mark his first to Russia as secretary of state.
A source familiar with the planning of Tuesday’s meetings told Fox News that Pompeo will discuss major issues with Russian officials—such as North Korea, Iran, Syria and Venezuela—but will specifically focus on mutual areas of interest to the U.S. and Russia. The source suggested this could help highlight Moscow’s differences with Beijing — coming at a time when the Trump administration is taking a hard line toward China, most recently by pursuing tariff increases on their imports.
“One of the motivations for the U.S. could be exploring opportunities to work with Russia and China on arms control,” the source said, “but at the same time, working with Russia where our interests coincide, and China’s do not.”
“That would have a positive result of driving a wedge between Russia and China,” the source said. “That is something that would be of value to the U.S. Russia is nervous about China.”
The source suggested Russia is wary toward China’s efforts to project power on the world stage — whether in the Arctic or in Afghanistan — and driving them apart could serve a positive purpose, despite America’s obvious differences and disputes with Moscow including on arms control.
Earlier this month, President Trump spoke with Putin about a potential nuclear deal—first between the U.S. and Russia, with the potential to later add China.
“We’re talking about a nuclear agreement where we make less, and they make less, and maybe even where we get rid of some of the tremendous firepower we have now,” Trump said earlier this month. “We’re spending billions of dollars on nuclear weapons. We need that, but we are also…looking at a three-way deal instead of a two-way deal.”
Trump explained that the U.S. would “probably start something up shortly between Russia and ourselves,” and that “China would be added down the road.”
Trump, at the time, added that China “very much” wants to be a part of that potential deal.
The State Department did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment about the talks between Pompeo and the Russians.
The topic of strengthening U.S.-Russia relations as it pertains to foreign policy comes as a trade war between Washington and Beijing heats up.
Last week, the Trump administration moved to increase tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods after trade talks between the two nations failed to come to an agreement. The bulk of the goods facing increased tariffs include iPhones, laptops, clothing, and other everyday products. China has already imposed tariffs on nearly all American goods.
Meanwhile, despite calls from congressional Democrats to do so, the source told Fox News that Pompeo likely will not discuss 2020 election security with Putin and Lavrov, despite heightened interest at home, saying that the secretary of state will “not let domestic issues interfere with foreign policy.”
The meeting comes weeks after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report became public. The special counsel found no evidence of collusion between associates of the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election, though detailed multiple links between them.
Fox News’ Rich Edson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.