The White House had announced Thursday that Bolton would travel to London and Paris before heading on to the Russian capital between Monday and Wednesday. Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for Bolton, said that the visit to Moscow would be to discuss a possible meeting between Putin and President Trump.
A National Security Council spokesman said that it had nothing more to say about a potential meeting between Bolton and Putin.
Before he joined the White House in April, Bolton had made a number of critical comments about Russia during public appearances. Writing for British newspaper the Telegraph last year, Bolton called alleged Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election “a true act of war, and one Washington will never tolerate.”
Bolton also has a long history of making comments about the Russian president personally, suggesting a number of times that Putin has lied about global events. In response to Russia’s handling of the situation involving National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden in 2013, Bolton told Fox News that “we need to do things that cause [Putin] pain as well.”
However, Trump has pushed for greater engagement with the Kremlin for months, overriding aides who suggested the U.S. leader keep his distance from Russia, given differences over foreign policy issues such as Ukraine and Syria, as well as persistent speculation that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia ahead of alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
In a March phone call, Trump had proposed meeting Putin at the White House — a detail confirmed by the White House only after the Kremlin made it public the next month.
Bolton, who had a reputation as a foreign policy hawk in previous administrations, has taken a less outspoken stance on issues since returning to government. This month, he was among the U.S. delegation that met with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un in Singapore, despite his own skepticism about denuclearization talks with Pyongyang.