CHEQUERS, England, July 13 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said he would discuss substantial reductions to nuclear weapons when he meets Russian President Vladimir Putin but cautioned that a "rigged witch hunt" in the United States was hampering efforts to improve relations.
Trump and Putin, who control the world's two biggest nuclear arsenals, are due to meet on Monday in Helsinki, a venue which evokes memories of Cold War show-downs between the Soviet Union and the United States.
"The proliferation is a tremendous, I mean to me, it's the biggest problem in the world, nuclear weapons, biggest problem in the world," Trump said alongside British Prime Minister Theresa May at her Chequers country residence.
RELATED: Vladimir Putin's daily routine
Vladimir Putin's daily routine
Vladimir Putin's daily routine
Putin rises late in the morning, taking breakfast around noon. He usually tucks into a large omelet or a big bowl of porridge, with some quail eggs and fruit juice on the side. Newsweek reports that the ingredients are "dispatched regularly from the farmland estates of the Patriarch Kirill, Russia’s religious leader."
In this photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev eat after touring on Lake Ilmen in Novgorod region, Russia, September 10, 2016.
Once he's finished his meal, he drinks coffee.
In this photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev toast with tea cups during breakfast at the Bocharov Ruchei state residence in Sochi, Russia, August 30, 2015.
REUTERS/Yekaterina Shtukina/RIA Novosti/Pool
Next, it's time to exercise. Newsweek reported that Putin spends about two hours swimming. While he's in the water, Putin often "gets much of Russia’s thinking done," Judah writes.
In this photo, Russia's Prime Minister Putin swims in a lake in southern Siberia's Tuva region August 3, 2009.
REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Pool/Alexei Druzhinin
After he's done swimming laps, Putin lifts weights in the gym.
In this photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev exercise in a gym at the Bocharov Ruchei state residence in Sochi, Russia, August 30, 2015.
REUTERS/Michael Klimentyev/RIA Novosti/Kremlin
The 64-year-old has been keen to cultivate an athletic, masculine image over the years. In 2015, he was photographed exercising with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. As Esquire reported, his workout outfit cost $3,200.
In this photo, Russias President Vladimir Putin works out at a gym at the Bocharov Ruchei state residence in Sochi on August 30, 2015.
MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images
Putin is conservative with his sartorial choices, preferring bespoke suits and "dour" Valentino ties, according to Judah.
In this photo, Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Moscow Region Governor Andrei Vorovyev at the Moscow Kremlin on June 5, 2017.
Mikhail Klimentyev/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS
The state-run website Russia Beyond the Headlines reports that Putin's favorite clothing brands are Kiton and Brioni.
In this photo, French President Emmanuel Macron, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin are seen in Versailles, France on May 29, 2017.
REUTERS/Stephane De Sakutin/Pool
The Russian president usually doesn't get to work until the early afternoon. First, Putin typically sits down at his desk to read briefing notes.
In this photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a video link, dedicated to the start of natural gas supplying from mainland Russia to Crimea, in Moscow, Russia, December 27, 2016.
Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS
These include reports on domestic intelligence and foreign affairs, as well as clips from the Russian press and the international media. Beyond work, the Russian president isn't much of a reader, although he did indulge in at least one action novel in 2006, according to Newsweek.
In this photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin leaves his final annual news conference in Moscow, February 14, 2008.
ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images
Once and a while, an adviser will show Putin a satirical online video mocking him and his government. Otherwise, he abstains from most technology at work, preferring "red folders with paper documents, and fixed-line Soviet Warera telephones" to computers, as Newsweek reported.
In this photo, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sits at a desk while visiting a local university in Novosibirsk on October 22, 2008.
ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/AFP/Getty Images
The Russian president is a night owl and often stays up quite late working. He's at his sharpest at night, writes Newsweek.
In this photo, Russia's President Vladimir Putin arrives at the Congress Hall of the Siberian Federal University on March 1, 2017.
Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images
While traveling abroad, the Russian president's schedule tightens even more. Wherever he stays, everything is replaced, including sheets, toiletries and fruit bowls. Putin also never accepts food from a host that hasn't been cleared by the Kremlin first.
In this photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin visits a reserve for Przewalski's horses outside Orenburg, Russia October 3, 2016.
Sputnik/Kremlin/Alexei Druzhinin/ via REUTERS
The Telegraph previously reported that Putin's favorite food is pistachio ice cream. He also once gifted his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping with a tub of ice cream during last year's G20 summit. However, the Newsweek article reported that when Putin travels, he "cannot be served milk products."
In this photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and other officials eat in a restaurant in Moscow on March 2, 2008.
VLADIMIR RODIONOV/AFP/Getty Images
According to reports, Putin abstains from alcohol, except for during formal receptions. Projecting the image of teetotalism also may be a political move. According to Politico, the Russian president may be taking a symbolic stand amid Russia's alcoholism epidemic and contrasting himself with his predecessor Boris Yeltsin.
In this photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama share a toast during the luncheon at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 28, 2015.
REUTERS/Mikhail Metzel/RIA Novosti/Pool
His work schedule tends to be more flexible over the weekend to accommodate Putin's English language classes. On Sunday, he sometimes prays and makes confession. Nonetheless, Russian officials close to the president stressed that "his life is not that of a Christian," according to Newsweek.
In this photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin lights a candle during his visit to the Life-giving Trinity church in Moscow, September 10, 2014.
REUTERS/Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin
Every few weeks, Putin's schedule clears to make room for one of his favorite past times: ice hockey. The Russian president doesn't just observe the sport. He plays in a league, squaring off against teams of bodyguards.
In this photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin plays in an ice hockey training session at the Shayba Arena in Sochi, Russia, April 30, 2017.
Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS
As USA Today reported, Putin's opponents and teammates alike tend to give him quite a bit of space during the games.
In this photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, plays in a gala game of the Night Ice Hockey League in Sochi, Russia, May 10, 2016.
Sputnik/Kremlin via Reuters
Putin also loves animals. He owns a 15-year-old black Labrador named Konni, an Akita Inu named Yume, and a Karakachan Dog named Buffy.
In this photo, Russin President Vladimir Putin plays with his dogs Buffy, right, and Yume at his residence Novo-Ogariovo, outside Moscow.
Alexsey Druginyn/AFP/Getty Images
Yume sparked an incident in 2016 when she trotted into an interview and barked at visiting Japanese journalists. Putin responded by giving the Akita a treat and showing off some of her tricks, according to CNN.
In this photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin plays with his dog Yume, a female Akita Inu, before giving an interview to Japanese Nippon Television and Yomiuri newspaper at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, December 7, 2016.
Sputnik/Kremlin/Alexei Druzhinin via REUTERS
Newsweek reports that Putin likes to stick close to home. He hates commuting to Moscow, even though it only takes about 25 minutes, and seems to prefer his Novo-Ogaryovo complex on the Black Sea to the Kremlin.
In this photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin leaves a car during flowers laying ceremony at the monument to Dmitry Pozharsky and Kuzma Minin at the Red Square near the Kremlin marking a National Unity Day in Moscow on November 4, 2016.
ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images
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"If we can do something to substantially reduce them, I mean, ideally get rid of them, maybe that's a dream, but certainly it's a subject that I'll be bringing up with him," Trump said of his upcoming meeting with Putin.
Trump added the nuclear arsenals were "also a very expensive thing but that’s the least important."
Though Trump has not so far given specific details about what nuclear arms control treaties they would like to talk about, he and Putin are likely to discuss the possibility of extending the "New Start" treaty - a pillar of arms control.
They are also likely to discuss what to do about another pact known as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) to try to dampen a high-risk nuclear rivalry between the two former Cold War foes.
But Trump cautioned that it was hard to do substantive deals with Russia because of an investigation into suspected Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, a probe Trump cast as "rigged witch hunt."
"We have this stupidity going on, pure stupidity, but it makes it very hard to do something with Russia because, anything you do, it’s like: 'Russia, oh he loves Russia'," Trump said. "I love the United States but I love getting along with Russia and China and other countries."
"I call it the rigged witch hunt. I think that really hurts our country and it really hurts our relationship with Russia," said Trump who denies any collusion with Russian meddling in the election.
Trump was speaking shortly before the Justice Department in Washington announced that a federal grand jury had indicted 12 Russian military intelligence officers on charges of hacking the computer networks of 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.
Trump added that he would raise alleged Russian election meddling with Putin.
When asked if there was any way for relations with the Kremlin to improve while Russia continues to occupy Crimea, which it annexed 2014, Trump said: "Yes, I think so."
Trump said Putin would not have dared to annex Crimea if he had been in the White House. "This was an Obama disaster and I think if I had been president then, he would not have taken over Crimea."
"We haven't taken off the sanctions, the sanctions are biting," Trump said. "I have taken over a lot of bad hands and I'm fixing them one by one and I know how to fix them." (Additional reporting by David Shepherdson in Washington, Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Sarah Young, editing by Peter Graff, William Maclean)