President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will have their first official phone call on Saturday.
“I assume they will discuss, in the interests of their respective countries, how to come together and work together on issues where you can find common ground and where these two nations could maybe defeat radical Islamic terrorism,” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told CBS Friday.
Conway was asked who initiated the call.
“I won’t divulge that,” she said. “But it also doesn’t matter in that we have to have leaders talking to each other. We have to forge better relationships around the globe.”
Trump will also speak by phone Saturday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said.
The difference between Trump’s “America first” rhetoric and policy and those pursued by former President Barack Obama have caused consternation in European capitals.
“Let’s say it honestly, there is the challenge posed by the new U.S. administration, regarding trade rules and what our position will be on managing conflicts in the world,” Hollande said Friday after a meeting with Merkel.
British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday urged caution in dealing with Russia.
“When it comes to Russia, as so often it is wise to turn to the example of President Reagan who — during his negotiations with his opposite number Mikhail Gorbachev — used to abide by the adage ‘trust but verify.’ With President Putin, my advice is to ‘engage but beware,’” May said.
Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, indicated that the call would be general and allow the two men to exchange their opinions on the current state of Russian-American relations. Peskov downplayed the odds of a detailed conversation about Ukraine, one of the flashpoints in relations between the two countries.
“This is the first telephone contact since President Trump took office, so one should hardly expect that this phone call will involve substantive discussions across the whole range of issues. We’ll see, let’s be patient,” he said.
Trump spoke with Putin briefly after his Nov. 8 election victory. He has taken office promising to improve U.S.-Russian relations at a time when policy differences over Russian intervention in Ukraine as well as the Russian efforts to intervene in the presidential election have created a widening rift between the two superpowers.
Trump said recently that existing sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Crimea could be on the table as part of an agreement to reduce nuclear arms, although conservative Republicans have shown little support for removing the sanctions.
“If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?” Trump told the Wall Street Journal earlier this month.
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