US President Donald Trump phoned Russia’s Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to congratulate him on his re-election and they discussed the possibility of a meeting, the Kremlin said. Putin won a landslide victory in Sunday’s presidential election, extending his rule over the world’s largest country for another six years at a time when his ties with the West are on a hostile trajectory.
“The leaders spoke in favour of developing practical cooperation in different spheres, including on questions of how to ensure strategic stability and fight international terrorism,” the Kremlin said in a statement.
Putin and Trump agreed on the need to work together to avoid a possible arms race, the Kremlin said, adding: “Special attention was devoted to working through the question of a possible high-level meeting.”
A US administration official confirmed to Reuters that the call had taken place, without elaborating. The White House will issue a statement later on Tuesday, the official said.
Amid new East-West tensions over the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain, Trump had not been expected to congratulate Putin, and the Kremlin had previously said it did not regard his failure to do so as an unfriendly act.
The Kremlin said Tuesday’s conversation between the two leaders had been broadly constructive and focused on overcoming problems in US-Russia relations, which are at a post-Cold War low.
Moscow and Washington are at odds over Ukraine and Syria, while US allegations that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, something Moscow denies, continue to cast a shadow over ties.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies separately that Putin and Trump had not discussed the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain. London has blamed Moscow for the attack, a charge Russia denies. The Skripals remain in a critical condition.
It said Putin and Trump had discussed the need to swiftly overcome obstacles to resolving the crises in Syria and Ukraine and also to continue trying to de-escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula through diplomatic means.
Putin has struck a softer tone towards the West since winning his biggest ever election victory, saying he has no desire for an arms race and would do everything he could to resolve differences with other countries.
Earlier on Tuesday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said he hoped Putin’s win would lead to a thaw in U.S.-Russia relations, the RIA news agency reported.
Ryabkov was cited as saying he hoped the victory would persuade some U.S. politicians to stop isolating Russia and said Moscow was open to dialogue with Washington.