Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone on Monday with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, as the transition to a new administration began in Washington, the Kremlin and the office of the president-elect said.
In a statement released Monday evening, the Kremlin said Putin congratulated Trump on his election victory and “noted the willingness to build collaborative dialogue with the new administration on the principles of equality, mutual respect and noninterference.”
The office of the president-elect in a statement said the two men “discussed a range of issues including the threats and challenges facing the United States and Russia, strategic economic issues and the historical U.S.-Russia relationship that dates back over 200 years.”
U.S.-Russian relations have been at post–Cold War lows following the eruption of the Ukraine crisis in 2014 and Putin’s direct military intervention last year in Syria. During the U.S. election campaign, the U.S. intelligence community directly accused the Russian government of deliberately trying to interfere in the U.S. democratic process by leaking emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee.
While many world leaders watched the US election result with confusion and horror, Russia hopes a Trump presidency will mean less lecturing from the west and a freer hand to act as it pleases in Ukraine and Syria.
According to a Kremlin summary of the phone call, Putin said he was ready for “a dialogue of partnership with the new administration based on the principles of equality, mutual respect and non-interference in the internal affairs of each other”.
A statement from Trump’s transition team said Putin offered congratulations on winning “a historic election”.
“During the call, the two leaders discussed a range of issues including the threats and challenges facing the United States and Russia, strategic economic issues and the historical US-Russia relationship that dates back over 200 years,” the statement said.
“President-elect Trump noted to President Putin that he is very much looking forward to having a strong and enduring relationship with Russia and the people of Russia.”
As with most aspects of a Trump White House, there is very little concrete understanding about what his foreign policy may look like. Many in Moscow fear that, with his unpredictable temperament, Trump could prove a false friend. But his statement in his victory speech that “we will get along with all other nations willing to get along with us” went down well in the Kremlin.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the two leaders shared a “phenomenally similar” outlook on foreign policy.
However, one of the leading candidates for the position of secretary of state in a Trump administration, John Bolton, former ambassador to the UN, has spent the past few years arguing for a much tougher US position towards Russian expansionism in Ukraine and Syria.
The Kremlin has on numerous occasions accused the Obama administration of attempting to foment dissent in Russia, and of interfering in the countries that border it, notably Ukraine. Meanwhile US officials directly accused Russia of attempting to interfere in the election in favour of Trump, by hacking Democratic party servers. Putin has denied any interference.
In contrast to many European leaders, who are hoping that some of the more outrageous promises made by Trump during the campaign will be discarded during his presidency, Putin “wished him success in implementing his campaign promises”.
Putin will also have taken heart from Trump’s suggestion that he could move US focus in Syria away from removing President Bashar Assad, and back Russia’s bombing raids, which have often appeared to target moderate opposition to the Syrian regime more than Isis.
“V Putin and D Trump shared the opinion that it is necessary to join forces against the common enemy number one: international terrorism and extremism. In this spirit, the question of regulating the conflict in Syria was also discussed,” said the Kremlin statement.
The two men agreed to keep in touch by telephone and begin planning for an in-person meeting. It was not specified whether such a meeting would take place before or after Trump’s inauguration in January.