Russian leader Vladimir Putin Monday called President-elect Donald Trump and the two assessed what the Kremlin labeled as the “extremely unsatisfactory” state of relations between the United States and Russia, pledging sweeping cooperation.
Trump’s office said Putin placed the call to offer his congratulations on Trump’s victory. The Kremlin, for its part, spoke of a “possible personal meeting” between the two.
Descriptions by the Kremlin and Trump’s office of the call were warm, even effusive, yet coincided with new tensions between Washington and Moscow that have flared to become more severe than at any time since the end of the Cold War.
The Treasury Department put six sitting Russian legislators on a black list for actions it said threaten the peace and security of the Ukraine, a former Soviet satellite state.
Russian special forces seized the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in early 2014, and later declared Crimea a territory of Russia, an act that led to U.S.-led international sanctions.
Four of the legislators in the Duma, or parliament, represent Crimea or Sevastopol, and most of them helped solidify Russian control after 2014 annexation of the peninsula. Under the action, no U.S. entities can conduct financial transactions with the legislators. Treasury said the action would stay in effect “until Russia ends its occupation of the peninsula.”
Trump’s office said the president-elect and Putin “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.”
It said Trump looks forward to “a strong and enduring relationship with Russia and the people of Russia.”
Trump has voiced admiration for Putin as a “strong” leader, saying he disagrees with the authoritarian system in Russia but vowing to improve relations with the Kremlin. His regard for Putin, a former KGB operative, has flummoxed long-time hawks in the Republican Party, many of whom regard Russia as a significant U.S. rival determined to thwart U.S. interests abroad.
In the last presidential debate, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton accused Trump of being a “puppet” of Putin.
U.S. tensions simmer with Russia over its role in the Ukraine and Syria but also over what the Obama administration has said is direct meddling in U.S. elections by Russian state hackers, who it blamed for penetrating the computer networks of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign chairman during the presidential election campaign.
The Kremlin said the Putin and Trump discussed conflict in Syria, vowing to collaborate “against major common enemy — international terrorism and extremism,” according to Tass, a Russian government-owned news agency.
“During the conversation, Putin and Trump not only fell in on the assessment of the extremely unsatisfactory state of the Russian-US relations but also spoke in favor of active joint efforts toward their normalization and bringing them into the track of constructive cooperation on a wide range of issues,” the Tass news agency said.