Russian state-run media on Monday reported somewhat breathlessly that US President-elect Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin had spoken on the phone Monday and agreed to a face-to-face meeting in the near future.
After Putin had congratulated Trump on his victory in last Tuesday’s presidential elections, the two men focused on “combating international terrorism and extremism, and on settling the crisis in Syria,” according to Sputnik News.
A Kremlin press release said the two agreed on “uniting efforts in the fight with the common enemy number one – international terrorism and extremism.” The release said they also discussed the importance of repairing frayed relations between the two countries and agreed to mutual non-interference in the two countries’ respective “internal affairs.”
While there is nothing surprising about a US president-elect receiving a courtesy call from the Russian president, the relationship between Putin and Trump -- and between Moscow and the Trump campaign in general -- has been the subject of much speculation throughout the campaign.
The phone conversation was apparently the first between the two men, despite Trump’s claim during the campaign to have a personal relationship with the Kremlin strongman. Trump would later deny any personal contact with Putin after his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, warned that Trump would be a “puppet” for the Russian leader if he were to win the White House.
Early in the campaign, after Putin said some mildly complimentary things about Trump, the former reality television star went out of his way to praise the Russian leader, even appearing, at one point, to dismiss concerns that Russian journalists who oppose Putin frequently wind up dead.
Trump also expressly denied the findings of US intelligence agencies, who are convinced beyond doubt that hackers working on the orders of the Kremlin are responsible for multiple hacks of Democratic operatives and organizations, which led to a rolling release of damaging documents throughout the presidential campaign.
Late last week, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov provoked surprise in the US when he told a Russian news agency that the Kremlin had been in contact with the Trump campaign during the election, saying, “Obviously, we know most of the people from his entourage.”
He added, “We have just begun to consider ways of building a dialogue with the future Donald Trump administration and channels we will be using for those purposes.”