by Susan Jones, CNSnews:
President Donald Trump had an hourlong discussion Saturday with Russian President Vladimir Putin — the first since Trump assumed office last week — raising questions over the fate of U.S. sanctions against Moscow and whether the two will look to enhance military cooperation against the Islamic State group.
The White House provided a thin readout on the call between the two leaders, saying it was “a significant start to improving the relationship between the United States and Russia that is in need of repair.”
The two leaders discussed “a range in topics from mutual cooperation in defeating ISIS to efforts in working together to achieve more peace throughout the world including Syria,” the White House statement said, using an acronym for the militant group.
A White House official later said sanctions did not come up in Saturday’s call between Trump and Putin. The official said Putin brought up several times that Islamic terrorism was a “common foe” for the U.S. and Russia. The official was not authorized to disclose details of the call by name and insisted on anonymity.
Contrary to statements from the White House, the Kremlin said that the two leaders addressed the importance of “restoring mutually beneficial trade and economic ties between business circles of the two countries.”
The Kremlin also said that Putin and Trump spoke in particular about international issues, including the fight against terrorism, the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iran’s nuclear program, the situation on the Korean peninsula and the Ukraine crisis.
Moscow has applauded Trump’s promises to rebuild U.S.-Russian relations, which have been pushed to their worst level since the Cold War by the Ukraine crisis, war in Syria and allegations of Russian meddling in U.S. elections. Trump signed a presidential memorandum on the plan to defeat the Islamic State group Saturday, including in it the possibility of teaming up with “new coalition partners,” suggesting that pairing up with Russia on counterterrorism issues isn’t off the table.
Trump was noncommittal about whether he was considering lifting the economic sanctions ahead of the call, telling reporters Friday: “We’ll see what happens. As far as the sanctions, very early to be talking about that.”
In 2014, Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region and backed separatists fighting government forces in eastern Ukraine, drawing widespread condemnation in Europe and the United States.
In response, sanctions were implemented against sectors of Russia’s economy, including financial services, energy, mining and defense. The Obama administration also sanctioned people in Putin’s inner circle.