Putin-Trump phone call to take place on
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[January 27, 2017]
By Christian Lowe and Noah Barkin
MOSCOW/BERLIN (Reuters) - Russian President
Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump will speak by telephone
on Saturday, the Kremlin said, a first step towards what Trump has
billed as a normalization of relations after three years of tensions
sparked by the conflict in Ukraine.
Trump will also have a telephone conversation the same day with German
Chancellor Angela Merkel, and that call is expected to focus on Russia,
a source in Berlin familiar with the matter said.
Trump has said in the past that, as part of the rapprochement he is
seeking with Russia, he is prepared to review the sanctions that
Washington imposed on Russia over its 2014 annexation of Ukraine's
That move is likely to face resistance from both influential figures in
Washington and foreign leaders -- Merkel among them -- who argue
sanctions should only be eased if Moscow complies with the West's
conditions on Ukraine.
Trump is already under intense scrutiny at home from critics who say he
was elected with help from Russian intelligence -- an allegation he
denies -- and that he is too ready to cut deals with a country that many
of his own officials say is a threat to U.S. security.
Trump and Putin last spoke in November, when Putin rang Trump to
congratulate him on winning the presidential election.
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov, said the Russian leader would use the
call to congratulate Trump on taking office and to exchange views on the
current state of U.S.-Russian ties.
Asked by reporters if Ukraine would come up, Peskov said: "This is the
first telephone contact since President Trump took office, so one should
hardly expect that this phone call will involve substantive discussions
across the whole range of issues. We'll see, let's be patient."
He said he was unaware of any plans by the White House to lift
Ukraine-related sanctions on Russia.
If Putin and Trump can establish a rapport, it could pave the way for
deals on Ukraine and Syria, two sources of friction during the
administration of Barack Obama.
Trump and Putin have never met and it was unclear how their very
different personalities would gel. Trump is a flamboyant real estate
deal-maker who often acts on gut instinct, while Putin is a former
Soviet spy who calculates each step methodically.
Both have spoken about ending the enmity that has dragged U.S.-Russia
relations to their lowest ebb since the Cold War.
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Russia's President Vladimir Putin makes his annual New Year address
to the nation in Moscow, Russia, December 31, 2016. Sputnik/Mikhail
Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS/File Photo
"Wouldn't it be nice if we actually got along with people? Wouldn't
it be nice if we actually got along, as an example, with Russia? I
am all for it," Trump told a news conference in July last year.
Putin, at a news conference in December, said he would reciprocate.
"Mr Trump .... said he believes it's right to normalize
Russian-American ties and said it definitely won't be any worse,
because it couldn't be worse. I agree with him. Together we'll think
about how to improve things."
For the Russian leader, there is much to gain. Putin is expected to
run for re-election next year, but is hampered by a sluggish
economy. A softening or removal of sanctions would allow Western
investment and credit to flow in, lifting growth and strengthening
Putin's election prospects.
For Trump, a rapprochement with Russia carries political risks.
Powerful Congressional figures say they will block any move to lift
That would displease some of Washington's European allies too. The
source in Berlin familiar with plans for the Trump-Merkel call said
it would be "unpleasant" if Trump were to lift sanctions against
Russia, but added: "It doesn't mean that we go along." The European
Union has its own set of sanctions against Russia that it imposed
Trump is also vulnerable to allegations at home of being too cozy
U.S. intelligence agencies published a report this month saying
Russia had mounted a campaign, including through hacking of
Democratic Party emails, to influence the presidential election in
Trump's favor. Both Trump and the Kremlin have denied that happened.
(Additional reporting by Polina Devitt and Denis Pinchuk; Editing by
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