Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that he and President-elect Donald Trump agreed during a recent phone call that US-Russian relations “must be straightened out.”
“During my recent telephone conversation with Mr. Donald Trump, our opinions coincided that the current, unsatisfactory state of Russia-US relations, undoubtedly must be straightened out. As I already have said, our country is prepared to go down our part of that road,” Putin said at a foreign policy conference in Moscow.
The Russian leader maintained that the decline in his country’s relations with the US was “not our fault,” though Putin presided over the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, the bombing of US-backed rebels in Syria last year, and the apparent Russian hacking of the DNC during the election.
Putin’s comments came amid reports in the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post that the Kremlin has been in touch with Trump and people close to him about the ongoing crisis in Syria.
During the campaign, Trump’s son Donald Jr. met with pro-Russian diplomats in Paris who pressed the younger Trump to “reach an accord on the issue of the Syrian crisis” in partnership, instead of at odds, with Russia.
The pro-Russian diplomats that met with Trump Jr. support an end to the Syrian conflict that keeps Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power, though the US under Obama has called for him to step aside and the international community has accused him of war crimes.
In speeches, Trump has characterised Assad as “killing ISIS,” despite reports that the vast majority of Russian and Syrian airstrikes in Syria have been directed at anti-Assad rebels operating in western Syria, far from ISIS’ holdouts in the east.
Recent polling carried out in Russia shows 71% of Russians favour strengthening economic, political, and cultural ties with the West, as the past several years of sanctions have been crippling to their economy.