Putin tells Pompeo he wants to ‘fully restore’ US-Russian ties

US secretary of state met Russian president and foreign minister to discuss Iran, Ukraine, Venezuela and Syria.

The Russian President Putin told Pompeo his country had not interfered in US elections [Pavel Golovkin/Pool via Reuters]
The Russian President Putin told Pompeo his country had not interfered in US elections

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he would like to “fully restore” relations with the United States and believes that his US counterpart Donald Trump wants to do the same.

Putin on Tuesday told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo he came to that conclusion after a phone call with Trump a few days ago.

The Russian president, speaking ahead of  a meeting with Pompeo, also said that his country had not interfered in US elections.

Earlier, Pompeo met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi in hopes of finding common grounds in strategic issues over Iran, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela.

At a joint news conference following the meeting, Pompeo urged Russia to end support for President Nicolas Maduro, but his call was flatly rejected by Moscow.

“The time has come for Nicolas Maduro to go, he has brought nothing but misery to the Venezuelan people, and we hope that Russian support for Maduro will end,” Pompeo said. The US along with about 50 other countries, backs the opposition movement led by Juan Guaido, who declared himself interim president in January.

For his part, Lavrov said Maduro’s future should be decided by the Venezuelan people and called US pressure on him undemocratic.

‘Many differences’ on Iran

Speaking on Iran, Russia’s ally, Lavrov said that Russia and the US “have many differences” and criticized the US decision to unilaterally withdraw from Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement meant to rein in the country’s nuclear programme.

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Pompeo said that the US will respond appropriately to any Iranian attacks on US interests, in an apparent reference to the Iranian military’s threat to shut the strategic strait of Hormuz in the Gulf. The US secretary, however, added that his country did not “seek war with Iran”.

The US recently tightened restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme by revoking key sanctions waivers, a move staunchly opposed by Moscow, over a year after Washington withdrew from a landmark deal that curbed Iran’s nuclear programme. It also imposed new sanctions on the country’s metal sector.

On the Ukrainian crisis, an issue the sides are also loggerheads, the Pompeo said the US would not recognize Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and would keep in place economic sanctions imposed on Russia over that move.

Mike Pompeo met Sergey Lavrov in Sochi to discuss a range of issues including Iran, Venezuela and Ukraine [Pavel Golovkin, Pool/AP]

Pompeo said he asked Moscow to free a group of Ukrainian sailors, seized by Russia last November, and to work with Ukraine‘s new president to bring peace to eastern Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Lavrov said that the Kremlin would welcome an official request by Washington for a meeting between the US and Russian presidents at a G20 summit scheduled for June.

US warning on 2020 polls

Pompeo also said he had made it clear to Lavrov that there could be no repeat of election interference of the kind Washington accuses Moscow of undertaking in the 2016 United States presidential election.

If Russia interferes in the 2020 presidential election, “it would put our relationship in an even worse place,” Pompeo said.

Ties between the two countries have been damaged by allegations that Russia tried to influence the results of the election in favour of Trump, a claim denied by Moscow.

Putin tells Pompeo he wants to ‘fully restore’ US-Russian ties

“It’s clear that such insinuations are absolute fiction,” Lavrov said at the joint press conference.

Pompeo’s visit represents the first high-level contact between Moscow and Washington since US Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted a report examining the nature of Russia’s role in the 2016 election.

His inquiry had cast a pall over US-Russian relations, and Russian officials had expressed hope that Washington would have more scope to build friendlier relations with Moscow once it was out of the way.

Before his meeting with Pompeo, Putin praised the report.

“Despite the exotic nature of Mr Mueller’s commission, on the whole he conducted quite an objective investigation and confirmed the absence of any collusion between the US administration and Russia.”

The Mueller report called Russia’s efforts to influence the election “the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, but these activities demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations”.

Trump, Putin discuss nuclear weapons and Venezuela in phone call

US President Donald Trump tweets he ‘had a long and very good’ phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a joint news conference after their meeting in Helsinki, July  2018 [File: Grigory Dukor/Reuters]
US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a joint news conference after their meeting in Helsinki, July 2018

US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke for more than an hour on Friday, discussing the possibility of a new nuclear accord, North Korean denuclearisation, Ukraine and the political situation in Venezuela, the White House said.

“Had a long and very good conversation with President Putin of Russia,” Trump said in a post on Twitter, noting they had discussed trade, Venezuela, Ukraine, North Korea, nuclear arms and Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential campaign.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters that the call was an “overall positive conversation”.

Mueller report

Sanders said the two men, who last chatted informally at a dinner of world leaders in Buenos Aires on December 1, briefly talked about the report Mueller report that concluded Trump did not collude with Russia during his 2016 presidential campaign.

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The Mueller probe discussion was “essentially in the context of that it’s over and there was no collusion, which I’m pretty sure both leaders were very well aware of long before this call took place,” Sanders said.

The Kremlin confirmed the two leaders talked and highlighted in its statement that the call was initiated by Washington.

It said the two leaders agreed to maintain contacts on different levels and expressed satisfaction with the “businesslike and constructive nature” of the conversation.

Venezuela

With the United States concerned about a Russian military presence in Venezuela at a time when Washington wants Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to leave power, Trump told Putin “the United States stands with the people of Venezuela” and stressed he wanted to get relief supplies into the country, Sanders said.

Tension grows between US and Russia over Venezuela standoff

Putin told Trump that any external interference in Venezuela’s internal business undermines the prospects of a political end to the crisis, the Kremlin said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by phone on Wednesday that further “aggressive steps” in Venezuela would be fraught with the gravest consequences, the Russian ministry said.

The US State Department said Pompeo urged Russia on the call to stop supporting Maduro. He also “stressed that the intervention by Russia and Cuba is destabilising for Venezuela and for the US-Russia bilateral relationship,” it said.

New START treaty

Sanders told reporters Trump and Putin talked about the possibility of a new multilateral nuclear accord between the US, Russia and China, or an extension of the current US-Russia strategic nuclear treaty.

She did not say which arms control agreement Trump and Putin discussed, but the Russian state news agency Tass reported that they talked about the New START treaty, the last major arms-control treaty remaining between the US and Russia.

The 2011 New START treaty expires in February 2021 but can be extended for five years if both sides agree. Without the agreement, it could be harder to gauge each other’s intentions, arms control advocates say.

‘Huge mistake’: Fears of arms race as US, Russia suspend INF pact

The New START treaty required the US and Russia to cut their deployed strategic nuclear warheads to no more than 1,550, the lowest level in decades, and limit delivery systems – land- and submarine-based missiles and nuclear-capable bombers.

It also includes extensive transparency measures requiring each side to allow the other to carry out 10 inspections of strategic nuclear bases each year; give 48 hours notice before new missiles covered by the treaty leave their factories; and provide notifications before ballistic missile launches.

Trump has called the New START treaty a “bad deal” and “one-sided”.

“They discussed a nuclear agreement, both new and extended, and the possibility of having conversations with China on that as well,” Sanders said.

The Kremlin said the two sides confirmed they intended to “activate dialogue in various spheres, including strategic security”.

Trump earlier pulled the plug on a decades-old nuclear arms treaty with Russia. Trump accused Moscow of violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with “impunity” by deploying missiles banned by the pact. Moscow denies violating it and has accused Washington of being in non-compliance.

Ukraine

Sanders also said the two leaders discussed Ukraine.

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Trump cancelled a summit meeting with Putin late last year after Russia seized three Ukrainian Navy ships on November 25 and arrested 24 sailors. Putin also told Trump that the new leadership in Ukraine should take steps to solve the Ukrainian crisis, the Kremlin said.

North Korea

Trump also raised with Putin the issue of getting North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes. Trump has met twice with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un but Kim has yet to agree to a disarmament deal.

Kim and Putin: Challenging the US role in denuclearisation

Sanders said Trump mentioned several times “the need and importance of Russia stepping up and continuing to put pressure on North Korea to denuclearize.” The Kremlin said both leaders highlighted the need to pursue denuclearisation of the region.

During an April summit with Kim in Vladivostok, Putin expressed Russian support for a gradual process of trading disarmament for sanctions relief.

Mueller Not Seeking Jail Time for Flynn, Cites “Substantial Assistance”

DEC 05, 2018

H2 mikeflynn

In a sentencing memo filed Tuesday evening, special counsel Robert Mueller said he is not seeking jail time for former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, citing “substantial assistance” given to the ongoing probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and at least one other investigation. Large portions of the memo were heavily redacted, meaning Mueller’s team is continuing to hide details of what it has uncovered. The memo also references Flynn’s cooperation in a separate, unidentified criminal investigation, details of which were blacked out.

Comrade Trump, in bed with Putin. Does Amerika give a fuck?

The New York Times is reporting Donald Trump Jr. agreed to meet with a Kremlin-linked lawyer during the 2016 campaign after being promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump Jr. and Trump’s then-campaign chair, Paul Manafort, attended the meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower two weeks after Trump won the Republican nomination. Since the news broke, Donald Trump Jr. has given at least two conflicting explanations for the meeting. On Saturday, he first issued a statement that made no mention of being promised information on Clinton, saying only that the meeting was about the U.S. adoption of Russian children. Then, on Sunday, Trump Jr. issued another statement about his meeting with the Kremlin-linked lawyer, saying, “I was asked to have a meeting by an acquaintance I knew from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant with an individual who I was told might have information helpful to the campaign.” The New York Times’s revelations come as President Trump is facing multiple investigations into his ties to Russia and whether members of his campaign colluded with the Russians to interfere in the U.S. election. Donald Trump Jr. also faced criticism on Saturday for retweeting a doctored clip of the movie “Top Gun,” edited so it appears that President Trump is a fighter pilot shooting down a jet with the CNN logo. This comes less than a week after President Trump faced criticism for tweeting a doctored video of himself body-slamming and punching a figure whose head has been replaced by the CNN logo. The Trump White House is also considering blocking a pending merger between Time Warner—CNN’s parent company—and AT&T, amid Trump’s escalating feud with the network. Meanwhile, another one of Trump’s children, Ivanka Trump, also sparked criticism when she took her father’s seat briefly at the G20 summit, sitting between British Prime Minister Theresa May and Chinese President Xi Jinping. The move was widely criticized back in the United States, given that Ivanka Trump is a businesswoman with no diplomatic experience and no elected position in the administration. Both Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner serve as senior advisers to Trump. We’ll have more on the Trump family, including Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner, later in the broadcast.

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Following theG20 meeting with Trump, Russian President Putin said Trump had accepted his denial of election interference.

President Vladimir Putin: “Our position is well known. I’ve spoken about it. There are no grounds to believe that Russia interfered in the election process in the United States. He asked a lot of questions about this issue. I answered these questions as well as I could. It seems to me he accepted it and agreed. But you are better off asking him what he thought about it.”

Trump is now backpedaling on the plan to form a joint cybersecurity unit with Russia, after facing widespread backlash over the weekend, including from South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.

Sen. Lindsey Graham: “And he had what I think is a disastrous meeting with President Putin. Two hours and 15 minutes of meetings, Tillerson and Trump are ready to forgive and forget when it comes to cyberattacks on the American election of 2016.