LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
President Trump made several calls to world leaders on Saturday, including the prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, French President Francois Hollande and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. But perhaps at the top of his phone list were German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin. We'll hear about the call to Merkel in a moment. But first, NPR's Lucian Kim has the reaction from Moscow.
LUCIAN KIM, BYLINE: The Kremlin is giving a very positive readout of Saturday's phone call between Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Although there was widespread speculation that Trump might propose lifting sanctions on Russia, Putin's spokesman told a local news agency that the subject had not been discussed. According to statements made by the White House and the Kremlin, the main subject of the call was how to defeat ISIS. Russian state television is welcoming the change in tone between Washington and Moscow.
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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Speaking Russian).
KIM: "Uniting forces in the fight against international terrorism," the host said, "is the main priority." While the White House didn't go into detail, except that the call lasted about an hour, the Kremlin's statement was much more specific. The conflict in Ukraine, which is the reason for sanctions, was only mentioned in passing after other issues, such as peace in the Middle East and nuclear nonproliferation. Fyodor Lukyanov, the editor of the journal Russia in Global Affairs, cautions that previous U.S. administrations also tried to use the fight against terrorism as a way to jumpstart relations with Russia.
FYODOR LUKYANOV: It didn't work under Bush. It didn't work under Obama. There's a big question mark whether it will work now with Trump because the general atmosphere is totally poisoned by deepest mistrust since maybe the Cold War time.
KIM: As for lifting sanctions, Lukyanov said Putin is unlikely to bring up the subject on his own and that it would probably only be part of some bigger deal in the future. In their conversation, Putin reminded Trump that Russia was an ally in the two world wars and said Russia considers the U.S. the most important partner in fighting international terrorism.
But even if Putin can win over Trump, the new U.S. president faces staunch opposition to a rapprochement with Russia within his own party. Some Republicans in Congress want to write existing sanctions against Russia into law and impose new ones because of alleged Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election.
Lucian Kim, NPR News, Moscow.
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