TRUMP, PUTIN IN STEP VS. TERROR
President speaks with 5 world leaders on a busy Saturday
President Trump and WASHINGTON Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin spoke by phone Saturday and agreed to establish “real coordination” to “crush ISIS and other terrorist groups in Syria,” the Kremlin said, referring to the Islamic State.
The White House put out a short statement on the one- hour phone call, saying it “ranged in topics from mutual cooperation in defeating ISIS to efforts in working together to achieve more peace throughout the world, including Syria.”
It added that “the positive call was a significant start to improving the relationship between the United States and Russia that is in need of repair.”
Cooperation with Russia in Syria would represent a break with current policy and create a rift among GOP foreign policy leaders. Sen. John McCain, R.- Ariz., on Friday warned Trump against cooperating too closely with Putin, whom he accused of propping up a “murderous regime” in Syria.
Word of warming relations also comes after U. S. intelligence agencies concluded Russia meddled in the presidential election.
The Kremlin’s statement said nothing about reports that Trump is considering lifting sanctions on Russia. McCain also warned Trump not to ease up on sanctions, saying he would work in Congress to give them the force of law.
The Kremlin said the two presidents also discussed “major aspects of the Ukrainian crisis,” and “possible dates and venue of their personal meeting.” The two agreed to “maintain regular personal contacts.”
Russia boosted its military support to the regime in Syria in 2015 after it appeared rebels trying to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad were threatening his hold on power. Moscow claimed that its airstrikes in Syria were aimed at terrorists. The White House, State Department and Pentagon maintained that Russian attacks primarily targeted moderate opponents of Assad and not the Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, and al- Qaeda- linked terrorists.
The call with Putin and other world leaders capped off a dizzying nine- day stretch in which Trump appeared to be in perpetual motion, signing 15 executive actions, speaking to 11 world leaders, visiting three federal agencies and, on Friday, hosting British Prime Minister Theresa May.
In addition to Putin, Trump spoke Saturday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande. He was scheduled to speak with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Saturday night.
Trump also signed more executive orders: One to reorganize the National Security Council, another to strengthen ethics rules for the executive branch, and a third requesting the military to present him a plan to defeat the Islamic State. Not signed: an order to investigate alleged voter fraud in the 2016 campaign.