Chicago Sun-Times

TRUMP, PUTIN IN STEP VS. TER­ROR

Pres­i­dent speaks with 5 world lead­ers on a busy Satur­day

- Gregory Korte and David Jack­son

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.

 ?? MICHAEL REYNOLDS, EURO­PEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY ?? Pres­i­dent Trump con­nects Satur­day with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.
MICHAEL REYNOLDS, EURO­PEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY Pres­i­dent Trump con­nects Satur­day with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

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