US President-elect Donald Trump held his first telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Monday, with the two leaders vowing to work towards a "constructive cooperation," the Kremlin announced.
Republican frontman Trump, who defeated Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton in the November 8 presidential poll, had prior to his election signalled warmer US ties with Russia. His victory comes as tensions between the two superpower states have escalated to a level not seen since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
In the conversation, Trump and Putin had agreed to "channel" relations and "combine efforts to tackle international terrorism and extremism," the Kremlin said in its statement.
"The importance of creating a solid basis for bilateral ties was underscored, in particularly by developing the trade-economic component," the statement added.
The Kremlin also called for a "return to pragmatic, mutually beneficial cooperation, which would address the interests of both countries as well as stability and safety the world over."
Trump's team confirmed the conversation, saying that Putin had called to offer congratulations, to which Trump said he was looking forward to a strong and enduring relationship with Russia and its people.
As Trump prepares to take office on January 20, he appears to be holding true to his position on boosting ties with Russia. He has already displayed a softer approach towards contentious issues that have put Washington and Moscow at odds with each other during President Barack Obama’s term, particularly the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.
In his first interview after his election, Trump told the Wall Street Journal that the US risks going to war with Russia if it continues to back opposition forces in Syria while Russia supports Bashar al Assad’s regime.
Despite admitting that he did not like Assad, Trump said that the US has “no idea” who it is backing in Syria, indicating a possible change in policy on the Syrian opposition.
“I’ve had an opposite view of many people regarding Syria. My attitude was you’re fighting Syria, Syria is fighting ISIS, and you have to get rid of ISIS,” he said, referring to the Daesh terrorist group with an alternative acronym.
During his election campaign, Trump called Putin a better leader than Obama and openly challenged Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails. He also accused the two Democrats of being the founders of Daesh.
His rival Clinton had in turn called him a Putin puppet, saying that he sought to break-up the NATO military bloc.
Trump threatens European allies
In the wake of Trump’s election, the European Union agreed to a new defence plan that could parallel NATO efforts to maintain the post-Cold War status quo in the continent.
Trump, who previously criticised NATO’s bombing of the Serbs during the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, had earlier cast doubt on almost 70 years of US military support in Europe.
As NATO continues to bolster its presence in eastern Europe in response to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, Trump has threatened to abandon Washington’s allies if they don’t spend more on their own defence capabilities.
He also told the Washington Post that the United States could not fund NATO at current levels.
But outgoing President Obama told reporters at the White House on Monday that in his conversations with Trump, the president-elect had expressed “great interest” in maintaining US strategic relationships around the world, including NATO.
Speaking ahead of a trip to Europe and Latin America, Obama said he would reassure US allies during his trip overseas this week that “there is no weakening of resolve when it comes to America's commitment to maintaining a strong and robust NATO relationship.”