Kremlin hopes for rapport with US, but differences will stay

By The Canadian Press
January 21, 2017 - 7:30am

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman voiced hope for a constructive dialogue with President Donald Trump's administration in comments broadcast Saturday, but warned that differences will remain.

Dmitry Peskov said in an interview with state Rossiya television that it would be an "illusion" to expect that U.S.-Russian relations would be completely free of disagreements.

"Successful development of bilateral ties will depend on our ability to solve these differences through dialogue," Peskov said. He added that Putin will call Trump soon to congratulate him.

Peskov's sober assessment contrasted with euphoria in Russian political and business elites, where many expect a quick thaw in relations with the U.S. A few clubs and bars sought to cash in on public excitement, hosting parties to mark Trump's inauguration.

Trump has promised to mend ties with Moscow badly strained over the Ukrainian crisis, the war in Syria and allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. elections, and his victory has elated Russian political elites.

Peskov, however, pointed at the challenges posed by the intricacy of nuclear arms control, the complexity of the situation in Syria and other issues.

While Russia supports prospective nuclear arms cuts, they should be proportional and not upset the nuclear parity between Russia and the U.S., which "plays a critical role in ensuring global stability and security," Peskov said.

He noted that different composition of Russian and U.S. nuclear forces is a factor that needs to be carefully considered in negotiations.

Asked to comment on Trump's recent interview with the Times of London in which he indicated that he could end sanctions imposed on Russia imposed after the 2014 annexation of Crimea in return for a nuclear arms reduction deal, Peskov said the two issues are hard to link.

Peskov emphasized the U.S. role in settling the nearly six-year conflict in Syria, where Trump has offered to pool efforts with Russia in fighting the Islamic State group.

"It's quite obvious that it's impossible to constructively solve the Syrian problem without the U.S. participation," he said.

Russia already has invited Trump's administration to attend talks between Syrian government and opposition groups in Kazakhstan capital Monday. Russia brokered the talks together with Turkey and Iran, but Tehran has opposed the U.S. involvement in them.

"There are certain disagreements between Moscow and Tehran on this subject," Peskov said, adding that the Syrian issue "is too complex to have a full harmony in approaches."

"Any deals there are unlikely, there are too many parties involved," he added.

Turning to the Ukrainian crisis, which has driven Russia's relations with the West to post-Cold War lows, Peskov criticized Barack Obama's administration for an "unconstructive" approach and voiced hope that Trump's administration would revise it.

Vladimir Isachenkov, The Associated Press

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updated_date: 
Sat, 21 Jan 2017 10:24:38 -0500

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