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What to Expect From the First Official Phone Call Between Putin and Trump

“I don’t know Putin, but if we can get along with Russia, that’s a great thing,” Trump said. “It’s good for Russia, it’s good for us; we go out together and knock the hell out of ISIS, because that’s a real sickness,” he added.

from Sputnik News:

The highly anticipated telephone call between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump will take place on Saturday at 8 pm Moscow time (12 pm in Washington, DC). Sputnik presents what we know so far about the topics likely to be discussed by the two leaders during the historic telephone call.

On Saturday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov confirmed that President Putin will be the sole participant from the Russian side in his telephone conversation with Donald Trump. Earlier, the White House reported that Vice President Mike Pence would be sitting in on President Trump’s conversation with the Russian leader, and would join the discussion.

As far as the conversation’s subject matter is concerned, all that is known for sure is that Putin will formally congratulate Trump on assuming office as the 45th president of the United States. Otherwise, Peskov and the Kremlin have been tight-lipped about the subjects to be discussed. “Of course, usually during such contacts there is an exchange of views on the main parameters of the current state of bilateral relations,” the spokesman said Friday.

The White House has also been rather hush-hush about the talks, but has dropped hints about at least one possible topic of discussion. On Thursday, President Trump told Fox News that Putin called him after his election victory to offer his congratulations, but that the two men didn’t have a substantive discussion. More than anything, Trump said that he would like it if Moscow and Washington could fight Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) together.

Also on the table is the subject of US sanctions against Russia, introduced by the Obama administration in 2014 over the crisis in Ukraine.

On Friday, Trump said that it’s “very early to be talking about [lifting the sanctions].” Still, the President added that he also hopes to follow through with his campaign promise to foster improved relations with Moscow.

However, earlier on Friday, White House aide Kellyanne Conway let slip to Fox News that sanctions relief would be “under consideration” in Saturday’s call. “All of that is under consideration,” Conway said, after being asked whether the fate of sanctions slapped on Moscow by the Obama administration would be on the agenda for the talks. 

The sanctions issue has split President Trump from his own party. Senior US lawmakers, including Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have insisted that sanctions against Russia must stay in place. Other lawmakers, including Republican Senator John McCain and Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, are even considering a bill to try to limit Trump’s ability to lift the sanctions without Congressional approval.

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