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    Trump Calls Putin to Congratulate Russian President on Election Win

    U.S. President Donald Trump called Vladimir Putin Tuesday to congratulate the Russian president on his election victory, at a time when the two countries are embroiled in a controversy over Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
    Mr. Trump said he had a “very good call” in which the leaders discussed possibly meeting to address issues including the conflict in Ukraine and Syria and the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.
    “I suspect that we’ll probably be meeting in the not-too-distant future,” Mr. Trump told reporters Tuesday in an Oval Office meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The president said he also expected to discuss with Mr. Putin the “arms race,” and vowed that the U.S. would “remain stronger than any other nation.”
    Mr. Trump’s congratulatory call was sharply criticized by one leading U.S. lawmaker in a statement Tuesday.
     
    “An American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections,” said Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “By doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin’s regime.”
    Mr. Trump’s overture comes less than a week after the administration slapped Moscow with its first sanctions for the election meddling and waging unrelated cyberattacks on critical U.S. infrastructure, punishing the Kremlin’s intelligence agencies and Russians already indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller.
    The call also comes in the wake of a spy poisoning scandal between the U.K. and Russia, which the U.K. government blames on Russia. A White House statement about the call didn’t mention the poisoning of a former Russian military officer and his daughter, which has aggravated tensions between the West and Russia. France, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. made a joint statement condemning Russia’s alleged role in the incident.
    Two days after Russia’s election, which saw Mr. Putin extend his 18-year rule for another six years with record-setting vote results, the phone call reflects a known desire from both leaders for better relations. The Russian leader enjoys notable standing in the White House at a time when other European countries are looking to isolate Russia.
    A statement from the Kremlin made no mention of the U.S.’s sanctions against Russia. Moscow has since promised to respond with similar measures.
    The White House said Monday that there had been no plans for Mr. Trump to congratulate Mr. Putin. Neither French President Emmanuel Macron nor U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May offered their congratulations to the Russian leader. Ms. May said she would comment on the election only after assessing a report on the vote from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s vote monitoring body.
    Germany’s chancellor sent a note to the Russian leader congratulating him and urging dialogue.
    The Kremlin said in a statement: “The conversation was carried out in a constructive business-like character and was oriented toward overcoming a number of problems that had accumulated in Russian-U.S. relations.”
    Bilateral ties have been hit by accusations of Russia’s election tampering and an investigation into contacts between members of the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Mr. Trump had expressed admiration for Mr. Putin, and the Russian leader had voiced hopes that ties with Mr. Trump would be better than under his predecessor Barack Obama.

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