MOSCOW • The Kremlin said on Thursday that US President-elect Donald Trump's foreign policy approach was "phenomenally close" to that of Russian President Vladimir Putin, giving Russia hope that tattered US-Russia relations could gradually be improved.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, speaking in New York, said he saw incredible similarities between the two men's foreign policy ideas, and this meant there was a solid basis to start a meaningful dialogue between Moscow and Washington.
Mr Peskov, in the United States for a chess tournament, said he was struck by how similar parts of Mr Trump's victory speech were to a speech Mr Putin gave in southern Russia last month.
Both men said they would put their own country's national interests first, but that they would be ready to develop ties with other nations, depending on how ready other countries were to deepen relations themselves.
"They (Mr Putin and Mr Trump) set out the same main foreign policy principles and that is incredible," Mr Peskov said in comments broadcast by Russian state TV's Channel One on Thursday evening.
"It is phenomenal how close they are to one another when it comes to their conceptual approach to foreign policy. And that is probably a good basis for our moderate optimism that they will at least be able to start a dialogue to start to clear out the Augean stables in our bilateral relations." (In Greek mythology, Hercules was given the laborious task of cleaning King Augeas' dirty stables.)
But with Moscow and Washington now at odds over Syria, Ukraine and Nato, Mr Peskov warned that it would take a long time before bilateral relations could return to a high level because of how far they had been allowed to deteriorate.
"An atmosphere of mutual trust takes years to achieve," he said. "It's not possible to just declare that there is an atmosphere of mutual trust, especially after such serious damage was done in the last few years to our relations."
Mr Peskov spoke after one of Russia's most senior diplomats told the Interfax news agency earlier on Thursday that the Russian government had been in touch with members of Mr Trump's political team during the US election campaign and knew most of his entourage.
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen told an ZDF talk show on Thursday that Mr Trump needs to clarify his views on Russia, and to understand that Nato must be treated as an alliance of shared values rather than as a business.
Mr Putin was notably among the first foreign leaders to congratulate Mr Trump on his stunning victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, saying he was ready to work together to rebuild bilateral ties, which have fallen to their lowest point since the Cold War.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE