Trump is not our man, says Russia

The spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed during a television interview that the Kremlin would adopt a wait-and-see approach with the new US President, on key issues such as the crisis in Ukraine, Syria and bilateral ties.
The spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed during a television interview that the Kremlin would adopt a wait-and-see approach with the new US President, on key issues such as the crisis in Ukraine, Syria and bilateral ties.PHOTO: EPA

MOSCOW • Whatever the expectations for US President Donald Trump's new relationship with Russia, anyone looking for a dramatic shift from the Kremlin is going to have to wait past Day One.

While some Russian companies and political activists have taken advantage of "Trumpomania" here, holding inauguration parties and putting Mr Trump's face on sugar cubes and commemorative coins, the Moscow establishment is repeating a simple mantra designed to limit expectations: "Donald Trump is not our man."

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Mr Dmitry Peskov, repeated those words during a television interview in which he stressed that the Kremlin would adopt a wait-and-see approach with the new President on key issues such as the crisis in Ukraine, Syria and bilateral ties.

He also trashed a proposal by Mr Trump in an interview last week with European newspapers to reduce nuclear arms substantially, and said the question should not be tied to US sanctions against Russia that were imposed because of the Ukraine crisis.

"Nuclear disarmament is a conceptual umbrella term, but it is made up of an enormous number of nuances," Mr Peskov said on the Saturday evening current affairs programme on state television. "It can't be disproportionate. The composition of the nuclear (arsenal) in the United States and in our country is different. And that's why any symmetric reductions are absolutely unacceptable and inappropriate."

Mr Trump told the Sunday Times the European Union "has sanctions on Russia - let's see if we can make some good deals with Russia. For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that's part of it".

The Kremlin has taken pains in public not to look desperate to have the sanctions repealed. Mr Peskov said "tying together the question of sanctions and of nuclear reductions will not likely be possible from the expert point of view".

He added: "Our President has repeatedly said that the question of sanctions is not part of our agenda. Russia was not the initiator of this question. And it won't be, in the words of Putin, the initiator of their repeal."

Mr Putin will call Mr Trump in the next few days to congratulate him on his inauguration, Mr Peskov said. So far, no meeting between the two leaders has been arranged.

The Russian spokesman did allow some optimism about US involvement in the Syria peace talks starting today, though the US State Department said last Saturday that the Trump administration will not send a delegation because of the "immediate demands of the transition".

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2017, with the headline 'Trump is not our man, says Russia'. Print Edition | Subscribe