President TrumpDonald TrumpHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Twitter's algorithm boosts right-leaning content, internal study finds Ohio Democrat calls Vance an 'ass----' over Baldwin tweet Matt Taibbi says Trump's rhetoric caused public perception of US intelligence services to shift MORE on Tuesday congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin on his reelection and said he wants to meet with the Russian leader to discuss the “arms race” between their two nations.
“I suspect we'll probably be meeting in the not too distant future to discuss the arms race, which is getting out of control,” Trump said.
The president spoke to reporters in the Oval Office after what he described as a “very good call” with Putin, two days after the Russian president won another six-year term, a widely expected result in an election marred by fraud accusations.
Leading Putin opposition figure Alexei Navalny was banned from running due to a criminal conviction that critics said was politically motivated. There were multiple reports of vote tampering, and some election observers were reportedly barred from doing their jobs.
Tensions between Russia and the West reached a boiling point last week when the United Kingdom accused Putin of personally directing a nerve-gas attack on a former Russian double agent living in Britain.
Trump and the leaders of Germany and France have all said that Russia was responsible for the attack in the English town of Salisbury, but have not directly blamed Putin.
The U.S. also slapped new sanctions on Russians stemming from its meddling in the 2016 presidential election and cyberattacks. Trump is facing calls from Congress to impose even more penalties on oligarchs and other influential Russian figures.
Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump attacks Meghan McCain and her family In Montana, a knock-down redistricting fight over a single line McCain: Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner had 'no goddamn business' attending father's funeral MORE (R-Ariz.) criticized Trump for making a congratulatory call to Putin, saying it "insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election."
“An American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections," he said in a statement.
But the call from Trump suggests the president wants to reduce tensions, even though Western allies and GOP lawmakers are seeking to apply more pressure on Moscow.
Trump, the White House and the Kremlin on Tuesday made no mention of nerve-gas attack and whether it came up during the phone conversation. The president said he would like to discuss other hot spots, like Syria, Ukraine and North Korea, during an in-person meeting with Putin.
Regarding the so-called arms race between the U.S. and Russia, Trump said, "We will never allow anybody to have anything close to what we have.”
Past U.S. presidents have spoken to Putin following his reelection victories, but Trump’s conversations have been shadowed by the special counsel probe into whether his campaign colluded with Moscow’s election interference in 2016.
Trump has repeatedly called the probe a "witch hunt" and expressed a desire to form a closer relationship with Moscow.
Updated at 1:31 p.m.