Administration

Trump to Putin: ‘If you want to have an arms race we can do that, but I’ll win’: report

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President Trump reportedly warned Russian President Vladimir Putin during a phone call last week that if the two Cold War foes were to reignite the arms race, the U.S. would come out on top.

NBC News reported Thursday that Putin’s claim of new nuclear-capable weapons that can reach the United States “really got under the president’s skin,” according to one official.

“If you want to have an arms race we can do that, but I’ll win,” Trump reportedly told his Russian counterpart.

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The comment came in the same phone call in which Trump congratulated Putin for his recent win in Russia’s presidential election, despite warnings in his briefing material not to do so.

Trump told reporters after that call that the two men had “a very good call” and that he was planning to meet with Putin in the near future — a remark that reportedly caught his advisers off guard.

Russia’s election was considered fundamentally flawed by international observers, and critics said Trump shouldn’t be congratulating Putin while his country is under sanctions over its 2016 election meddling.

In a pair of tweets a day after his call with Putin, Trump insisted that improving U.S.-Russia relations “is a good thing,” and that he would be able to succeed where his predecessors had failed.

But he also alluded to a “coming Arms Race” without making it clear what he meant.

Tensions between Russia and the West have heightened in recent weeks, following the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter with a military-grade nerve agent in Salisbury, England. Western officials have blamed that attack on Moscow, though the Russian government has denied any role in it.

Trump moved this week to expel 60 Russian officials from the U.S. in retaliation for the poisonings, joining a coordinated effort by two-dozen countries.

On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that Moscow would respond in kind, by expelling 60 U.S. diplomats and shuttering the American consulate in St. Petersburg. He said Russia would take similar actions against other countries that expelled Russian diplomats this week.

According to NBC News, Trump has been seeking ways to take a stronger line with Russia without angering Putin. Trump reportedly still sees improved relations with the Kremlin as a net gain for America, and hopes to move forward with the relationship in the future.

Tags arms race Donald Trump Russia

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