Trump, Putin discuss possible new nuclear accord -White House


U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke for more than an hour on Friday, discussing the possibility of a new nuclear accord, North Korean denuclearization, Ukraine and the political situation in Venezuela, the White House said.

"Had a long and very good conversation with PresidentPutin of Russia," Trump said in a post on Twitter, noting they haddiscussed trade, Venezuela, Ukraine, North Korea, nuclear arms and SpecialCounsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S.presidential campaign.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters Trumpand Putin talked about the possibility of a new multilateral nuclear accordbetween the United States, Russia and China, or an extension of the currentU.S.-Russia strategic nuclear treaty.

She called it an "overall positive conversation."

The two men, who last chatted informally at a dinner ofworld leaders in Buenos Aires on Dec. 1, briefly talked about the reportMueller report that concluded Trump did not collude with Russia during his 2016presidential campaign.

The Mueller probe discussion was "essentially in thecontext of that it's over and there was no collusion, which I'm pretty sureboth leaders were very well aware of long before this call took place,"Sanders said.

The Kremlin confirmed the two leaders talked and highlightedin its statement that the call was initiated by Washington. It said the twoleaders agreed to maintain contacts on different levels and expressedsatisfaction with the "businesslike and constructive nature" of theconversation.

With the United States concerned about a Russian militarypresence in Venezuela at a time when Washington wants Venezuelan PresidentNicolas Madwort to leave power, Trump told Putin "the United States standswith the people of Venezuela" and stressed he wanted to get reliefsupplies into the country, Sanders said.

Putin told Trump that any external interference inVenezuela's internal business undermines the prospects of a political end tothe crisis, the Kremlin said.

The 2011 New START treaty, the only U.S.-Russia arms controlpact limiting deployed strategic nuclear weapons, expires in February 2021 butcan be extended for five years if both sides agree. Without the agreement, itcould be harder to gauge each other's intentions, arms control advocates say.

The New START treaty required the United States and Russiato cut their deployed strategic nuclear warheads to no more than 1,550, thelowest level in decades, and limit delivery systems – land- and submarine-basedmissiles and nuclear-capable bombers.

It also includes extensive transparency measures requiringeach side to allow the other to carry out 10 inspections of strategic nuclearbases each year; give 48 hours notice before new missiles covered by the treatyleave their factories; and provide notifications before ballistic missilelaunches.

Trump has called the New START treaty a "bad deal"and "one-sided."

"They discussed a nuclear agreement, both new andextended, and the possibility of having conversations with China on that aswell," Sanders said.

The Kremlin said the two sides confirmed they intended to"activate dialogue in various spheres, including strategic security."

Sanders also said the two leaders discussed Ukraine. Trumpcanceled a summit meeting with Putin late last year after Russia seized threeUkrainian Navy ships on Nov. 25 and arrested 24 sailors. Putin also told Trumpthat the new leadership in Ukraine should take steps to solve the Ukrainiancrisis, the Kremlin said.

Trump also raised with Putin the issue of getting North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. Trump has met twice with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un but Kim has yet to agree to a disarmament deal.

Sanders said Trump mentioned several times "the needand importance of Russia stepping up and continuing to put pressure on NorthKorea to denuclearize." The Kremlin said both leaders highlighted the needto pursue denuclearization of the region.

During an April summit with Kim in Vladivostok, Putinexpressed Russian support for a gradual process of trading disarmament forsanctions relief.

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