Facing scrutiny over his apparent embrace of nuclear proliferation, Donald Trump’s transition team on Friday released a week-old note from Russian President Vladimir Putin wishing the president-elect happy holidays and laying the groundwork for collaboration once he takes the oath of office.
“Serious global and regional challenges, which our countries have to face in recent years, show that the relations between Russia and the U.S. remain an important factor in ensuring stability and security of the modern world,” Putin’s letter reads. “I hope that after you assume the position of the President of the United States of America we will be able ― by acting in a constructive and pragmatic manner ― to take real steps to restore the framework of bilateral cooperation in different areas as well as bring our level of collaboration on the international scene to a qualitatively new level.”
Russia’s U.S. embassy later confirmed the letter’s authenticity.
Trump included a statement of his own with the release of Putin’s letter, saying he agrees with the underlying premise of greater collaboration.
“A very nice letter from Vladimir Putin; his thoughts are so correct,” Trump said. “I hope both sides are able to live up to these thoughts, and we do not have to travel an alternate path.”
What’s curious about the matter is the timing. Putin’s letter is dated Dec. 15. Why Trump waited until now to make it public isn’t precisely clear. But the context seems pertinent. On Thursday, Trump issued a tweet that many interpreted as a call for expanding America’s nuclear arsenal, shortly after an article surfaced saying Putin wanted to do the same in his country.
“Let it be an arms race,” Trump reportedly told MSNBC the next morning. “We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”
The presumption here is that the globe is about to experience a revival of some Cold War-style tete-a-tete. But the result could actually be something far different: collaboration, not conflict, between the U.S. and Russia.
Putin, for one, said he was not bothered by Trump’s tweet on Thursday. And as Ron Rosenbaum reported for Slate, Trump has been considering a deal with the Russians ― in which the two countries would effectively serve as the world’s nuclear policemen ― since the late ‘80s.
“Most of those [pre-nuclear] countries are in one form or another dominated by the U.S. and the Soviet Union,” Trump said back in 1987.
“Between those two nations you have the power to dominate any of those countries,” he went on. “So we should use our power of economic retaliation and they use their powers of retaliation and between the two of us we will prevent the problem from happening.”
“It would have been better having done something five years ago,” Trump added, according to Rosenbaum. “But I believe even a country such as Pakistan would have to do something now. Five years from now they’ll laugh.”
This story has been updated to note that Russia’s embassy confirmed the authenticity of Putin’s letter.
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