Trump, Putin discuss pandemic, solutions to arms race

Washington, Jul 23 (efe-epa).- US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, spoke by telephone on Thursday about the coronavirus pandemic as well as “critical bilateral and global issues,” including the need to avoid a three-way arms race with China, the White House announced.

The US leader discussed the global economic reopening after the shutdown forced by the spread of the coronavirus, which in the US has infected almost four million people and threatens to keep the world economy in a state of uncertainty for much longer than anticipated.

The US has not been able to contain the spread of the virus in the way that China or the majority of European countries were able to accomplish despite having worse metrics. Those other nations have markedly reduced their infection rate and daily deaths from the virus by means of strict quarantine and social distancing.

“The two leaders also discussed critical bilateral and global issues. President Trump reiterated his hope of avoiding an expensive three-way arms race between China, Russia, and the United States and looked forward to progress on upcoming arms control negotiations in Vienna,” the White House said.

Trump reiterated his desire that the talks in Vienna between Washington and Moscow on arms control be brought to a favorable conclusion.

The talks in Vienna, which were launched last month between the US special envoy for arms control, Marshall Billingslea, and Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, are aimed at renewing the New START Treaty, which expires at the beginning of 2021.

That pact, signed in 2010, is the only one remaining in force between the two countries to limit weapons proliferation.

The communique issued after the Trump-Putin telephone call made no mention that the two leaders discussed the proof that Moscow promised to provide regarding its alleged payment of bounties to Taliban fighters for attacking US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan, bounties that could be the motivating factor behind the deaths of US soldiers there.

This was the first time Trump and Putin had spoken since the bounty claim surfaced publicly, but it is not clear whether Trump brought the issue up in the call.

The Russian government issued a statement after the call claiming that the leaders discussed “strategic stability” and “arms control,” along with the coronavirus, upcoming economic concerns and Iran’s nuclear program.

The Democratic opposition has criticized Trump for ignoring – since he became president in 2017 – warnings that Russia wanted to influence US elections to destabilize and polarize the country.

Trump has ignored those warnings and, instead, has tried to engineer a rapprochement with Putin, although the motivation for – and success of – those efforts is not clear.

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