President Donald Trump congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin on his re-election during a phone call on Tuesday and the two leaders agreed to hold talks soon.
“We will probably get together in the not-too-distant future, so we can discuss arms, we can discuss arms race.” Trump told reporters before an oval office meeting with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Trump said the arms race is “getting out of control,” but the U.S. “will not allow anybody to have anything even close to what we have.” Other issues that will be discussed during the bilateral meeting will be Ukraine, Syria, and North Korea, Trump added.
During the call, Trump emphasized denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, discussed the state of U.S.-Russia relations and resolved to continue dialogue about “mutual national security priorities and challenges,” according to the White House.
An official statement by the Kremlin on Tuesday said Trump and Putin discussed the importance of working together on international terrorism, limiting nuclear arms and economic cooperation.
Putin won his fourth term in Sunday’s presidential election with 77 percent of the votes.
Trump did not say whether he discussed Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential race and intelligence community warnings that Moscow is continuing efforts to influence U.S. elections.
Shortly after Trump’s Oval Office remarks, Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona criticized the president on Twitter.
“An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections,” tweeted McCain. “And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election.”
White House officials initially said Putin’s victory was no surprise and that the White House had no plans for Trump to call Putin to congratulate him.
In response, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, “This should not be regarded as an unfriendly step. Putin remains open to normalizing relations with our U.S. partners, where it is of interest and crucial.”
Peskov added, “There is no reason to make a mountain out of a molehill about anything here. Lastly, there is a good old saying: ‘Sleep on it’.”