By: The Staff Reporters of Georgia Weekly Post.
▲ Russian President Vladimir Putin
President-elect Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in a telephone conversation Monday that relations between their countries were “unsatisfactory” and vowed to work together to improve them, the Kremlin said in a statement.
The statement said the two leaders discussed combining efforts in the fight against terrorism, talked about “a settlement for the crisis in Syria” and agreed their aides would begin working toward a face-to-face meeting between them.
▲ President-elect Donald Trump
Trump’s office said in a statement, to Georgia Weekly Post, that Putin had called to “offer his congratulations” and that the two had discussed “a range of issues including the threats and challenges facing the United States and Russia, strategic economic issues and the historical U.S.-Russia relationship that dates back over 200 years.”
Although Trump’s statement did not mention Syria or other specific issues, it said that he told Putin “that he is very much looking forward to having a strong and enduring relationship with Russia and the People of Russia.”
The call came as Trump faced a growing backlash by several Cable news services and the Democrats against his decision to name campaign chairman and former Breitbart News head Stephen K. Bannon as chief strategist at the White House, a choice critics from the left say will empower white nationalists.
Since his victory last week, Trump has received congratulatory calls from a number of foreign leaders. Putin had initially sent Trump a telegraph last week expressing his desire for a dialogue based on “mutual respect and genuine consideration for each other’s positions.”
During the campaign, Trump repeatedly praised Putin as a strong leader for his country, and said that the two countries should join together to fight terrorists, particularly the Islamic State in Syria. He indicated that closer relations with Russia would keep the Kremlin from establishing tighter ties with China.
Trump, in the eyes of some, appeared to absolve Russia from responsibility for intervention in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, and questioned the relevance of NATO, which has charged Moscow with engaging in provocative air and sea actions on the alliance’s eastern flank.
Giving Putin, they argue, a free pass on those issues is directly counter to the Russia policy of the Obama administration, which has, among other things, called for an international war crimes investigation of Russia’s actions in Syria. It could also undermine current European negotiations with Moscow over Ukraine, and support for U.S. and European Union sanctions.
Russia is interested not only in getting the sanctions removed, but also in getting global recognition of equal status as a player in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Equally controversial was Trump’s selection on Sunday of Bannon. A chorus of advocacy groups, commentators and congressional Democrats has denounced Bannon as a proponent of racist, anti-Semitic and misogynistic views as Trump has begun his first full week as president-elect. Trump named Bannon his chief strategist and senior counselor while also appointing Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus to be his chief of staff.
“President-elect Trump’s choice of Steve Bannon as his top aide signals that white supremacists will be represented at the highest levels in Trump’s White House,” Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), said in a statement Sunday night. “It is easy to see why the KKK views Trump as their champion when Trump appoints one of the foremost peddlers of White Supremacist themes and rhetoric as his top aide. Bannon was ‘the main driver behind Breitbart becoming a white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill,’ according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.”
The statement echoed sentiments from leaders of the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, other Capitol Hill Democrats and some Republican Anti-Trump critics such as Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, who tweeted, “Is there precedent for such a disreputable & unstable extremist in White House senior ranks before Bannon?”
A spokesman for Donald Trump accused critics and the media of trying to “divide people” following the election when they raise questions about Bannon’s views and history.
Jason Miller, communications director for the Trump presidential transition, said Monday morning that Bannon has done a “fantastic job” since joining Trump’s inner circle.
“If you’ve seen the president-elect since the election, he’s taken a very measured tone,” Miller said in an interview with CNN’s “New Day.”
Kellyanne Conway, who worked closely with Bannon as Trump’s campaign manager, also defended him.
“He’s been the general of this campaign,” Conway told reporters as she arrived Monday at Trump Tower in Manhattan to meet with the president-elect. Citing Bannon’s résumé as a former naval officer and Goldman Sachs executive, she called him a “brilliant tactician.”
Asked whether Bannon needed to explain his connections to the alt-right movement, Conway said: “I’m personally offended that you think I would manage a campaign where that would be one of the going philosophies. It was not — 56 million-plus Americans or so saw something else. . . . You should really focus on the will of the people, which was to elect Donald Trump the president.”
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) sought to calm the fears many Americans still hold about Trump’s election, which has been greeted by widespread protests.
“There is a lot of hysteria and hyperbole,” Ryan said during an interview Monday with his hometown radio station, 1380 Big AM. “I would tell people to just relax — things are going to be fine.
Trump’s naming of Bannon and Priebus set up what could be a battle within the White House between the populist, outsider forces that propelled his winning campaign and the party establishment that dominates Washington.