Now that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is over, President Donald Trump is seeking to strengthen ties with Russia. TIME reports that U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo is heading to Moscow on Sunday to meet with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and other senior officials.
The trip will last two days and include discussions that address disputes between the two countries such as Syria, Venezuela, Ukraine, and election interference.
“It is no secret that we have many areas of disagreement with the Russian government,” said a senior State Department official.
“The secretary will have a very candid conversation about concerns in our bilateral relationship.”
The trip marks the first by a high-ranking U.S. government official since the Mueller report went public, per CNN.
“Clearly since the Mueller report came out, Trump is feeling unconstrained about what he’s wanted all along — a new relationship with Moscow where all the bad issues get swept aside and the two leaders ‘get down to business,”‘ said Andrew Weiss, vice president at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former director for Russian, Ukrainian, and Eurasian Affairs on the National Security Council.
As The Inquisitr reported, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders spoke to press last week about Trump and Putin’s 90-minute phone call. She claims the pair didn’t talk about the Mueller report for long and said that their conversation was “essentially in the context of that it’s over and there was no collusion.”
Trump revealed in a tweet that he spoke to Putin about arms control, and while it’s unclear what agreement they discussed, Russian state news agency Tass suggests that it was the New START treaty — the final remaining major arms-control treaty between the two superpowers — that is set to expire in 2021.
But while Trump is optimistic about U.S.-Russia relations, others are skeptical. Andrey Kortunov, director general of the Russian International Affairs Council, a Kremlin-founded think tank, claims that the Mueller report confirmed that Russia was indeed meddling in the 2016 presidential election. While the report did not find evidence of collusion between the U.S. and Russia, accusations of interference have continued following the investigation.
“The report to some extent rehabilitates Trump but doesn’t rehabilitate Moscow at all,” Kortunov said, adding that nothing has changed for Russia.
Although Trump wants to strengthen U.S. ties with Moscow, TIME reports that relations between the two countries are not in a good position and likely won’t improve anytime soon.