Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have had what a foreign affairs expert called an “unusual amount of communication” recently, speaking by phone five times over the course of three weeks around the time that the U.S. president was reportedly told about a Russian effort to offer bounties for militants who kill American service members.
There is no evidence that the world leaders spoke about the allegation, or whether Trump himself knew about the supposed bounty program during any of the times they spoke.
As the U.K. outlet The Sun reported, the world leaders had a flurry of communications between March and April, including what was described as some lengthy phone conversations. Dmitry Suslov, a professor and foreign affairs expert at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, told the publication that it was an unusual level of communication for world leaders that coincided with what was seen as another peculiar action — a shipment of coronavirus-related humanitarian aid from Russia to the United States.
Eugene Rumer, the former national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia at the National Intelligence Council, noted that while the level of communication itself doesn’t set off alarms, it shows that the two world leaders weren’t speaking by accident.
“There has to be an agenda that has to happen,” he said.
The phone calls corresponded roughly with the time frame in which Trump was reportedly briefed on intelligence showing that a Russian military outfit was offering bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan. While Trump denied that he had been briefed on the intelligence, The Inquisitr noted that a new report on Monday indicated that the information was included in his daily intelligence briefing during the spring. It was not known whether Trump was aware of this, as it was reportedly well-known that he does not read all of the daily briefings put together for him by the intelligence community.
The New York Times reported that Trump was given written briefings in February about the alleged bounties, weeks before his calls with Putin.
Russia has denied the existence of any program to offer bounties for militants who kill U.S. soldiers, calling the report “lies.” As Al Jazeera reported, Russia pointed to Trump’s insistence that there was no credible information on the program and noted that the topic did not come up during discussions between the world leaders.
“Asked about the reports on a conference call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said media outlets should take heed of Trump’s comments, adding Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin never discussed the allegations,” the publication wrote.