President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on Thursday about the coronavirus pandemic and a possible new arms control deal between the two nations and China, the White House says.
The call was arranged to “commemorate and reflect upon” the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, the White House said in a statement. Before the pandemic, Trump expressed interest in visiting Moscow to mark the defeat of the Nazis.
Trump and Putin “discussed progress on defeating the coronavirus pandemic” and Trump reiterated that the US is “ready to provide assistance to any country in need, including Russia,” the White House said.
Trump also “reaffirmed that the United States is committed to effective arms control that includes not only Russia, but also China, and looks forward to future discussions to avoid a costly arms race,” according to the readout.
Although tensions are high between China and the US — as Trump accuses China of failing to contain COVID-19 —the president has long mused about a three-nation arms treaty.
Last year, Trump sprang the idea on Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in the Oval Office, asking for his thoughts on a new pact to reduce “ridiculous” weapons spending. “I think it is a very good idea,” Liu said.
In an Oval Office interview on Monday, Trump told The Post that China should have stopped the coronavirus from escaping the city of Wuhan, but on virus origins said, “they didn’t do it on purpose.”
Trump and senior US officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, say they’ve seen evidence that a lab in Wuhan may have been the origin of the pandemic, which has sickened 1.2 million Americans, killed 73,000 and left 33 million unemployed.
But Trump also told The Post he doesn’t see tensions boiling over into military confrontation.
“I don’t want to talk about war, you don’t talk about war. But it’s a sad thing,” Trump said in the interview. “You know, we just finished a trade deal a few months ago. Before this we just finished a trade deal, there was great optimism. And then something like this happens and, you know, it really predominates, so we’ll see how it all goes.”
The White House readout of the call did not make clear if Putin agreed to accept US assistance. Cases of the deadly respiratory virus are soaring in Russia, which has 177,000 confirmed cases, one of the world’s highest counts.
On April 1, a planeload of coronavirus supplies including masks arrived from Russia at JFK airport in New York. Russia originally described it as “humanitarian aid” to the US — in what American Russia hawks called a propaganda coup for Putin. Later, US officials insisted the supplies were purchased, albeit at a “discount.”
Trump, who forced US manufacturers to make ventilators as US hospitalizations rose, recently offered ventilators to Russia. Russian officials said they would accept the expensive equipment “should we need it.”
Trump also offered ventilators to many other countries, from Latin America to Indonesia, Pakistan and Nigeria.
Trump and Putin previously spoke about the coronavirus on March 30. On Easter — April 12 — Trump and Putin spoke about reducing global oil production during the crisis.