President-elect Donald Trump has allegedly held at least two phone conversations with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin since being elected over Hillary Clinton more than two weeks ago.
According to a report by McClatchy on Wednesday, Trump and Putin have spoken at least twice over the past two weeks, which if true would constitute more contact than Trump is known to have had with any world leader since his election. The story also claims that Russian news outlets were reporting on Wednesday that Trump and Putin are in the midst of negotiations over how their respective countries will coordinate Middle Eastern policy next year.
“The president-elect confirmed he is willing to normalize Russian-American relations,” Putin explained to reporters at a briefing on Sunday in Lima, Peru. “I told him the same.”
If true, the news of Trump's direct coziness with Putin will have troubling implications for the thrust of American foreign policy. Intelligence sources told NBC News on Wednesday that Trump has only had two intelligence briefings since winning the election, far fewer than his predecessors and fewer than those received by the future vice president, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana.
The same report also noted that "a senior intelligence official cautioned that it was too early to gauge the significance of Trump's sparse briefing schedule, given that he is in the middle of his transition process."
Concerns that Trump is being unduly influenced by Russia were also sparked by news that Donald Trump Jr., who is one of the president-elect's closest advisers, attended a meeting in Paris in October that was co-hosted by Randa Kassis, a Syrian politician who is closely tied to Russia and has advocated an increased Russian involvement in the war in her country.
Trump's warmth toward Putin has been a source of consternation since 2013, when he tweeted that he hoped to meet Putin so that the despot would become his "new best friend." He has since then been criticized for claiming that Putin is a better leader than President Obama and overall seeming to praise Putin's policies in Russia.