Moscow cool on Trump's idea of nuke deal to lift sanctions

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Russian businessmen in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016.

AP

MOSCOW -- Suggestions by President-elect Donald Trump that sanctions against Russia could be lifted in exchange for a nuclear arms cut attracted a frosty reception in Moscow on Monday.

In an interview with the Times of London published on Sunday,Mr. Trump indicated that he could end sanctions imposed on Russia in the aftermath of the 2014 annexation of Crimea in return for a nuclear arms reduction deal.

Russia isn’t so anxious to get the sanctions lifted that it is prepared to “sacrifice something, especially in what concerns security,” said Konstantin Kosachev, the Kremlin-connected chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the upper house of parliament.

Kosachev also told the RIA Novosti news agency that Mr.Trump’s comments to the Times should be treated with caution because it wasn’t an official statement, since Mr. Trump hasn’t assumed office yet.

Washington, along with the European Union, has imposed several rounds of economic sanctions on Russia and travel bans for individuals following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and interference in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The latest round of U.S. sanctions came at the end of December.

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, sounded similarly cautious with reporters in Moscow later in the day.

“Let’s wait until he assumes office before we give assessment to any initiatives,” Peskov said. He added that Russia never raises the issue of sanctions in talks with its foreign counterparts and doesn’t intend to do so because it’s not up to Moscow to scrap them.

Peskov did sound the Kremlin’s agreement with Mr. Trump on another major global security issue, however, saying Moscow has long believed the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) was an obsolete alliance.

Mr. Trump used the same adjective to describe the alliance in his interview with The Times, suggesting NATO was failing to tackle terrorism and that the U.S. was paying an unfair amount into the organization relative to other members. He added, however, without further explanation, that NATO was still “very important” to him.

Peskov also rejected reports that Russian officials were already planning with Mr. Trump’s incoming administration a meeting between teh new U.S. president and President Putin.

“All these statements about preliminary agreements about a meeting do not correspond to reality,” Peskov said, according to Reuters. “Right now there are no agreements, drafts or any preparations underway for a meeting because the president and Mr. 
Trump have not discussed this in any way.” 

Another influential Russian lawmaker, Alexei Pushkov, in a tweet late Sunday laughed off warnings of the CIA director about challenges that will follow lifting the sanctions.

Speaking on Fox News, CIA Director John Brennan said on Sunday that in his opinion Mr. Trump doesn’t have “a full understanding of Russian capabilities and the actions they are taking on the world.”

Pushkov replied on Twitter: “There aren’t going to be any consequences.

“Except for their proponents getting a heart attack.”

Mr. Trump also appeared to fire back at Brennan in his usual fashion; with a pair of tweets suggesting Brennan himself could have been the one to leak “fake news” to the media: