WASHINGTON (CN) — President Donald Trump has signaled that he plans to work in closer cooperation with Russia as Covid-19 sends oil prices plummeting.
The U.S president spoke over the phone with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Monday morning.
Ahead of the call, Trump appeared on Fox News where he said Putin would probably ask the U.S. to lift sanctions.
Though he did not reveal how he planned to respond, Trump said he would address Russia’s price war with Saudi Arabia. The U.S. president said the “fight” is driving down world oil prices and “really hurting” the U.S. energy industry.
“They don’t like that,” Trump said of the U.S. sanctions. “Frankly we should be able to get along.”
The Kremlin released a statement Monday saying that Trump and Putin “discussed closer cooperation between the two countries” while voicing their concerns “regarding the scope of the spread of the coronavirus in the world.”
The White House had not released a readout of the call or any details on the conversation between the two leaders. Another detail in the Kremlin statement says Trump and Putin “arranged for Russia-U.S. consultations” on the global oil market through their respective energy officials.
Putin told G20 leaders during a conference call last week that, amid the global novel coronavirus outbreak, sanctions are now a “matter of life and death.” Like countries around the world, including the U.S., Russia is now watching its economy wind to a near halt as strict restrictions on movement remain in place to curb the spread of Covid-19.
President Barack Obama imposed the lion’s share of sanctions that Russia faces in response both to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
For years, Trump has shrugged off and disputed the evidence of Russian election interference long confirmed by U.S. intelligence agencies. “I never thought I’d be saying that maybe we have to have an oil [prices] increase, because we do,” he told Fox News on Monday.
Globally, relationships between world leaders have warmed as countries work together to respond to the global crisis, but the camaraderie between Trump and Putin was widely criticized long before the outbreak as too close a tie between the U.S president and his increasingly authoritarian counterpart.
The State Department meanwhile last week slapped new sanctions on Iran, hard hit by the spread of Covid-19 with 2,640 reported deaths as of Sunday. The move followed calls to loosen existing U.S. sanctions on Iran over fears an economic stranglehold is contributing to the rising death toll.