By Eli Yokley
December 23, 2016 at 2:35 pm ET
President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team on Friday released what it says is a letter to Trump from Russian President Vladimir Putin saying the two leaders should “restore” cooperation between their countries.
Putin said he hopes that after Trump takes office the two of them can take “real steps to restore the framework of bilateral cooperation” and “bring our level of collaboration on the international scene to a qualitatively new level,” according to a translation provided by the transition team.
Trump, who spoke during the campaign of improving relations with Russia, particularly in Syria in a bid to fight the self-proclaimed Islamic State terror group, described Putin’s letter as “very nice” and said “his thoughts are so correct.”
“I hope both sides are able to live up to these thoughts, and we do not have to travel an alternate path,” Trump said in a statement.
The release of the letter, dated Dec. 15, came hours after Trump, when asked about the possible consequences of his call to strengthen American nuclear capabilities, reportedly told MSNBC: “Let it be an arms race.”
The comments followed a back-and-forth between Trump and Putin over the past two days, when both men spoke of enhancing their nuclear arsenals. However, Putin said during a news conference Friday that he did not want an arms race.
“If anyone is instigating this arms race, it is not us,” Putin said. “We will never be dragged into an arms race to spend more than we can afford.”
Any major changes to U.S. nuclear policy would require consent from Congress. The offices of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did not comment on the matter after being contacted by Morning Consult.
Putin sent President Barack Obama a similar letter in July calling for improved relations. Since then, the relationship between the two former Cold War adversaries has worsened, with the U.S. intelligence community publicly declaring that Russia hacked into Democratic Party officials’ emails to interfere with the 2016 election process.
Eli Yokley is a senior data reporter at Morning Consult covering politics and campaigns. @eyokley