Coming face to neck with Vladimir Putin

RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin poses with prizewinners of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Paralympics after a ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 20.—Reuters

A congratulatory phone call was not the only thing on the agenda in the amiable exchange between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the President of the United States Donald Trump Tuesday following the former's presidential win.

"We want to continue to have dialogue with Russian Federation, continue to talk about some of the shared interests we have, whether it is North Korea, Iran, "White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a briefing following the president's phone call".

"Wrong then wrong now", Heritage Foundation senior fellow James Carafano tweeted of both the Obama and Trump calls to Putin.

For critics, Trump's call offered Putin legitimacy while giving him a wedge to drive between Western allies and within the White House itself.

The administration's posture fed the perception that, even as special counsel Robert Mueller has been investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, Trump is too infatuated with Putin to criticize him.

The Washington Post reported that Mr Trump, in his briefing papers to prepare for the phone call with Mr Putin, was specifically warned "do not congratulate" the Russian President. The ABC reported administration officials as saying that it was unclear if Trump had seen the briefing memo.

On the call, Trump and Putin reportedly discussed the Syrian conflict, denuclearizing North Korea and "mutual national security priorities and challenges".

Trump's call of congratulations to Putin drew bruising criticism from members of his own party even before the revelation that he was advised against it.

In his tweets, Trump disparaged two former U.S presidents with no mention of Putin's or Russia's part in fostering a healthy U.S. - Russian Federation relationship. "But to be this duplicitous and continue to leak things out, it's unsafe", Senator Rubio said.

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"An American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections".

Two other officials told the AP that the White House was now conducting an internal investigation to determine who might have leaked the information.

Britain's top diplomat, Boris Johnson, told Parliament on Wednesday that the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, would use the World Cup this summer as a propaganda tool much as Hitler used the 1936 Olympic Games to glorify Nazi Germany.

Aides had been stunned by Trump's decision to call Putin in the first place, but were even more surprised when he ignored their notes warning him explicitly "DO NOT CONGRATULATE" and committed to a summit meeting soon.

While the report was not disputed by the White House, it was implied that whoever leaked them may be subjected to dismissal.

According to the Kremlin, Trump and Putin discussed the need to restrict the arms race between the two nations.

Republican senator Marco Rubio admitted that he did not like the U.S. leader's congratulations to Putin.

Britain has accused Russian Federation of using a military grade nerve agent which the Kremlin has fiercely denied.

The White House chaos emerged as lawmakers heard that Russian Federation - slapped with USA sanctions over its meddling in the 2016 election - remains a menace as the country gears up for congressional polls in November.

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