Trump ready to look at currently ‘terrible’ US-Russia relations with ‘fresh eyes’ – Pence
“In the president-elect, you have someone who is willing to approach this terrible relationship the United States has with Russia today with fresh eyes, and at least be open to a better relationship with Vladimir Putin and with Russia,” Pence told the ‘Face the Nation’ program on CBS.
“Look, we have some common interests that would be well served if we were able to improve our relationship with Russia, most notably the battle to defeat radical Islamic terrorism and to defeat ISIS at its source,” he said.
However, the vice-president elect said that Trump, who is to be inaugurated on January 20, and his administration have “realistic expectations” about resuming dialogue with Moscow.
Pence once again had to answer questions about alleged contacts between Trump’s team and Russian officials during last year’s presidential race.
He said that such contacts never took place, adding that in his opinion “to suggest that is to give credence to some of these bizarre rumors that have swirled around the candidacy.”
Pence confirmed that Trump’s incoming national security adviser, Gen. Michael Flynn, talked on the phone with Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak on December 29, a day before Washington expelled 35 Russian diplomats and announced new sanctions against Moscow.
“Actually it was initiated when on Christmas Day, he (Flynn) had sent a text to the Russian ambassador to express not only Christmas wishes but sympathy for the loss of life in the airline crash that took place,” he said.
On January 25, the Russian Defense Ministry’s Tu-154 plane crashed soon after takeoff from Sochi Airport, killing all 92 people on board, including the members of the world-renowned Alexandrov Military Ensemble.
“It was strictly coincidental that they (Flynn and Kislyak) had a conversation, they did not discuss anything having to do with the US’s decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia,” Pence said.
Flynn has been in touch with top diplomats from around 30 countries as “that’s exactly what the incoming national security adviser should do,” he added.
“But what I can confirm, having spoken to him about it, is those conversations that happened to occur around the time that the United States took action to expel diplomats had nothing whatsoever to do with those sanctions,” the vice-president elect said.
Pence also stressed that Trump and his team “welcome” the decision by the Congress to look into claims of Russian interference of the US election, expressing confidence that the results of the vote had not been affected in any way.
“We look forward to the results of their inquiry. But make no mistake about it: I think they’ll find what the publicly released intelligence report showed before, is that there’s no evidence of any impact on voting machines,” he said.