While the president celebrated the holidays at the White House, he apparently received some holiday greetings, and apparently they weren't all of the family-photo variety. Among the letters and cards, Russian President Vladimir Putin's Christmas message to President Donald Trump says he's open to talks, confirming his stance after a hiccup in their last scheduled meeting. The message strikes a similar tone as previous outreach by Putin toward the American president.
A statement released Dec. 30 by the Kremlin, per CNN, read,
In a congratulatory message to President of the United States of America Donald Trump on the occasion of the Christmas and New Year holidays, Vladimir Putin emphasized that Russian-American relations are an essential factor in ensuring strategic stability and international security, and confirmed that Russia is open to dialogue with the United States on the widest possible agenda.
Trump was one of several former and current world leaders to receive a holiday greeting from Putin, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, British Prime Minister Theresa May, and Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, per The New York Post. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for comment on the letter to Trump, but did not receive a response at time of publication. Differing translations of the same letter are in circulation, with the Post providing a slightly different interpretation.
The U.S. president spent the winter holidays holed up in the White House, per reports, after canceling his planned trip to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida with his family amid pushback about the government shutdown.
The greeting from the Kremlin comes a month after Trump had abruptly cancelled his scheduled meeting with Putin at the G20 Summit in November, citing a Russian takeover of Ukrainian war ships as the reason. However, on the same day, Nov. 29, the president's former attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the timeline of the Trump Tower Moscow project and his own connections with Russian officials. Despite the cancellation, Putin, in his annual year-end press conference on Dec. 20, expressed a willingness to hold another meeting with Trump. He added, however, that it was unclear whether that would come to pass as a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives takes power in the new year.
"On multiple occasions I've said I am willing to meet, we have a number of issues to discuss, including our bilateral agenda," said Putin on Dec. 20 according to CNN. "Of course, now power in the Congress is changing and I'm sure that there will be more attacks on the president. Whether or not he will be able to have direct dialogue with Russia as a result of that, I don't know."
It also follows on the heels of a report from U.S. officials that Russia had tried to influence the 2018 midterm elections, as well as the release of a Senate report suggesting a wide scope of alleged Russian efforts to influence American voters on social media.
Putin's mention in the letter of ensuring international security is likely a reference to Russia's involvement in the Syrian war. Trump abruptly announced on Dec. 20 he'd be pulling U.S. troops from the region, a decision that was followed by the resignation of former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. The decision was controversial in part because of the suddenness with which it was executed, and because it went against the stances American diplomatic and military officials had expressed to U.S. allies.
It's not the first time Putin has sent Trump a Christmas card, either: he also sent one in 2017, per a press release from the Kremlin. He also did the same thing in 2016, per CNN, just before the president-elect took office, though certainly much has changed since then. In his December 2016 letter Putin wrote:
[S]erious global and regional challenges, which our countries have had to face in recent years, show that relations between Russia and the U.S. remain an important factor in ensuring stability and security of the modern world. I hope that after you assume the position of the President of the United States of America, we will be able — by acting in a constructive and pragmatic manner — to take real steps to restore the framework of bilateral cooperation in different areas as well as bring our level of collaboration on the international scene to a qualitatively new level.
It's not clear if or when Trump might agree to hold another talk with the Russian president, but it's apparent from this letter that at least one of the two sides is interested.