Russia Says U.S. Must Begin Talks, or Else 'Force' Is the Only Option

Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged President Donald Trump to reconsider Washington's attempts to isolate Moscow, telling his U.S. counterpart that diplomacy was necessary to avoid potential confrontations.

Putin made the remarks Friday while addressing the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, where leaders such as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, French President Emmanuel Macron and Chinese Vice Chairman Wang Qishan were among those in attendance. The U.S. and its Western allies have increasingly sanctioned Russia in recent years in response to illicit interference in foreign affairs, charges Moscow has routinely denied.

The Russian leader emphasized a need to establish regular communication with the U.S. even on difficult issues such as Iran and North Korea, where Washington has adopted a more aggressive stance than Moscow. Putin said that normal relations with the U.S. were essential not only to revive the world economy, but to military might from being the only deciding factor in settling disputes.

"We, along with our U.S. partners, must agree on some uniform rules of behavior; it is crucial, because this is what's at the base of our discussion today—trust. Trust exists or it doesn't, and then nothing good can come out of anything. And then the element of force is the only thing that remains, and this might lead to tragedy," Putin said, according to the state-run Tass Russian News Agency.

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on May 25. Vladimir Smirnov/TASS/Host Photo Agency/Reuters

Since taking office as prime minister in 1999 and president in 2000, Putin has pushed to revive Russia's standing on the international stage. Russia's growing military might and political influence have become especially apparent in recent years and met with deep suspicion by the West.

The U.S.-led NATO Western military alliance has been especially critical of Russia's involvement in neighboring conflicts, such as a 2008 fight with Georgia and the ongoing battle between the Ukrainian military and pro-Kremlin separatists in the east. The battle began after a 2014 uprising that eventually ousted a pro-Russia Ukrainian president, a move that, Russia argued, would justify seizing the Crimean Peninsula, to protect the majority-ethnic Russian population there.

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The move was seen by NATO as an attack on Ukrainian sovereignty and prompted a massive Western military buildup along Russian borders as Moscow fortified its own positions. The situation deteriorated as the administration of former President Barack Obama accused Russia of interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election in favor of President Donald Trump, who expressed admiration for Putin's leadership and advocated for a reset in bilateral relations.

Since Trump came to office in January 2017, his administration has been fraught with allegations of collusion with the Kremlin, and differences between his and Putin's views on international affairs has caused a rift between the two world leaders. In one of the most recent cases, the U.S. joined the U.K. in blaming Russia for poisoning an ex-Soviet double agent and his daughter in Salisbury, England, in March. The incident led to further sanctions and tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions.

Charts show the number of diplomats expelled between Russia and other countries as of April 2. Russian President Vladimir Putin is calling for a normalization in economic and political relations with the West, which has accused Russia of violating international norms. REUTERS

Despite the West's fallout with Moscow, Trump and Macron are two of the few world leaders backing a rapprochement. Trump broke with his advisers in March to congratulate Putin on his reelection to an unprecedented fourth presidential term, arguing that Russia "can help solve problems with North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, ISIS, Iran and even the coming Arms Race" in a tweet.

Macron,too, has stepped up in hopes of cooling tensions with Moscow. After his meeting Thursday with Putin, Macron told his Russian counterpart that France shared "strong and deep historical ties and strong ties in the sphere of international politics" with Russia.

"I believe this will help us find solutions and work together in all areas, be it Ukraine, the Middle East, Iran, Syria or a multilateral approach to international politics as we see it," Macron said.