MOSCOW/WASHINGTON – The Kremlin said on Wednesday almost all communications channels between Russia and the United States have been frozen but the U.S. State Department disputed that statement.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia did not expect the incoming U.S. administration to quickly reject enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and that almost all communication with the United States had ceased, according to Russia’s RIA news agency.
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump questioned during his election campaign whether the U.S. should protect allies seen as spending too little on defense, raising fears he could withdraw funding for NATO at a time of heightened tensions with Moscow. Russia has said it would take countermeasures in response to any expansion of the 28-member military alliance.
“Almost every level of dialogue with the United States is frozen,” RIA quoted Peskov as saying. “We don’t communicate with one another, or (if we do) we do so minimally.”
State Department spokesman John Kirby quickly rejected Peskov’s statement.
“It’s difficult to know exactly what is meant by this comment, but diplomatic engagement with Russia continues across a wide range of issues,” Kirby said in an emailed statement to Reuters. “That we have significant differences with Moscow on some of these issues is well known, but there hasn’t been a break in dialogue.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke by phone on Tuesday regarding the situation in Syria, Kirby said.
Separately, the Pentagon said it had held a video conference with counterparts at the Russian defense ministry to ensure the two sides’ air operations do not come into conflict with each other in Syria. Such discussions with Russia are held regularly as U.S. warplanes conduct daily airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria.
RIA, citing an interview it said Peskov gave to Russia’s Mir TV station, quoted him as saying he did not know whether President Vladimir Putin would seek re-election in 2018.
“Everyone’s heads are aching because of work and with projects and nobody is thinking or talking about elections,” Peskov said.
Most Kremlin-watchers expect Putin to run for the presidency again.
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