US President Donald Trump has told Russian leader Vladimir Putin he does not want to renew a 2010 nuclear arms reduction treaty between Washington and Moscow because the deal was bad for the United States.
During his first call as president with Putin on January 28, Trump said the New START treaty favored Russia, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing current and former US officials with knowledge of the call.
When Putin raised the possibility of extending the treaty beyond its expiration date of 2021, Trump paused to ask his aides what the treaty was, these sources said.
Trump also talked about his political accomplishments and popularity with Putin, the sources said.
The hour-long phone call, which was not previously reported, has added to concerns that Trump is not adequately prepared for discussions with foreign leaders.
New START gives both countries until February 2018 to reduce their deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550, the lowest level in decades. However, it does not limit the number of operationally inactive nuclear warheads that remain in the high thousands in both the US and Russian stockpiles.
The White House has declined to comment on the call and says it is probing ongoing leaks of Trump’s private conversations with foreign leaders.
"We’re looking into the situation, and it’s very concerning,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said, deploring "the idea that you can’t have a conversation without that information getting out. . . . We’re trying to conduct serious business on behalf of the country.”
On the same day as the Putin call, Trump reportedly told Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that their conversation was "the worst call by far” and criticized him over a pending refugee agreement negotiated by the administration of former President Barack Obama.
During a call the day before with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, tensions were also reported to be high. In all three phone calls, Trump reportedly touted his political accomplishments and popularity, Presstv reported.
Following the Australia and Mexico calls, Trump told Fox News the leaks were "disgraceful” and accused "Obama people” still serving in the White House of providing the media with potentially embarrassing details.