U.S. President Donald Trump has defended his decision to congratulate President Vladimir Putin on his re-election, saying a good relationship with Russia is necessary to help solve some of the world's problems.
"The Fake News Media is crazed because they wanted me to excoriate him. They are wrong! Getting along with Russia [and others] is a good thing, not a bad thing," he said on Twitter on March 21.
"… They can help solve problems with North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, [the Islamic State], Iran and even the coming Arms Race," he wrote in a separate tweet.
Trump came under fire after he said he congratulated Putin on his win during a phone call on March 20, two days after the Russian leader’s landslide election victory.
He told reporters that he hopes the two leaders can meet in the "not-too-distant future" to discuss several crises around the world.
The Kremlin said in a statement following the call that "special attention has been paid to working out the issue of holding a possible meeting at the highest level."
Putin, who has been president or prime minister since 1999, won more than 76 percent of the vote, which drew international criticism for lacking genuine competition and was marred by allegations of fraud.
Members of Congress who criticized Trump for congratulating Putin included Senator John McCain, a fellow Republican, who said, "An American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections."
Meanwhile, U.S. media reported that Trump did not adhere to warnings from his advisers when he called Putin.
A note to the president for his phone call with the Russian president reportedly read, "DO NOT CONGRATULATE."
White House officials did not dispute the report, but said whoever leaked it could be subject to dismissal, according to the Reuters news agency.
Ties between Russia and the United States have been severely strained by disagreements over issues that include Russia's aggression in Ukraine, its role in the war in Syria, and its alleged interference in Western politics and elections.
According to accounts from the White House and the Kremlin, another point of contention, Russia’s alleged role in the poisoning of a former spy with a deadly nerve agent in Britain, was not touched upon during the call. Moscow has denied any involvement in that incident.