U.S. President Donald Trump has said in an interview with Reuters that he isn't considering lifting sanctions on Russia, but he would consider doing so if Russia gave him something he wants in Ukraine or Syria.
"I’m not considering it at all. No. I would consider it if they do something that would be good for us. But I wouldn’t consider it without that," Trump said in the interview released late on August 20.
Trump then suggested areas where he could foresee making a deal with Russia over sanctions.
"We have a lot of things we can do good for each other. You have Syria. You have Ukraine. You have many other things," he said.
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on August 21 the Kremlin welcomed Trump's comments indicating readiness to cooperate with Moscow, but that it would "welcome even more some kind of concrete actions."
Trump told Reuters that Putin did not ask him to lift U.S. sanctions during their summit in Helsinki last month. But he said the two in a private meeting that lasted nearly two hours did talk about Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and incursion into eastern Ukraine, as well as the Nord Stream 2 natural-gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.
"I mentioned Crimea, sure. I always mention Crimea whenever I mention Ukraine. Putin and I had a very good discussion. It was a very -- I think it was a very good discussion for both parties. I mentioned the gas pipeline going to Germany," Trump said.
'They'd Like Economic Development'
The U.S. first imposed sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Crimea in 2014, and since then has steadily ratcheted up and expanded the sanctions, citing alleged abuses from Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to its alleged chemical weapons attack on a Russian ex-spy this year in Britain.
Washington has also threatened to impose sanctions over the Nord Stream pipeline, which it maintains will increase German and European dependence on Russian energy.
On an issue related to sanctions -- Russia's faltering economy -- Trump told Reuters that Putin seemed eager for help at the summit.
"I think they would like economic development. And that's a big thing for them," he said.
"We had a very good, I guess, close to two-hour meeting. We had another good meeting with a lot of our representatives there. We talked about Israel, we talked about insecurity for Israel, we talked about Syria, we talked about Ukraine," he said.
On other subjects during the Reuters interview, Trump said it was "most likely" that he will have a second meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as the two nations negotiate over ridding the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons.
And Trump said he has worries about falling into what he called a "perjury trap" if he agrees to be interviewed by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading an investigation into ties between Russia and Trump's 2016 election campaign.
Trump said his testimony, for example, might contradict the testimony of former FBI Director James Comey, who Trump fired last year when he was leading the Russia investigation. Trump contended that Comey is a "proven liar," without providing evidence.
"So if I say something and he says something, and it's my word against his, and he's best friends with Mueller, so Mueller might say: 'Well, I believe Comey,' and even if I'm telling the truth, that makes me a liar. That's no good," Trump told Reuters.