Trump offered Putin U.S. help fighting wildfires, Kremlin says
WASHINGTON — President Trump called Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday to offer U.S. help fighting Siberian wildfires, the Kremlin said in a statement.
The White House has not issued any statement on the call and spokesmen for Trump would not immediately confirm it.
White House acknowledges Russia announcement from earlier tonight that President Trump and President Putin spoke today, with President Trump expressing "concern over the vast wildfires afflicting Siberia;" they also discussed trade.
— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) August 1, 2019
Putin thanked Trump for the offer but said a group of airplanes had been formed in Siberia to fight the fires, according to a translation of the statement. Putin said that Trump’s call was a signal that “in the future, it will be possible to restore full-format relations between the two countries.”
Relations between the United States and Russia deteriorated after American intelligence agencies determined that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf. The U.S. issued sanctions against Russia for the election interference and the attempted murder of a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom that the British government blamed on the Kremlin.
Trump has nonetheless tried to maintain a personal friendship with Putin. The two leaders agreed to continue discussions by phone and in meetings, the Kremlin statement said.
Putin ordered the Russian military to help fight the Siberian fires earlier on Wednesday. Russia has declared a state of emergency in four Siberian districts because of the fires. Plumes of smoke visible from space have stretched across the region to the Ural mountains thousands of miles away.
June temperatures in the Siberian districts were about 10 degrees above the 30-year average from 1981 to 2010. About 7.4 million acres were burning as of Wednesday, according to the country’s Federal Forestry Agency.
Wildfires in the United States haven’t always drawn sympathy from the American president.
Trump sparked outrage last year as wildfires devastated parts of California by insisting that poor forest management by the state’s Democratic leaders was to blame. He threatened to withhold federal money for maintaining the forests even as the fires raged through Butte County north of Sacramento, effectively destroying the town of Paradise and killing dozens of people.
After a backlash, Trump softened his tone and approved an expedited request for disaster aid.
Nevertheless, Trump has proposed cutting the U.S. Forest Service’s funding for the national forest system by as much as 19%. Some of the programs designed to reduce wildfire risk, including restoring forest landscapes and the Integrated Resource Restoration Pilot, would be eliminated altogether.