Venezuela Crisis Discussed in Trump-Putin Call
VOA’s Nike Ching at the State Department and Carla Babb at the Pentagon contributed to this report.
WHITE HOUSE — The crisis in Venezuela was among the topics discussed in a Friday phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“The president reiterated the need for a peaceful transition” in Venezuela, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters.
Tension has grown in recent days between Washington and Moscow over the increasingly destabilizing events in Caracas. The Trump administration has accused the Russians of preventing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro from giving up power and fleeing the country.
“This is our hemisphere,” national security adviser John Bolton said Wednesday. “It’s not where the Russians ought to be interfering.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in a phone call earlier this week, told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of “grave consequences” should there be further aggressive steps in Venezuela, interpreted as a warning to Washington not to intervene militarily.
Pompeo and Lavrov are scheduled to talk on the sidelines of an Arctic Council ministerial session in Finland next week, and Venezuela is almost certainly to be discussed.
“They will have an opportunity, obviously, to meet and review whatever topics they choose to,” a senior State Department official told reporters on a conference call previewing Pompeo’s trip.
The president’s national security team, including Bolton, acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood and the commander of the U.S. Southern Command, Navy Adm. Craig Faller, met Friday in a secure Pentagon room that is reserved for top-level discussions of sensitive issues and military operations.
Defense officials said they discussed options on Venezuela.
“The president is going to do what’s necessary,” Sanders replied to a question from VOA about whether that meeting had moved the ball on U.S. military intervention in Venezuela.
She repeated that “all options continue to be on the table,” something administration officials have stressed for weeks.
Trump issued a couple of tweets Friday afternoon about the call with Putin:
Shanahan told reporters that the meeting reviewed the situation in Venezuela and was to ensure there is alignment within the administration on the South American country.
The United States and most other Western countries no longer recognize Maduro as Venezuela’s legitimate leader, having switched interim recognition to Juan Guaido, the president of Venezuela’s democratically elected national assembly.
In Friday’s Trump-Putin phone call, which Sanders said lasted more than an hour, the U.S. president also asked the Russian leader to pressure North Korea to denuclearize.
Also discussed, according to Sanders, was the possibility of a new nuclear agreement involving the United States, Russia and China, or extending the current pact.
The two leaders, said Sanders, also talked about the situation in Ukraine.
In addition, the White House press secretary said the Mueller report examining Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was raised “very, very briefly,” with the president conveying that the investigation was over.
Sanders did not go into detail about what Trump said to Putin about U.S. government concerns that Moscow continues efforts to tamper with the American election process, saying on meddling in general, “We’re going to do everything we can to prevent it from happening.”