- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain issued a sharp warning Tuesday against the prospect of reset in U.S.-Russia relations — a day after President-elect Donald Trump engaged in an extensive phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mr. McCain, who switched back and forth between supporting and criticizing Mr. Trump ahead of last week’s election, said in a statement that he distrusts Mr. Putin, and the idea of pandering to Russia will come at a high price for U.S. interests in the Middle East and beyond.

“With the U.S. presidential transition underway, Vladimir Putin has said in recent days that he wants to improve relations with the United States,” Mr. McCain said. “We should place as much faith in such statements as any other made by a former KGB agent who has plunged his country into tyranny, murdered his political opponents, invaded his neighbors, threatened America’s allies and attempted to undermine America’s elections.”

The Republican senator, who won a close race of his own for re-election in Arizona last week, went on to warn that the “Obama administration’s last attempt at resetting relations with Russia culminated in Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and military intervention in the Middle East.”

Mr. Trump suggested on repeated occasions during his campaign for president that he would be open to reworking the U.S.-Russian relationship.

Mr. Putin was one of the first world leaders to send his congratulations to the president-elect last week, and on Monday, the two men held their first phone call.

The Kremlin said in a statement that Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump agreed during the call that they share a common view on “uniting efforts in the fight with the common enemy number one — international terrorism and extremism,” according to the Russian government-owned Russia Today.

The statement said the two also discussed ways to settle the Syria crisis.

Mr. McCain seemed to bristle at the notion in his own statement Tuesday. “Vladimir Putin has rejoined Bashar Assad in his barbaric war against the Syrian people with the resumption of large-scale Russian air and missile strikes in Idlib and Homs,” he said. “Another brutal assault on the city of Aleppo could soon follow.

“At the very least, the price of another ‘reset’ would be complicity in Putin and Assad’s butchery of the Syrian people,” Mr. McCain said. “That is an unacceptable price for a great nation. When America has been at its greatest, it is when we have stood on the side of those fighting tyranny. That is where we must stand again.”

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