Russian President Vladimir Putin urged U.S. business executives Friday to help improve U.S.-Russia relations that have reached "their lowest point since the Cold War", a nearly 50-year period of East-West geopolitical tension that ended in 1991.
"I want to pass the buck back to you. Help us to restore a normal political dialogue," Putin said in a speech to senior U.S. business representatives during an economic forum in St. Petersburg.
Putin said he would continue to communicate with U.S. President Donald Trump, saying good relations are in the interests of both countries.
Ties between the two countries have been strained by Russia's apparent interference in last year's U.S. presidential election, as well as conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.
U.S. and European Union sanctions against Russia remain in effect because of its involvement in the Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea.
Putin attempted to allay global concerns about Trump's decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement and called on world leaders to collaborate with Trump on the issue.
"You shouldn't make a noise about this, but should create the conditions for joint work," Putin said.
Paris accord, NATO
The Kremlin leader said the Paris accord is a "framework deal" that could be revised to "change the U.S. obligations inside the framework" of the agreement. Putin also said Trump's promise to negotiate new conditions for U.S. inclusion in the accord offers hope a compromise can be reached before it takes effect in 2021.
Putin also said NATO "is an instrument of U.S. foreign policy that is "getting closer" to Russia's borders. Nevertheless, he expressed a willingness to combine efforts with NATO to combat terrorism.
"If NATO is ready to work constructively in this direction, of course we will cooperate," he said.
NATO was established in 1949 to counter the military strength of the Soviet Union. At the Group of Seven summit last week in Sicily, Trump alarmed NATO allies by berating them for not contributing more money for their mutual defense.
Denies Russia hacked US election
Putin continued to deny that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, saying the claims contain "nothing concrete, only assumptions." He maintained that IP addresses linked to Russian hackers could have easily been rigged.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia meddled in the election in Trump's favor. Several current and former aides of Trump are currently under investigation over their alleged contacts with Russian officials.
Source: Voice of America