During his first call with Russian leader Vladimir Putin Thursday, President Donald Trump reportedly paused the call to ask what the New START nuclear arms treaty was, then proceeded to rail against it.
According to the Reuters report, when Putin brought up the possibility of extending the treaty, an Obama-era agreement, Trump turned to aides to ask what it was. Once clarified, Trump then told Putin that the treaty was “one of several bad deals” coming out of the Obama administration.
“Trump also talked about his own popularity,” the report says.
Typically, the president receives a briefing from his national security adviser prior to any talks with foreign leaders. According to this report, Trump did not receive a briefing from intelligence agencies before the Putin call.
This lack of knowledge of foreign policy adds to growing concerns that Trump is not adequately prepared to negotiate with foreign leaders over the course of his presidency.
New START caps nuclear weapon construction in both the U.S. and Russia at 1,550 warheads per country. The treaty can be extended for five more years. Removing the cap on two of the world’s largest nuclear powers could raise concerns about an arms race.
If the president had no knowledge of New START, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise—it’s the same treaty he blasted during an October presidential debate, though at the time he couldn’t remember its name and referred to it as “start up.” He also incorrectly stated that the treaty allowed Russia to continue warhead production while it limited the U.S.
When asked about reports of the call, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told Reuters, “The president’s conversation with President Putin is a private call between the two of them, and I’m going to leave it at that.”
Reuters’ report references “two U.S. officials and one former U.S. official with knowledge of the call.”