By Bloomberg, Tony Halpin, and Henry Meyer
March 25, 2019

Russia urged U.S. President Donald Trump to seize the opportunity to reset relations after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report found no evidence of collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin.

“There’s a chance to renew much in our relations, but the question is whether Trump will take the risk,” Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the international relations committee in the upper house of parliament, wrote Monday on Facebook. “We, of course, are ready. And I suggest starting with the most acute issues: the START and INF agreements” limiting nuclear weapons, he said.

Mueller’s report “proved what Russia knew from the very beginning: there was no collusion between Trump and anyone in his team and the Kremlin,” Kosachyov wrote. Still, Russia has no reason to celebrate the outcome of the inquiry after two years in which relations suffered huge damage and “the accusations against us remain.” While the Mueller report confirmed Russia meddled in the 2016 election, the Kremlin continues to deny that.

Trump scored the biggest political victory of his presidency on Sunday after Attorney General William Barr published a summary of Mueller’s assessment that there was no collusion with Russia during the 2016 campaign. The president tweeted in response that he’s received “Complete and Total EXONERATION” and called the 22-month inquiry into Russian interference “an illegal takedown that failed.”

Russia has dismissed allegations of collusion with the Trump campaign. U.S. intelligence agencies concluded, however, that Russia was behind hacking aimed at damaging Democratic Party contender Hillary Clinton and boosting Trump’s chances of winning the election. Trump pledged during his campaign to improve ties with Russia and has repeatedly said he wants good relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Now that Mueller has reported, “we’ll have to make a long-term deal with Trump anyway,” Kosachyov wrote. “His chances for re-election after yesterday look much better.”

Trump may resume calls to boost ties with Putin, though “all this talk won’t lead to anything,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, head of Russia’s Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, which advises the Kremlin. Political attacks on Trump will continue now that the U.S. is in a pre-election period before the 2020 contest and “no one will get any political benefit for arguing in favor of better relations with Russia,” he said.

An initial test could be whether Trump renews his pledge to invite Putin to the White House. The U.S. made the offer after the leaders’ first summit in Helsinki last July, but later said the meeting would be delayed until after Mueller’s investigation was completed.

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