Washington: America's relationship with Russia "may be at an all-time low", US President Donald Trump has said, but he hoped that it would be wonderful if the two countries got along.
"It would be wonderful as we were discussing just a little while ago if NATO and our country could get along with Russia. Right now we're not getting along with Russia at all. We may be at an all-time low in terms of the relationship with Russia," Trump told reporters at a joint White House news conference with the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
"This has built for a long period of time. But we're going to see what happens. Putin is the leader of Russia. Russia is a strong country. We're a very, very strong country. We're going to see how that all works out," Trump said.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has just concluded his maiden visit to Russia during which he met his Russian counterpart and the Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"I'll be speaking in with Rex Tillerson in a little while, calling in. I think he had a very successful meeting in Russia. We'll see. We'll see the end result, which will be for a long period of time perhaps. But the end result is what's most important, not just talk. And I think that based on everything I'm hearing, things went pretty well, maybe better than anticipated," Trump said.
Trump hoped that the European countries would have nothing to fear from Russia.
"I want to just start by saying hopefully they're going to have to fear nothing ultimately. Right now, there is a fear. And there are problems. There's certainly problems. But ultimately, I hope that there won't be a fear and there won't be problems and the world can get along. That would be the ideal situation," he said.
Stoltenberg said NATO and its member countries need to find ways to talk with Russia.
"We believe that the precondition for a political dialogue with Russia is that we are strong and that we are united. That based on that, we can talk to Russia because Russia is our neighbour. Russia is here to stay. So we have to find ways to manage our relationship with Russia," he said.
"I am absolutely certain that the US supports this approach, partly because the United States is contributing with forces to our enhanced presence in the eastern part of the alliance, and also in the southeast of the alliance in Romania. And the US and the President has clearly expressed that they want dialogue with Russia, but based on unity and strength in the alliance," the NATO chief said.
Stoltenberg said he strongly believes that the only way to deter Russia is to be strong.
"But the only way to avoid a new Cold War, avoid the arms race, and avoid increasing tensions is to continue to engage Russia in a political dialogue and to make sure that what we do is defensive and proportionate in response to a more assertive Russia," he said.
"The most important thing is to have a strong alliance, to stay united and be firm and predictable in our approach to Russia. And that means that we have to invest in our collective defence.
That's exactly what we are doing; deploy more troops in eastern part of the alliance; increase the readiness of our forces, and increase defence spending," he said.
Stoltenberg welcomed the very strong message from Trump on the importance of increased defence spending.
"We have started to do this, so we are implementing the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War, providing credible deterrence," he said.
"But at the same time, we have to find ways to engage with Russia, to talk with Russia. Because Russia will not go away. Russia will be our biggest neighbour. We have to find ways to live with them and to try and avoid a new Cold War, a new arms race," Stoltenberg said.