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World

Russian President Attempts To Court Trump Through Fighting ISIS

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In his inaugural address, President Trump said America would join with other countries to fight Islamic radicals like ISIS. As NPR's Lucian Kim reports from Moscow, that sounds exactly like what Russian President Vladimir Putin has been saying.

LUCIAN KIM, BYLINE: President Trump didn't talk a lot about foreign policy in his first speech as president. But what he did say was that when the interests of different countries overlap, they should join forces.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.

KIM: The Kremlin is trying to show that it's already leading the way. Since Trump's inauguration, the Russian Defense Ministry has said long-range bombers flew missions against ISIS targets in Syria. Today the ministry claimed it received targeting information from the U.S. via the coalition command that enabled Russian and coalition aircraft to attack ISIS in Syria yesterday.

However, a senior U.S. defense official says there was no sharing of coordinates, no cooperation and no American aircraft involved in the operation. Also today, Syrian peace talks initiated by the Kremlin and organized together with Iran and Turkey opened in Kazakhstan. Russia has been working hard to establish itself as a Middle East powerbroker since September 2015, when President Vladimir Putin addressed the United Nations.

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PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: (Speaking Russian).

KIM: Putin proposed the formation of a, quote, "broad international anti-terrorist coalition" not unlike the alliance between the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain and other countries that defeated Adolf Hitler in World War II. Two days after Putin's U.N. speech, Russian warplanes began flying airstrikes in Syria on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad, though critics say Russia has mostly been attacking rebels opposed to the Syrian government rather than ISIS.

Ignoring U.S. criticism, Putin was able to help Assad retake the key city of Aleppo. He then coaxed armed opposition groups to the negotiating table. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is keeping the door open for the Trump administration to come on board as a partner, not an adversary.

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SERGEY LAVROV: (Speaking Russian).

KIM: "I don't know who would deny that the fight against terrorism is the main priority for all of us," he said. Lavrov said Trump's view of foreign policy - putting national interests before ideology or values - coincides exactly with Putin's view on how to deal with the world. And that's why the Kremlin is ready to make peace with Trump - to go to war together against ISIS. Lucian Kim, NPR News, Moscow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.