President TrumpDonald John TrumpWH officials discuss HHS secretary replacement following criticism of pandemic response: WSJ Pentagon leaders at impasse about next steps for Capt. Brett Crozier: report Trump forgoes WH press briefing for the first time since Easter weekend MORE and Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinTrump, Putin issue joint commemorative statement triggering concerns from government officials How autocrats are using coronavirus to grab more power Can COVID-19 open the door to peace-building in Syria? MORE issued a joint statement on Saturday commemorating the 75th anniversary of a World War II meeting of U.S. and Soviet troops at the Elbe river in 1945.
“As we work today to confront the most important challenges of the 21st century, we pay tribute to the valor and courage of all those who fought together to defeat fascism,” the statement read.
Those familiar with the statement’s drafting said that its issuance is symbolic, noting that the intent is to prove to the public that the nations can “put aside their differences,” according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.
“The ‘Spirit of the Elbe’ is an example of how our countries can put aside differences, build trust, and cooperate in pursuit of a greater cause,” it reads, according to the Journal.
Such statements are rare, with the last one occurring in 2010 between former President Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
According to the Journal, the decision to issue the statement was controversial among Trump administration officials at the Pentagon and State Department, many of whom have been skeptical of Moscow’s intentions and complained about Russia with regard to several issues.
The officials pointed to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and its aid to Syrian President Bashar Assad for his offensive in the country’s Idlib province.
The U.S. officials also claim that Russia has spread disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic and interfered in U.S. campaigns.
Lawmakers and congressional aides also expressed concern that this statement would undo the stern messages the U.S. has sent to Moscow, according to people familiar with the situation, the Journal reported.
One former U.S. government official claimed that the statement was a Russian initiative.
“I am sure this was a Russian initiative,” Angela Stent, a former U.S. intelligence analyst and author of “Putin’s World,” told the Journal. “Putin wants validation from the United States that today’s Russia like the Soviet Union is a great power.”
Earlier this month, Trump spoke with Putin for two consecutive days about oil production as the fossil fuel industry in both countries faces historic lows.