European leaders, NATO caution Trump on warming relations with Russia

European and NATO defense officials cautioned President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday about his warming relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying that they welcome dialogue but that the United States should not abandon its allies in a bid for improved ties with Moscow, according to The Washington Post.

The warnings came hours after Trump and Putin spoke by telephone and vowed to work toward better relations, which have sunk to Cold War-era lows after Russia`s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, WP reports.

The Monday conversation between Trump and Putin did not touch on some of the thorniest issues facing Russia and the West, such as Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine, a Kremlin spokesman said Tuesday.

See also: Trump`s key quotes on Ukraine and Russian agression (tweets, videos, links)

A day earlier, Moscow said the two had discussed a ”settlement for the crisis in Syria” and the prospect of joint efforts in the fight against global terrorism, notably the Islamic State.

Some European offic”ials privately raised their eyebrows at Tuesday`s clarification from the Kremlin, saying they feared that it meant Trump was giving a green light to the annexation of Crimea.

European nations, led by Germany, have pushed hard against Trump`s rhetoric on Russia, and German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Tuesday that the president-elect should be cautious in his dealings with Putin.

”It is always good for us to remain in dialogue with Russia,” von der Leyen told reporters ahead of a meeting of European Union defense ministers in Brussels. ”But for us it`s also important that we not forget our principles. That means that international laws should not be broken.”

Read alsoMogherini warns against ”black and white” representations of EU-Russia relations17Trump`s election has sparked fears among European nations that they will need to be more self-reliant on security matters. The efforts to boost own defenses were underway before the U.S. election, but they took on new urgency after Trump`s surprise victory.

During the campaign, Trump said he would not automatically adhere to U.S. security guarantees in Europe and would ”look into” rolling back sanctions on Russia that were imposed after the Crimea annexation.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg  warned Donald Trump against abandoning countries that have taken hits from Russia in recent years.

”We think it is important to respect the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of all nations, including Ukraine,” he said.

See also: A Trump administration thaw with Russia is “unacceptable” – McCain

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