LONDON — Russian President Vladimir Putin has a message for Corporate America: Help President Trump.
“Help us restore normal political dialogue,” Putin told executives from major U.S. companies during a business roundtable at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on Friday.
“I ask you on behalf of Russia, and I appeal to the American side: Help the newly elected president, the head of the United States administration,” he said.
Putin’s audience included senior executives from Boeing, Caterpillar, Chevron, Philip Morris and Honeywell.
Relations between Russia and the U.S. have been in sharp decline since 2014, when Western powers reacted to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea by slapping sanctions on the country.
Allegations that Russia meddled in the U.S. presidential election in 2016 have further strained the relationship. Former FBI Director Robert Mueller is now leading an investigation into Moscow’s actions, including potential collusion between President Trump’s campaign associates and Russian officials.
Putin lamented the lost economic opportunities on Friday, saying that trade between the U.S. and Russia has dramatically declined. Trade in goods between the two countries fell by over 40% between 2014 and 2016.
“If you look at lost opportunities and lost profits, analyze that, you see that … it harms everyone,” he said, according to an account of the meeting published by Russian state media.
The Russian leader said he was ready for improved relations.
“We are ready to support bilateral business projects, that include equal, constructive partnership and cooperation,” he said. “We are interested in developing technology, attracting foreign firms to help develop our industries and infrastructure.”
Putin’s comments come one day after he suggested that “patriotic hackers” may have meddled in the U.S. election, but insisted that none of their potential activities were state-backed.
It’s the first time he has conceded that the election attacks may have emanated from Russia.
Putin has also used the St. Petersburg summit to elaborate on his relationship with Trump.
“We don’t know each other, we’ve never met,” Putin said on Thursday, before offering an assessment of the U.S. leader.
“He is a straight-forward, sincere man. You can’t really classify him as a traditional politician,” Putin said of Trump. “This is a person with a fresh view of things.”