Carter said on Sunday in Georgia that he knows Russian President Vladimir Putin "fairly well" because they "have a common interest in fly fishing." When he met with Putin in April along with other global leaders to discuss the crises in Syria and Ukraine, the Russian president gave him an email address so the two could discuss his "fly fishing experiences, particularly in Russia," Carter said.
The civil war in Syria, where U.S. officials say Russia has bombed rebels and CIA-backed groups rather than the Islamic State terrorist group, has also been a topic of conversation between the two. Carter said he sent maps of the Islamic State's locations in Syria, produced by the Carter Center, to the Russian embassy so Moscow could improve the accuracy of its strikes.
"I sent [Putin] a message Thursday and asked him if he wanted a copy of our map so he could bomb accurately in Syria, and then on Friday, the Russian embassy in Atlanta-I mean in Washington, called down and told me they would like very much to have the map," Carter said at his Sunday school class in Georgia, according to a video of his remarks first aired by NBC News. "So in the future, if Russia doesn't bomb the right places, you'll know it's not Putin's fault but it's my fault," he added as the audience laughed.
Obama administration officials have publicly said the United States will not collaborate with Russia as long as it targets U.S.-backed rebels in an effort to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a longtime ally of Moscow. However, Carter appears to have reached out to Putin on his own initiative and urged him to find common ground with the United States by only targeting the Islamic State in Syria.
Cmdr. Elissa Smith, spokeswoman for the Department of Defense, declined to comment about whether the Pentagon was aware of Carter's correspondence with Putin.
The White House referred the Washington Free Beacon to the Carter Center, which did not respond to a request for comment. The Russian embassy also did not respond to a request for comment.
Carter has previously expressed support for Russia and its actions in Ukraine, where Moscow has supported separatists with weapons and troops against Ukrainian forces backed by the United States. After meeting with Putin earlier this year, Carter said Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine was "inevitable" and was what residents wanted-a stance that conflicts with most international observers who have said that Russia illegally invaded Crimea and held an illegitimate referendum.