Behind the scenes, Trump has only recently taken a sharper tone on Putin, administration officials said, but even then the shift seems more a reaction to the Russian leader challenging the president’s strength than a new belief that he’s an adversary. Putin’s claim earlier this month that Russia has new nuclear-capable weapons that could hit the U.S., a threat he underscored with video simulating an attack, “really got under the president’s skin,” one official said.

Two officials said Trump told Putin during a phone call last week: “If you want to have an arms race we can do that, but I’ll win.”

Afterward the president gave no hint of tensions when he told reporters the two leaders had “a very good call” and that he plans to meet with Putin soon to discuss curtailing an arms race.