Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday bemoaned troubled relations with the United States, saying Russia wants to improve them but is effectively held hostage by the disputes surrounding President Donald Trump.
Putin’s comments in a meeting with top editors of international news agencies underlined how Russia’s once-high hopes for improved relations under Trump have eroded. Although the Trump administration has imposed sanctions on Russia and expelled scores of its diplomats, Russian politicians generally portray Trump as blocked by domestic opposition from fulfilling his campaign promises of improving relations with Moscow.
Earlier in the day, speaking at an annual economic forum, Putin sharply criticized Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iranian nuclear deal, saying it could trigger dangerous instability.
The Russian leader said the US withdrawal from the 2015 agreement came even as the international nuclear watchdog confirmed that Tehran was fulfilling its obligations. “What should it be punished for, then?” Putin asked.
Trump’s administration has demanded that Iran stop the enrichment of uranium and end its involvement in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Afghanistan in order to negotiate a new deal.
“If international agreements are revised every four years it would offer zero horizon for planning,” Putin said. “It will create the atmosphere of nervousness and lack of trust.” In the meeting with editors, Putin declined to assess relations between Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, but said the United States should not try to take a hard line with the country.
“In order to talk about a full denuclearization of North Korea, I believe we should give North Korea a guarantee of their sovereignty and inviolability,” the Russian president said. “I am deeply convinced that if you do impose anything, if you don’t behave aggressively and if you don’t corner North Korea, the result that we need will be achieved faster than many would think, and at less cost.”
Putin also expressed frustration at having little contact with Trump and faulted the investigation into whether there was collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia and whether Russia tried to interfere with the 2016 US election.
“We are hostages to this internal strife in the United States,” Putin said. “I hope that it will end some day and the objective need for the development of Russian-American relationships will prevail.” At the economic forum, Putin also engaged in a tongue-in-cheek exchange with French President Emmanuel Macron, saying with a smile that Russia could help protect Europe if its rift with the US widens over Iran.
“Don’t you worry, we will help ensure your security,” Putin said. Macron responded on a serious note that France and its allies could stand for themselves.
In his speech at the forum and during talks with Putin on Thursday, Macron called for closer ties between France and Russia despite their differences.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also spoke at the forum and called for closer cooperation with Russia.