Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin said he’s still hopeful of improving relations with the US under President Donald Trump, and he won’t hit back for now against Washington’s order to close Russia’s consulate in San Francisco.
It’s “naive” to ask whether he’s disappointed in the US leader because “he’s not my bride, and I’m also not his bride or groom,” Putin told a news conference at the Brics summit in Xiamen, China, on Tuesday. “Trump is guided by the national interests of his country, and I by mine. I very much hope that we will be able, as the current US president has said, to reach some compromise in resolving bilateral and international problems.”
Putin said he won’t respond “for the time being” to the closing of the consulate, though he noted that 155 of 455 Russian diplomats working in the US were actually assigned to duties at the United Nations. While the Kremlin had ordered the US to cut its embassy staff numbers to 455, to achieve parity, it “reserves the right” to demand further reductions, he said.
The tit-for-tat retaliations over diplomats underscored how relations between Washington and Moscow have only spiralled downward since Trump came to office in January promising improved ties with Russia. From the war in Syria to tighter sanctions on North Korea, the US and Russia continue to be at odds on key international issues. The US move against the consulate came after Russia directed Washington to cut staff at its diplomatic missions in Russia by 755, or nearly two-thirds, by September 1, following congressional approval of tougher sanctions against Moscow.
Putin said suggestions from US officials that the Trump administration may be ready to supply defensive weapons to Ukraine in its war with Russian-backed rebels won’t help resolve the conflict. Russia will submit a draft resolution to the UN proposing the deployment of UN peacekeepers along the line separating Ukrainian forces from the separatists, he said.
Putin warns US not to supply Ukraine with defensive weapons
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that any decision by the United States to supply defensive weapons to Ukraine would fuel the conflict in eastern Ukraine and possibly prompt pro-Russian separatists to expand their campaign there.
On a visit to Kiev last month, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he was actively reviewing sending lethal weapons to Ukraine to help it defend itself, an option that previous US president Barack Obama vetoed.
Ukraine and Russia are at loggerheads over a war in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces that has killed more than 10,000 people in three years.
Kiev accuses Moscow of sending troops and heavy weapons to the region, which Russia denies.
Putin, answering a question after a Brics summit in China about the possibility of the United States supplying Ukraine with heavy weapons, said it was for Washington to decide whom it sold or gave weapons to, but he warned against the move.
“The delivery of weapons to a conflict zone doesn’t help peacekeeping efforts, but only worsens the situation,” Putin told a news briefing.
“Such a decision would not change the situation but the number of casualties could increase.” In comments likely to be interpreted as a veiled threat, Putin suggested that pro-Russian separatists were likely to respond by expanding their own campaign.
“The self-declared (pro-Russian) republics (in eastern Ukraine) have enough weapons, including ones captured from the other side,” said Putin.
“It’s hard to imagine how the self-declared republics would respond. Perhaps they would deploy weapons to other conflict zones.”
Putin also said Russia intended to draft a resolution for consideration in the United Nations Security Council, suggesting armed UN peacekeepers be deployed to eastern Ukraine to help protect ceasefire monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) there.
“It would help resolve the problem in eastern Ukraine,” said Putin, saying that a slew of preconditions would need to be met before any such deployment happened.