Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses both houses of parliament at the Kremlin in Moscow. Image Credit: AFP

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday that Russia hopes to normalise ties with the US and join efforts in the fight against international terrorism.

Speaking in a live state-of-the-nation address, Putin said that Russia was ready to take part in tackling global challenges if its interests were respected.

“We don’t want confrontation with anyone,” he said in a speech to officials and lawmakers in an ornate, white-marble Kremlin hall.

“Unlike our foreign colleagues who see Russia as an enemy, we have never been looking for enemies, we need friends,” Putin said. “But we won’t allow any infringement on our interests and neglect of them.”

Russia’s relations with the West have plummeted to a post-Cold War low over the Ukrainian crisis and the war in Syria. During the US election campaign, President Barack Obama’s administration accused Russia of hacking American political sites and email accounts in an effort to interfere with the vote. The Kremlin has rejected the accusations.

“In the last few years. we have faced attempts of foreign pressure with all tools involved — from the myths about Russian aggression, (allegations) of meddling in elections to the hounding of our athletes,” Putin said, referring to doping scandals.

Putin said that Russia is looking forward to mending ties with the US after President-elect Donald Trump takes office.

“We are ready for cooperation with the new American administration,” he said. “It’s important to normalise and develop our bilateral ties on an equal and mutually beneficial basis. We share responsibility for ensuring global security and stability and strengthening the non-proliferation regime.”

Putin added that Moscow hopes to pool efforts with Washington in confronting international terrorism.

“Our servicemen in Syria are fulfilling that task,” he said.

Russia has conducted an air campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad, helping his forces make significant gains, most recently in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city before the war.

Putin said that Russia is open to a “friendly and equal dialogue” about global security. He pointed to the European migration crisis as an example of even “seemingly prosperous countries and stable regions” facing new divisions.

In the speech that was mostly focused on economic and social issues, Putin said that the Russian economy was on the way to recovery, pointing at a growth in some sectors of industry and agriculture. He said agricultural exports this year will top $16 billion, exceeding weapons exports.

The Russian economy contracted 3.7 per cent in 2015 and the recession has continued this year under the combined blow of low oil prices and Western sanctions.

Putin noted that inflation, which stood at nearly 13 per cent last year, is expected to slow down to 6 per cent this year.

He said the government should encourage growth by cutting red tape and creating a more favourable business environment.

Putin drew attention to the approaching centennial of Russia’s 1917 revolution as a reminder of the need to secure national unity and accord.

“It’s inadmissible to bring divisions, malice, resentment and bitterness of the past into our life today,” he said.