Putin blames West for all of Russia’s problems but refuses to criticize Trump

Putin-Trump meeting in Hamburg, Germany in July 2017 (Image: screen capture)

Putin-Trump meeting in Hamburg, Germany in July 2017 (Image: screen capture) 

Analysis & Opinion, Russia

Speaking to this year’s Valdai Conference, Vladimir Putin delivered a speech blaming the West for all of Russia’s problems and indicating that he will take a hard line in response, a speech that some commentators are already comparing to his address to the Munich Security Conference in 2007.

But there was one notable exception to the Kremlin leader’s comments: He “was not aggressive or pessimistic concerning future Russian-American relations,” Petr Akopov of Moscow’s Vzglyad newspaper says. “More than that, he defended [US President Donald] Trump from attacks and ridicule by experts.”

The question, the Moscow journalist says, is “Why?”

Most of Putin’s remarks in his speech concerned the international situation as a whole, but he did sharply criticize the United States for what he said was its “main error in relations with post-Soviet Russia” – the US, he argued, “took our trust in it … for weakness” rather than a desire for cooperation.

The Kremlin leader said that the situation had deteriorated with the removal of the Russian flag from its closed consulate, something that he suggested could hardly be imagined in Soviet times, even though, at least initially, he Putin had not responded to American moves against Russian diplomats at the end of 2016 to give time for Trump to “correct” the situation.

In the discussion period following his remarks, Putin was directly challenged by both Russian and American experts with regard to Trump and his behavior. And “it was clear,” Akpov says, “that the opinion of Russian and Western experts does not correspond with Putin’s position.”

“Put in simplest terms,” the journalist continues, “the experts in their questions commented on how poor and weak Trump is compared to the strong and good Putin,” a view the Kremlin leader does not accept and demonstrated that he has not changed his view that the US president wants to work with Russia.

“Trump doesn’t need any advice,” Putin said. “In order to be elected even without experience of administrative work requires having a definite talent to pass through the crucible of elections; and he has done this. He won honestly.”

“In fact,” the Vzglyad journalist says, “there was nothing surprising in the fact that Putin did not say anything bad about Trump and even defended him from the not very wise or even negatively inclined experts.” That is “because Trump’s position toward Russia in fact hasn’t changed. He now, like a year ago, is inclined ‘to come to an understanding with Putin.’”

That the US president has not been able to do so, Akopov says, is “his misfortune” brought about by the opposition of the American political establishment “but not his fault. And in the Kremlin, this is very well understood.” Putin himself told the Valdai audience that “Trump simply isn’t being allowed to do what he wants.

“Now we are working with a president whom the American people elected,” Putin said. But his unpredictability [reflects] the very great resistance [to him] inside the country which practically has not allowed him to achieve even one of his pre-election platforms and plans.” Trump is not the source of his “unpredictability,” the Kremlin leader continued.

According to Akopov, “one can disagree with Trump, Putin said (having in mind the domestic American situation), but one must not show a lack of respect” for what Trump wants to do but can’t because of opposition to him in the US. Cooperation with the US is possible when Trump can act on his own ideas.

“The last comment,” the Russian journalist said, “concerns not Trump personally but the US as such. And in relations with Donald Trump, soon will be made the next step: Three weeks from now, Putin will meet with him in Danang, Vietnam, at the summit of the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation.”

At this, their second meeting, “the two presidents will have something to discuss, although the main thing which agitates both is the issue of when at long last Donald Trump will be able to fully enter into the fulfillment of his presidential obligations” rather than being held back by others.

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Edited by: A. N.

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