Putin Praises Trump, Blames US ‘Spy-Mania’ for Meddling Claims
Russian President Vladimir Putin offered warm words for U.S. leader Donald Trump, dismissing allegations of links between the Kremlin and the White House as “some sort of spy-mania.”
“We see some quite serious achievements, even in this short period of time that he’s been working,” Putin said at his annual press conference in Moscow on Thursday. “Look at the markets, how they’ve risen. That shows investors’ confidence in the American economy, it shows they believe in what President Trump is doing in this area.”
Accusations in the U.S. of links between Russia and members of the Trump administration “are all invented by people who are in opposition to Trump in order to make his work look illegitimate,” Putin said. Trump has repeatedly highlighted surging U.S. stock markets as evidence that his political agenda is succeeding.
Putin, 65, is holding court after declaring last week that he’ll seek to extend his 18 years in power for another six years in March presidential elections. Russian frustration is mounting after Trump came to power in January promising a new era in relations following tensions under the Obama administration.
Instead, relations have soured further amid intensifying U.S. investigations into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election campaign to help Trump win. The Kremlin and Trump have repeatedly denied the accusations.
Putin began his news conference with a pledge to bolster incomes as he effectively kicked off his election campaign for a fourth term by assuring Russians that the economy is rebounding after the worst recession in two decades.
“Today, there are clear signs of recovery in the economy,” he said, declaring that domestic issues such as health, education, infrastructure and living standards would be his electoral priorities. “Without any doubt, everything must be directed toward increasing citizens’ incomes,” he said.
While he seeks to become the Kremlin’s longest-serving ruler since Josef Stalin, Russia’s economy risks stagnation after a two-year downturn caused by a slump in oil prices and Western sanctions plunged millions of people into poverty.
The central bank has warned that without reforms, not even oil at $100 a barrel would lift medium-term gains in gross domestic product beyond a range of 1.5 percent to 2 percent.
Asked whether it was boring for him to run in the election without serious competition, Putin said it wasn’t his job to develop a political opposition, though Russia needs a balanced, competitive political system. He criticized activists for simply condemning the authorities rather than offering genuine alternative policies to people, many of whom were unhappy with the situation in Russia.
Putin’s holding his press conference, which lasted a record 4 hours and 40 minutes in 2008, after returning from a whirlwind Middle East tour on Monday that included visiting Syria to declare “victory” in the military campaign in aid of President Bashar al-Assad, a strategic gamble that’s enhanced Russia’s influence in the region at U.S. expense.
Putin criticized the U.S. approach to the nuclear standoff on the Korean peninsula. In one breath, U.S. lawmakers lump Russia in with countries like North Korea and, in the next, demand Russia help resolve the tensions, he said.
© Copyright 2017 Bloomberg News.