Russian President Vladimir Putin voiced hope Friday that frayed relations with the U.S. will improve once Donald Trump becomes president despite his pledge to strengthen the U.S.’s nuclear arsenal.
Speaking during a marathon end-of-the-year news conference that lasted the best part of four hours, Putin heaped praise on the U.S. president-elect while downplaying any concerns stemming from Trump’s support for a strengthened U.S. nuclear capability.
Putin also used the opportunity offered by the press conference to lambast Trump’s rivals in the Democratic Party for seeking to blame their defeat in November’s election to hacking accusations against Moscow.
“They are losing on all fronts, and are trying to find the culprits elsewhere,” he said. “They are humiliating themselves. They must know how to lose with dignity.”
Asked how he responded to President Barack Obama’s hacking accusations during a conversation before the vote that Russia was involved in hacking Democratic Party officials’ emails, Putin said he wouldn’t divulge details of a confidential talk.
“The most important thing is the substance of the information the hackers have presented to the public opinion,” Putin said, adding that the Democrats should have apologized to Americans over the “manipulations” the emails revealed.
“The current administration and the Democratic Party’s leadership are trying to shift the blame for all their failures to external factors,” Putin said.
He pointed at “the gap in views of what is good and what is bad between the elites and broader masses,” adding that “the current administration has systemic problems.”
In response to Obama’s comment that “Ronald Reagan would roll over in his grave” upon seeing recent poll results showing that more than one-third of Republicans view Putin favorably, Putin said Reagan would be happy to see his Republican party win.
“Reagan would be happy that representatives of his party win everywhere, and he would be happy for the president-elect,” Putin said, adding with a smile: “No one but us believed in his victory.”
Putin said he was encouraged that the U.S. election showed that “there are people who sympathize with our views of traditional values, because it’s a good basis for developing relations between our two powerful countries.”
Putin expressed hope that he would meet soon with Trump to discuss how to improve the two countries’ relations — and would “definitely” visit the United States if Trump invites him.
Relations between the U.S. and Russia have become increasingly strained over the past few years, sinking to their worst since the Cold War. The conflict in Ukraine, which saw Russia annex the Crimea peninsula in 2014, and disagreements over the war in Syria have lain behind the growing distrust between the two.