During an address to his nation on Wednesday evening, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his willingness to work with the United States and the incoming Trump administration to reach a better state of cooperation between the two countries. Putin did, however, clearly state that he was only prepared to do so as long as Russia’s interests were served by doing so.
According to a Politico report, Vladimir Putin’s live address to the Russian people was focused primarily on internal economic matters, but included an explanation of his positions regarding US-Russian relations. Putin stated that his government was “ready for cooperation with the new American administration.” The Russian president further went on to outline his vision for relations between the world’s two largest superpowers, explaining that the two countries “share responsibility for ensuring global security and stability and strengthening the non-proliferation regime.”
A CNN report also covered Vladimir Putin’s Wednesday remarks regarding the future of Russia’s relationship with the United States. According to that report, Putin cited a telephone conversation he had had earlier with American President-elect Donald Trump. The Russian president claimed that he and Trump had several points of agreement that were discussed during that conversation. As a part of his speech, Mr. Putin expressed his hope that “a chance will appear to smooth relations” with the new American administration. The same report stated that a request for comment from Mr. Trump’s transition team had not been responded to.
Vladimir Putin’s live address marks the latest in a series of events that have indicated that the Trump administration will pursue closer and more amicable ties with Russia than the exiting administration of President Barack Obama. Business Insider reports, citing articles from The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, that Trump and Putin have been in telephone contact regarding the former’s position on the Syrian Civil War, the most major source of current tensions between the United States and Russia. These conversations were prefaced by a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and diplomats friendly to the Russian government last month.
Above all, Vladimir Putin’s remarks emphasized his belief that the current state of US-Russian relations is not beneficial to either nation. Putin made clear his position that the current situation is “not our (Russia’s) fault.” He went on to say that “the current, unsatisfactory state of Russia-US relations must, undoubtedly, be straightened out.” Precisely how the two leaders will approach relations once Mr. Trump takes office remains to be seen. A recent poll, however, shows that more than 70 percent of citizens in Mr. Putin’s Russia favor improving ties with the United States and Europe.
The decay of US-Russian relations has been an ongoing phenomenon for the past several years. Beginning with Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, the two nations have been consistently at odds over the prospect of Vladimir Putin’s expansionist policy. An ongoing insurgency of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, centered on the city of Donetsk, has further exacerbated the tensions. The disputes over territory in Ukraine also led to extensive economic sanctions against Russia.
More important has been the direct conflict of American and Russian interests in Syria, where Vladimir Putin has long supported embattled president Bashar al-Assad. Beginning in 2015, Putin deployed Russian air and intelligence support to assist the Syrian regime, which American President Barack Obama had actively sought the removal of. Since then, Russian air strikes have targeted both Islamic State and moderate Syrian rebel positions throughout the country in an attempt to help the Assad regime regain political and military control. It has been this dispute that has led the United States and the government of Vladimir Putin to perhaps the worst state of US-Russian relations since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
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