On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his support for Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. military members from Syria. As reported by the New York Times, Putin stated that the move to withdraw was “correct,” as American troops are no longer necessary in the region.
Putin made the announcement during his annual news conference. The lengthy event, which lasted for four hours, saw him repeatedly express his support and admiration for Trump — particularly his decision regarding Syria.
Putin is also backing Trump’s claim that the terrorist organization ISIS has been defeated. Trump has stated that the only reason for American forces to be in Syria was to fight ISIS, and without the terrorist group to contend with, it’s time for the troops to come home.
“As for defeating ISIS, I do generally agree with the president of the U.S.,” Putin said at one point during the press conference.
The Russian president spoke at length on the state of politics in the United States, claiming that Trump’s efforts were being negatively impacted by those who oppose him. At one point he stated that he believed the reason there was never a second meeting with Trump after the Helsinki summit in July is due to political opposition.
“Now, the majority in Congress will change and one can project with 100 percent certainty that there will be new attacks launched against the incumbent president, and whether he will be able to launch a direct dialogue with Russia, I don’t know,” Putin said during the conference.
Breaking: Russian President Vladimir Putin says he agrees with President Trump on ISIS defeat, Syria withdrawal. At his annual press conference in Moscow, Putin said, “As for defeating ISIS, I do generally agree with the president of the US,” calls withdrawal “correct” decision
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) December 20, 2018
Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from Syria has been highly controversial, with both the State Department and the Pentagon having previously argued against it. Conflicting reports have been coming in from both organizations on whether the United States will continue to fight ISIS, which still controls roughly 2 percent of the territory in Syria.
Opponents of the move worry that the withdrawal will further destabilize the region, as well as give a significant advantage to Russia. Without U.S. forces in the area, Russia will become the primary force in Syria, and will likely be able to influence the region as it sees fit.
This is all good news for Putin, who has long enjoyed a close relationship with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The two have worked together in the past, with Russia providing significant aid during the Syrian war.
Some experts estimate that there could still be as many as 15,000 ISIS agents currently occupying Syria at this time. There is no word on when the withdrawal of U.S. forces is expected to begin.