In the wake of accusations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, ties between the two countries have been strained, culminating in President Obama’s expulsion of more than 30 Russian diplomats and a bevy of sanctions, a move reminiscent of Cold War era politics.
Russia’s response to these actions, however, was one of dismissal, as President Vladimir Putin declined to retaliate, instead offering an olive branch to U.S. diplomats and expressing an interest in mending relations under President-elect Donald Trump.
Putin further described Obama’s actions as “regrettable,” saying it was a poor way to end his second term.
“It is regrettable that the Obama Administration is ending its term in this manner,” Putin said Friday. “Nevertheless, I offer my New Year greetings to President Obama and his family.”
A day later, however, Putin declined to congratulate the sitting U.S. president in his annual New Year’s greeting statement to foreign leaders.
Instead, the Russian leader offered congratulations to Trump, an act many are seeing as a snub of President Obama.
Addressing Trump, Putin shared his hope that U.S. and Russian relations would be mended.
The Russian leader expressed a desire that the two countries would “[act] in a constructive and pragmatic manner, will be able to take real steps to restore the mechanisms of bilateral cooperation in various areas and take their interaction in the international arena to a whole new level.”
On Friday, he issued a similar statement to Trump, which read, “Major global and regional challenges that our countries have confronted in recent years clearly confirm that Russia-US relations are an important factor in ensuring stability and security in the modern world.”
For his part, Trump showed approval regarding Putin’s response to Obama, calling it “very smart” not to resort to diplomatic expulsion and provocation.
Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 30, 2016
Putin also extended congratulations to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and British Prime Minister Theresa May, along with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Chinese President Xi Jinping, French President Francois Hollande and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, among others.
In fact, Putin congratulated just about every foreign leader of note, including former presidents such as George W. Bush, as well as Pope Francis, but extended no such sentiments to Obama.
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