President Vladimir V. Putin seemed to be in top form during a news conference in China on Tuesday, answering a question about President Trump by saying the American leader is “not my bride, and I am not his groom.”
While the comment could be interpreted as a subtle jab by a macho Mr. Putin against an equally macho counterpart, the Russian president offered it as an explanation of why he could not comment on domestic American politics.
It came in response to a question about whether the Russian leader takes into account the possibility of Mr. Trump being impeached. Mr. Putin refused to answer, but he did say that Moscow reserved the right to respond to the United States’ having ordered the closing of the Russian Consulate in San Francisco and of two other annexes, the latest move in a diplomatic tit-for-tat between the two countries.
Mr. Putin also condemned North Korea’s most recent nuclear tests, but said that he doubted sanctions would deter the secretive country’s leaders. “They would rather eat grass than give up their nuclear program,” he said.
Mr. Putin is in Xiamen, China, for a meeting of leaders from the so-called BRICS group, a quintet of nations — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — once hailed as dynamic and fast-growing, but that have fallen, to varying degrees, on hard times.
At the news conference, he called the shuttering of some Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States “an obvious violation of property rights” and said that, “for starters,” he would instruct the Foreign Ministry to challenge the decision in court.
“We’ll see how efficient the much-praised American judiciary is,” he added.
Failing that, Mr. Putin said he could reduce United States diplomatic staff in Russia by 155 more positions, in addition to the 755 already eliminated. “But we won’t do that yet,” he said. “Let’s see how the situation develops.”
Mr. Putin said he was not happy about the “boorish manner” in which Russia was stripped of diplomatic property in the United States.
“It’s hard to deal with people who confuse Austria and Australia, but there’s nothing you can do about this,” he said, probably referring generally to Washington foreign policy circles, though the original gaffe is attributed to former President George W. Bush. “Apparently, this is the level of political culture within a certain part of the U.S. establishment.”
Mr. Putin also said he would propose to the United Nations Security Council that it place an international peacekeeping force in eastern Ukraine, where Russia has propped up rebel separatists for three years. The troops would support the monitoring mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
“I consider the presence of peacekeepers — one could call them not peacekeepers but people who ensure the safety of the OSCE mission — to be completely appropriate,” he said.
Source: Washington Post