Fri, May 19, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Putin slams critics in defense of Trump

‘POLITICAL SCHIZOPHRENIA’:The Russian president dropped decorum to decry what he called anti-Russian sentiment upsetting the US domestic political situation

AP, MOSCOW

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday rushed to defend US President Donald Trump from criticism over sharing classified information with Moscow, issuing a strongly worded statement that reflected the degree of the Russian leader’s frustration with the Washington infighting that has thwarted Kremlin hopes for a detente.

Trump’s decision to divulge classified intelligence with Russian diplomats marked a step toward Putin’s long-held goal of forging an alliance with the US in the fight against terrorism.

Putin has pushed for anti-terror cooperation for years, arguing that the fight against the Islamic State group and other extremist organizations would only succeed if Moscow and Washington combined their efforts.

In his view, such a partnership could provide further benefits by defusing tensions between Russia and the West and eventually leading to the lifting of sanctions the US and the EU imposed on Moscow over its role in Ukraine.

The Kremlin’s expectation that Trump and Putin would meet soon after Trump took office has withered amid US congressional and FBI investigations of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

Putin still hopes to meet his US counterpart on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in Germany in early July.

However, the Russian leader on Wednesday revealed his growing impatience with a stinging attack against Trump’s critics.

While the Kremlin initially refrained from comment about the intelligence controversy, Putin finally dropped decorum and lashed out at Trump’s detractors in decidedly undiplomatic language.

“I’m surprised to see them upsetting the domestic political situation in the United States under anti-Russian slogans,” he said. “These people either don’t understand that they are hurting their own country, and in that case they are just dumb. Or they do understand everything, and that means that they are dangerous and unscrupulous.”

Trump has been put on the defensive for sharing classified information with Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak during a White House meeting last week.

The president’s critics have said the disclosure could compromise the source of the intelligence provided by a US ally and make other nations wary about sharing sensitive information with the US.

For the Kremlin, Trump’s conversation with Lavrov and Kislyak was a welcome indication of his willingness to pool efforts with Russia in the fight against the Islamic State.

The administration of former US president Barack Obama shunned such cooperation, citing the Kremlin’s efforts to shore up support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Trump’s gesture was particularly important for Moscow given the spike in tensions following a US missile strike last month on a Syrian air force base that Washington said was a staging point for a chemical attack.

Moscow has insisted that the Syrian government was not involved in the chemical attack, a claim dismissed by Washington and its allies.

Putin said he was pleased by the results of Lavrov’s meeting with Trump, but demonstrated his irritation with what he described as anti-Russian “political schizophrenia spreading in the US.”

“We initially watched the evolving political struggle with amusement, but today it makes us feel sad and causes concern,” he said, adding that “it’s up to the American people to judge President Trump’s actions, and obviously it can only be done when he’s allowed to work at full capacity.”

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