Rus­sia list is a hos­tile move driven by Trump foes says Putin

Journal Pioneer - - WORLD -

Mix­ing irony with scorn, Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin on Thurs­day de­scribed a new list in­clud­ing Rus­sian of­fi­cials and ty­coons un­der a U.S. sanc­tions law as a hos­tile and “stupid’’ move spear­headed by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s po­lit­i­cal foes, but he said the Krem­lin will re­frain from re­tal­i­a­tion for now.

Putin’s re­luc­tance to crit­i­cize Trump shows that he still hopes for nor­mal­iz­ing ties with Wash­ing­ton. At the same time, the U.S. move could help the Rus­sian leader in his re-elec­tion bid in March.

Some ob­servers warn that the blan­ket list of 210 names, which reads like a who’s who in Rus­sian of­fi­cial­dom and busi­ness elite, could fur­ther fuel an­tiWestern feel­ings in Rus­sia and bol­ster sup­port for Putin. Putin im­me­di­ately struck that chord, point­ing that those black­listed by the U.S. con­trol com­pa­nies em­ploy­ing mil­lions of Rus­sians. He cast the U.S. move as a blow to or­di­nary peo­ple.

“All of us, all 146 mil­lion, have been put on some kind of list,’’ he said at a meet­ing with ac­tivists of his cam­paign. “Cer­tainly, this is an un­friendly move, which fur­ther ex­ac­er­bates the al­ready strained Rus­sia-US re­la­tions and hurts in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions as a whole.’’

The list, or­dered by Con­gress in re­sponse to al­leged Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 U.S. pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, had spooked rich Rus­sians who fear it could make them in­for­mally black­listed in the global fi­nan­cial sys­tem.

But the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion said it had de­cided not to im­me­di­ately pun­ish any­body un­der the new sanc­tions, at least for now, and some U.S. law­mak­ers ac­cused Trump of giv­ing Rus­sia a free pass, fu­el­ing fur­ther ques­tions about his will­ing­ness to con­front Moscow. Putin, whose ap­proval rat­ings top 80 per cent, is set to eas­ily win an­other six-year term in the March 18 elec­tion that would put him on track to be­come Rus­sia’s long­est-serv­ing leader since Josef Stalin. But the Krem­lin has been wor­ried about voter ap­a­thy that could make his show­ing less im­pres­sive.

Wash­ing­ton’s list could help Putin con­sol­i­date his sup­port base by bur­nish­ing his im­age of a strong leader who stands up to a hos­tile U.S., some ob­servers say.

“This is a gift to Putin in the con­text of the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign,’’ said An­drei Kolesnikov of the Carnegie Moscow Cen­ter.


Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, sec­ond right, Rus­sian De­fense Min­is­ter Sergey Shoigu, left, and Chief of the Gen­eral Staff of the Rus­sian Armed Forces Valery Gerasi­mov, sec­ond left, lis­ten to Com­man­der of the Rus­sian Aero­space Force Sergei Surovkin, right, while vis­it­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion at the Rus­sian mil­i­tary’s head­quar­ters as part of a con­fer­ence on the Rus­sian cam­paign in Syria in Moscow, Rus­sia, Tues­day.

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