Putin sees ties with U.S. as key to sta­bil­ity around world

Says he wants to pool ef­forts against ter­ror

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - BY VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV

MOSCOW | In a con­cil­ia­tory state of the na­tion ad­dress, Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin on Thursday voiced hope for mend­ing a rift with the U.S. and pool­ing ef­forts in fight­ing ter­ror­ism.

The speech re­flected Moscow’s hope that Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump could help re­pair ties with Wash­ing­ton that have sunk to a post-Cold War low over the cri­sis in Ukraine, the Syr­ian war and other dis­putes.

Mr. Putin, who has em­ployed tougher lan­guage in past ad­dresses, em­pha­sized that friendly re­la­tions be­tween the two pow­ers are es­sen­tial for global sta­bil­ity.

“Russia-U.S. co­op­er­a­tion in solv­ing global and re­gional prob­lems an­swers the in­ter­ests of the en­tire world,” he said. “We share re­spon­si­bil­ity for en­sur­ing global se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity and strength­en­ing the non­pro­lif­er­a­tion regime.”

Ten­sions es­ca­lated dur­ing the U.S. elec­tion cam­paign, when the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion ac­cused Moscow of hack­ing Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal sites and email ac­counts in an ef­fort to in­ter­fere with the vote. The Krem­lin has re­jected the ac­cu­sa­tions.

Mr. Putin noted in his speech that Russia has faced “at­tempts of for­eign pres­sure with all tools in­volved — from the myths about Rus­sian ag­gres­sion, [ac­cu­sa­tions] of med­dling in elec­tions to the hound­ing of our ath­letes,” a ref­er­ence to dop­ing scan­dals.

But he also em­pha­sized that Russia bears no grudge against the West and is open for a “friendly and equal” di­a­logue on global is­sues.

“We don’t want con­fronta­tion with any­one,” he told an au­di­ence of se­nior of­fi­cials and law­mak­ers in an or­nate, white-mar­ble Krem­lin hall.

“Un­like our for­eign col­leagues who are see­ing Russia as an en­emy, we have never been look­ing for en­e­mies. We need friends,” Mr. Putin said. “But we won’t al­low any in­fringe­ment on our in­ter­ests and ne­glect of them.”

He said Russia is “ready for co­op­er­a­tion with the new Amer­i­can ad­min­is­tra­tion” and hopes to pool ef­forts with Wash­ing­ton in com­bat­ing in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ism.

“Our ser­vice­men in Syria are ful­fill­ing that task,” Mr. Putin said.

Russia has con­ducted an air cam­paign in sup­port of Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad, help­ing the forces of its long­time ally make sig­nif­i­cant gains, most re­cently in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city be­fore the war.

In a phone call Nov. 16, Mr. Trump told Mr. Putin that he looks for­ward to “a strong and en­dur­ing re­la­tion­ship with Russia and the peo­ple of Russia,” ac­cord­ing to his tran­si­tion team.

Mr. Putin said Russia is open to a “friendly and equal di­a­logue” about global se­cu­rity. He pointed to the Euro­pean mi­gra­tion cri­sis as an ex­am­ple of even “seem­ingly pros­per­ous coun­tries and sta­ble re­gions” fac­ing di­vi­sions.

He men­tioned an in­ten­tion to de­velop stronger ties with China and In­dia and said the plan is dic­tated by long-term in­ter­ests rather than a strain on Russia’s ties with the U.S. and the Euro­pean Union.

Mr. Putin fo­cused most of his speech on eco­nomic and so­cial is­sues. He said the Rus­sian econ­omy is on the way to re­cov­ery and pointed to growth in some sec­tors of in­dus­try and agri­cul­ture. He said agri­cul­tural ex­ports this year will top $16 bil­lion, sur­pass­ing weapons ex­ports.

The Rus­sian econ­omy con­tracted 3.7 per­cent in 2015, and the re­ces­sion has con­tin­ued this year un­der the com­bined blow of low oil prices and West­ern sanc­tions.

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