Annual Putin Q&A presser with over 1,400 reporters 'more modern than US shoebox version'

Annual Putin Q&A presser with over 1,400 reporters 'more modern than US shoebox version'
Look at Obama’s last press conference in a room the size of a shoebox with hand-picked journalists with their names on the back of their seats, and then Putin holding court with over 1,400 journalists, Patrick Henningsen, geopolitical analyst, told RT.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday held a four-hour annual public question-and-answer session. Among the hot topics was the alleged Russia meddling in the US presidential election, which, according to Putin, amounts to nothing but Democrats being sore losers. 

Meanwhile, the Russian leader sent a holiday letter to US President-elect Donald Trump, expressing hope for future cooperation between the two countries. 

RT: Now, the mainstream media are using any chance to raise the issue of US-Russia ties. Why are they so obsessed with this theme? Are they expecting a change in relations or even some sort of breakthrough between Washington and Moscow?

Patrick Henningsen: I think the obsession is mainly driven by two things: domestic agenda, but there is also an international agenda. On the domestic front, certainly there is a partisan element to that, trying to discredit and delegitimize the incoming administration by aligning the Trump brand with Vladimir Putin, who has been sufficiently demonized over the last couple of years, especially during this election cycle. But it is also to sabotage or to derail any possibility of detente between the US and Russia in a foreign policy theater or bilateral negotiations.

You’ve got Syria, a huge issue, internationally there is – lots of bilateral negotiations, but also NATO and the Baltic area – NATO’s encroachment towards Russia and the arms buildup that is going on with the NATO side, not necessarily much on the Russian side. So this is how it is engineered. It is to basically position these issues in this way. There are a lot of beneficiaries that want to see relations between the US and Russia as very much a relationship of tension. And the real beneficiaries there are the major military defense contractors who want to see budgets go up, who want to see expenditures go up, and also the NATO countries – under Trump – will be expected to pay their fair share of the two percent GDP average NATO spending. That is what I see is driving this rhetoric and this agenda.

RT: Putin himself on Friday said there's no contradiction between Trump wanting to upgrade America's nuclear arsenal, and improve relations with Moscow at the same time. So why is the mainstream media slamming Trump for this? 

PH: I think that it is kind of odd, because under President Obama – President Obama set in motion a commitment to modernize the US nuclear arsenal, a commitment right up to the year 2030; total expenditures of almost one trillion or over a trillion dollars. And 200 billion of that has already been set in motion. That was under Obama, and no media fanfare whatsoever. So the arms race has been going on, has been increasing, especially on the US side for quite some time. But to compare the US military defense budget to Russia’s: the US is spending around $700 billion per year; Russia – around $85 billion per year on the defense budget. So to put these two on equal footing is kind of a laughable comparison. Yet, this is what the US media and the political establishments are constantly feeding off of.

RT: Vladimir Putin said he hopes the American people will draw conclusions for the next US election in the wake of concerns over how the recent vote was handled in the country. But do you expect any real changes in the electoral system? 

PH: I don’t think so. To change the US Electoral College, which people have been calling for – I think that is going to fade away once the new president is sworn in. I think what is really interesting – look at the comparison. Look at Obama’s last press conference in a small room the size of a shoebox with hand-selected journalists that even have their names on the back of their seats. And then Vladimir Putin holding court with over 1,400 journalists firing questions at him for hours on end, and he is answering them on the fly. In terms of openness and access to media, you compare what is going on in Russia – it seems to be more modern and more progressive, at least in this theater, than what you have in the US. That to me is the most striking contrast there.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.