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11 Mar, 2020 14:25

Only C MINUS grade: Putin rates Russia-US relations as more bad than good

Only C MINUS grade: Putin rates Russia-US relations as more bad than good

Since first reaching the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin has dealt with four different US presidents, and is well placed to judge the status of Russo-American relations. It’s hardly surprising that his evaluation is rather negative.

“[On a scale from one to five] I would give it a three,” Putin said, in an interview with Russian news agency TASS, “Between a two and a three. More like a three, though.” In the Russian school system, where students are graded out of five, three is roughly equivalent to a C-grade, and 2 to a D-grade.

The president cited the growth in trade since the inauguration of Donald Trump as a positive aspect of the current relationship, as well as cooperation in the field of counter-terrorism. In particular, Putin singled out an episode in which a US intelligence tip-off enabled Russia to apprehend an Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorist cell in Saint Petersburg.

“Look, we cooperate on counter-terrorism,” he explained, “it was actually I who called Trump to thank the US for giving us information [about the terrorist cell]. They had been looking into them for a long time, and after that, the FBI provided information to the Federal Security Service.”

Putin also pointed to some negative aspects of the current relationship with the United States, focusing on the use of sanctions and the non-extension of the START weapons control treaty.

The Russian leader also expressed his disagreement with American exceptionalism, criticizing something once said by former President Barack Obama.

“When [Obama] said that the US is an exceptional nation, with special, exclusive rights in the world, I can’t agree.” Putin said. “God created us all equal and gave us equal rights. So, I think it is absolutely unreasonable to say that some people should have exclusive rights to anything.”

He was also asked about his relationship with current and former presidents and noted that he had a “constructive relationship” with all four US presidents he has dealt with – Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump. In particular, he recalled that he had “good relations” with George W. Bush, and acknowledged that he and Trump refer to each other by their first names.

Last month, Putin said that security and peace on the planet depend largely on the stability of Russo-American relations, stressing that “these relations should be based on the principles of equality, respect for sovereignty and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.”

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However, the president’s most fierce criticism of the US was focused on Ukraine and the situation with Nord Steam 2, suggesting that Washington wants to use Russian money to keep itself in Ukraine’s good books.

“Why do they [oppose Nord Stream 2], what for? They wanted to ensure transit through Ukraine. It’s rather strange, isn’t it? So they are wooing Ukraine and have established external control over it, but they want Ukraine to be sustained by our money as well,” he said. “They don’t want to give Ukraine money themselves. They want Ukraine to receive something from us through transit fees.”

The president added that Russia agreed to transit gas through Ukraine, if at a lower volume, and therefore sanctions against Nord Steam should be dropped – but they haven’t been.

“If sanctions remain, it means only one motive,” Putin explained, “to ensure competitive advantages for their LNG, for their liquefied gas. They are securing a market for their products, exclusively in their own selfish interests, and at the expense of European consumers.”

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