STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Putin praises Trump's Syria withdrawal plan

Russian President Vladimir Putin is often at odds with US policy, but his annual press conference on Thursda...

Posted: Dec 20, 2018 4:10 PM
Updated: Dec 20, 2018 4:10 PM

Russian President Vladimir Putin is often at odds with US policy, but his annual press conference on Thursday highlighted an exception: He agrees with President Donald Trump's plan for a military exit from Syria.

Putin's regular year-end press conference is a chance to show off his mastery of the minutiae of domestic and international politics. And he used the occasion Thursday to weigh in on a story that is roiling Washington and its allies: Trump's surprise announcement of a US troop withdrawal from Syria.

Political Figures - Intl

Vladimir Putin

Continents and regions

Eastern Europe

Europe

Military

Military weapons

Nuclear weapons

Russia

Ukraine

Weapons and arms

Weapons of mass destruction

Crimea

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Investigations

ISIS

Misc organizations

North America

Politics

Russia meddling investigation

The Americas

United States

US federal government

White House

Middle East

Middle East and North Africa

Syria

Unrest, conflicts and war

Donald Trump

Political Figures - US

Northern Europe

United Kingdom

Elections and campaigns

Press conferences

The Kremlin leader's assessment? He agreed with Trump's opinion that ISIS had largely been defeated in Syria, and said it was time for the United States to go.

"As for defeating ISIS, I do generally agree with the President of the United States. We have struck major blows and advances. There are now concerns that those terror groups can infiltrate neighboring countries ... and pose a risk to Russia, the US, Europe and Central Asia," said Putin.

On Wednesday, Trump ordered staff to execute the "full" and "rapid" withdrawal of US military forces from Syria, declaring that the US has defeated ISIS.

"If the decision to withdraw was made, then it is a correct one," Putin said, adding that the United Nations had not legitimized the presence of US forces in Syria.

However, he also expressed skepticism about whether the US would in fact quit Syria.

"As far as the withdrawal of US troops is concerned, I really don't understand what it's about, because the US has been present for some 17 years in Afghanistan," he said. "They're (the US) still talking about withdrawing them, but they haven't done it yet."

Will Trump, Putin meet?

This isn't the first time Putin has paid Trump a compliment of sorts at his press conference. Recall that in 2015, well ahead of Trump winning the Republican nomination, Putin singled him out as a presidential front-runner, calling him "a bright and talented person without any doubt."

Things have been a bit more complicated since Trump took office, however. The US President canceled a planned meeting between the two leaders last month on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Argentina. Putin also expressed his willingness to meet with Trump but said he was unsure whether it would come about.

"I don't know whether a meeting will happen," Putin said. "On multiple occasions I've said I am willing to meet, we have a number of issues to discuss, including our bilateral agenda."

Putin suggested that the pair's ability to talk would be constrained when the Democrats take control of the US House of Representatives in January, following midterm election gains.

"Of course, now power in the Congress is changing and I'm sure that there will be more attacks on the President. Whether or not he will be able to have direct dialogue with Russia as a result of that, I don't know," he said.

Putin added that he was concerned by the erosion of the democratic process in the West, including the US. "Trump has won the election but not everyone is willing to accept this victory despite that it is indisputable truth," he said.

Nuclear arms race fears

Putin also addressed concerns about the growing risks of a new nuclear arms race as he held his annual televised news conference in Moscow.

"The danger of the situation escalating is being downplayed," he said in response to a question about fears of nuclear war.

Putin expressed the hope that humankind would have enough common sense "not to go to extremes." He also warned that the lowering of thresholds relating to nuclear capability "could really lead us to catastrophe."

Russia has criticized the US over the Trump administration's plans to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, saying it risks the breakdown of international arms-control agreements.

This year's news conference is Putin's 14th, according to state-run media outlet RT.

The widely anticipated event, broadcast live on Russian TV, is a chance for hundreds of Russian and international journalists to pose questions on a range of subjects from the purely domestic to global affairs. Many hold up signs and banners as they seek to attract Putin's eye.

This year's marathon session wrapped after close to four hours, during which Putin appeared unruffled by the many issues raised, trotting out a raft of facts and figures -- and even making the odd humorous remark.

Ukraine tensions

Questioned about Russia's detention of Ukrainian sailors in the Kerch Strait off Crimea last month, Putin laid the blame for increased military tensions at the door of the Ukrainian government.

The Ukrainian servicemen's action was a provocation designed to boost domestic support for President Petro Poroshenko ahead of elections in the country next year, he said.

Putin also pointed the finger at Kiev for the suffering of ordinary citizens in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region.

"Who do you think imposed the economic blockade on Donbas? The Ukrainian government," he said. "They are shooting at their citizens which they believe are Ukrainian citizens. Every day peaceful men and women are dying."

Russia and Ukraine have been locked in long-simmering conflict since the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, and a war between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists in the country's east has claimed more than 10,000 lives.

Putin Thursday disputed that Crimea had been annexed, since residents voted in a referendum to leave Ukraine, and argued that sanctions imposed by Western nations against Russia were effectively penalizing the people of Crimea.

Most of the world condemned the 2014 referendum in Crimea -- held after unidentified armed men had taken control of its administrative buildings and key military sites -- as illegitimate.

'Russophobic' mentality over Skripal case

Putin declined to comment on the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury earlier this year.

But he drew a contrast between the world's reaction to that case and the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.

While "a whole heap of sanctions has been imposed on Russia" in connection with the Skripals, there has been "silence" over the Khashoggi case with regard to Saudi Arabia, he said.

That is very clearly down to a "Russophobic" mentality aimed at containing Russia's development to benefit its competitors, said Putin.

The UK government has accused Moscow of being behind the nerve agent attack on the Skripals, a claim Russia has consistently denied.

Putin described the Russia-UK relationship as "gridlocked" and suggested that could have an effect on the global economy, adding that Russia was interested in restoring its relationship with Britain.

As for Brexit, it's a domestic affair and the UK government should follow the wishes of the people, Putin said. "I hope that common sense prevails," he said.

Putin returned to the subject of Brexit late in the news conference as he raised concerns over the democratic process in the West.

"There was a referendum but no one actually wants to acknowledge the results," he said.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 25208

Reported Deaths: 1060
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin8514616
Ramsey3075128
Stearns203013
Nobles15445
Anoka142970
Dakota134957
Washington64532
Olmsted63410
Kandiyohi4971
Rice4622
Scott4362
Clay42728
Mower3452
Wright3202
Todd3190
Sherburne2462
Carver2182
Benton1783
Steele1600
Blue Earth1420
Martin1325
Freeborn1250
St. Louis11814
Pine890
Unassigned8810
Nicollet8810
Winona8015
Cottonwood760
Watonwan750
Carlton750
Crow Wing712
Otter Tail700
Goodhue683
Chisago621
Polk612
Lyon570
Itasca5510
Dodge530
Chippewa511
Morrison470
Meeker450
Douglas440
Le Sueur441
Becker400
Murray390
Jackson390
McLeod370
Isanti350
Waseca260
Rock220
Swift190
Mille Lacs191
Pennington190
Faribault190
Wabasha180
Fillmore171
Sibley160
Brown162
Beltrami150
Cass142
Norman130
Marshall120
Pipestone120
Kanabec111
Wilkin113
Wadena100
Koochiching90
Pope90
Aitkin80
Mahnomen61
Yellow Medicine60
Big Stone60
Lincoln50
Redwood50
Renville50
Red Lake40
Grant40
Lac qui Parle30
Clearwater30
Traverse30
Houston20
Hubbard20
Roseau20
Lake10
Kittson10
Stevens10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 19669

Reported Deaths: 555
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk4236133
Woodbury276136
Black Hawk174745
Linn95379
Dallas91623
Marshall89616
Buena Vista8100
Johnson6149
Wapello59712
Muscatine55741
Crawford5282
Tama40327
Scott36110
Dubuque34619
Louisa34511
Sioux2830
Pottawattamie2698
Jasper26017
Washington1898
Wright1780
Warren1350
Plymouth1332
Allamakee1204
Story1161
Mahaska9510
Poweshiek908
Henry711
Bremer696
Des Moines651
Boone650
Clinton641
Taylor560
Clarke560
Guthrie513
Cedar481
Benton431
Hamilton430
Webster421
Monroe385
Shelby370
Jones360
Clayton343
Osceola340
Buchanan330
Iowa330
Marion320
Cherokee310
Jefferson300
Cerro Gordo291
Madison292
Lee270
Fayette270
Monona250
Winneshiek240
Lyon240
Davis230
Harrison230
Dickinson210
Sac200
Grundy200
Mills190
Floyd191
Humboldt181
Clay170
Delaware171
Hardin170
Butler171
Lucas170
Emmet160
Hancock160
Appanoose143
Ida140
Page140
Franklin140
Keokuk140
Pocahontas130
Greene130
Howard120
Cass120
Audubon121
Jackson120
Carroll110
Winnebago110
Chickasaw100
Kossuth100
Adair90
Van Buren90
Union90
Montgomery80
Adams70
Palo Alto70
Fremont40
Ringgold40
Mitchell40
Worth30
Calhoun20
Wayne10
Decatur10
Unassigned10
Rochester
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 70°
Mason City
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 95° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 71°
Albert Lea
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 72°
Austin
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 95° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 72°
Charles City
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 70°
Powerful storms and summer-like conditions are coming our way
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

${item.thumbnail.title}

StormTeam 3: Today's Severe Weather Update

Image

Yoga studio closes space, tries new idea

Image

Forager Brewery welcomes new business

Image

Salons reopen at 25% capacity

Image

DMC's impact on Rochester's economic recovery

Image

Forager Brewery - best patio in Rochester

Image

Protests in Mason City

Image

Barbershop town hall discusses racial profiling

Image

Minnesota salons reopen

Image

Barbershop Talk: Town hall

Community Events