Russian President Vladimir Putin reaffirmed his support for U.S. counterpart Donald Trump, denying that he’s been politically compromised by accusations that Russia helped him win the 2016 election.
“I don’t think President Trump is compromised,” Putin told an energy conference in Moscow on Wednesday. “The people elected him, the people voted for him — somebody doesn’t like that, somebody doesn’t want to respect the opinion of American voters.”
Putin, who said after a summit meeting with the U.S. leader in July that he’d wanted Trump to win because he supported better ties with Russia, added that he couldn’t be sure the escalating standoff between the two countries would have been avoided under a different American president. “Maybe it would be even worse, how do we know?” he said.
The Russian leader said the U.S. elite should calm down about the election-meddling issue, which has provoked the worst rift between the two former Cold War enemies since the end of Communism. Tensions have been further exacerbated by disputes over Ukraine, Syria and Iran as well as U.S. allegations of a Russian military threat to Europe.
Putin with some support from Trump has rejected the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 presidential election campaign to damage the chances of Democratic contender Hillary Clinton. However, the Republican president’s administration has ratcheted up sanctions against Russia in retaliation under pressure from Congress.
Putin said Russia is responding to U.S. sanctions in a “very restrained” way to avoid harming its own interests and will continue to do so. He believed Russia and the U.S. will restore relations sooner or later, he said.