Putin dials up anti-U.S. rhetoric, keeps mum on re-election
He declined to say if he would run for a fourth presidential term in an election set for March, though he is expected to stand after dominating Russian politics for 18 years.
Asked by a Germany-based academic to identify what mistakes Moscow had made in its relations with the West, Putin told the Valdai discussion forum in the Black Sea resort of Sochi:
“Our biggest mistake was that we trusted you too much. You interpreted our trust as weakness and you exploited that.”
Putin cast Russia as the wronged party and its post-Soviet leadership as too naive and trusting.
“Unfortunately, our Western partners, having divided the USSR’s geopolitical legacy, were certain of their own incontestable righteousness having declared themselves the victors of the ‘Cold War,’” said Putin.
“They started to openly interfere in the sovereign affairs of countries and to export democracy in the same way as in their time the Soviet leadership tried to export the Socialist revolution to the whole world.”
Putin said U.S.-Russia relations were in a lamentable state, referencing an “unprecedented” anti-Russian campaign in the United States, the closure of Russian diplomatic facilities there and pressure on Russian media by U.S. authorities.
He did not single out U.S. President Donald Trump for personal criticism, but said Trump’s behavior was unpredictable as a result of political foes who were preventing him from fulfilling almost all of his policy pledges.