By Laura Smith-Spark and Eli Watkins
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Russian President Vladimir Putin in a recent interview separated a conciliatory attitude toward US President Donald Trump from his staunch criticism of the US political system, which he said is unwieldy and self-defeating.
“I’m disappointed not at all in the partner, but more disappointed in the system itself,” Putin said. “There can’t be disappointment here, because it demonstrates sheer inefficiency and eats itself. And it’s quite difficult to interact with such a system, because it is unpredictable.”
Putin made his comments in interviews conducted by Vladimir Solovyov, a pro-Kremlin television host. The documentary, called World Order 2018, has already been posted online and will air later on state TV.
In the interview, Putin is asked if there was disappointment with Trump, and the Russian leader responded with praise of Trump’s personal attributes before getting into his criticism of the US government as “unpredictable.”
“On a purely human level, he made a very good impression on me,” Putin said. “It seems to me that he is well-balanced. For all the shock value of his behavior, something to which, apparently, he was used to because of his previous life experience and activity, when we got down to business, he gets into problems. He communicates. He listens to his interlocutor. You can negotiate with him, I see, you can look for some compromises with him.”
The two world leaders have offered kind words to one another in the past, with Trump suggesting on the campaign trail he would get along with Putin, and the Russian leader calling Trump “bright and talented” Since Trump has taken office, the two have spoken via phone and in person. The two spoke twice in Europe last summer, including a second, initially undisclosed conversation where Trump spoke through Russia’s translator, and they spoke informally in Asia last November.
Putin is expected to win a second consecutive term as president — his fourth in total — when Russians go to the polls on March 18.
He has run on a platform that emphasizes his strength as a leader, an image bolstered by his boasts last week that Russia had developed new weaponry that would render NATO defenses “completely useless.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s year-old presidency has been shadowed by the investigation into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election, which the US President has dismissed as a “hoax.”
Speaking Tuesday, Trump acknowledged “there was meddling” in the 2016 contest, but also said that Russia had “no impact on our votes.” He insisted that the United States would “counteract” any attempts to interfere in the 2018 midterms.
The Trump administration could impose new sanctions on Russian entities as soon as next week, a senior administration official told CNN. Among the entities being considered for sanctions is the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-linked Russian troll group, the official said.
Trump has previously said he takes Putin at his word when he denies having ordered the meddling campaign.
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