MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered something of a backhanded compliment to Donald Trump on Sunday, saying the U.S. president-elect is smart enough to understand that he’s going to shoulder a whole new level of responsibilities come January.
“To the extent that he was able to achieve success in business, this shows that he’s a smart person,” Putin said in snippets of an interview with broadcaster NTV set to be aired in full Sunday evening. “And if he’s a smart person, that means that he will totally and quite quickly understand the different level of his responsibility [as a statesman]. We presume that he will act based on this position.”
Trump has said that he wants to establish better relations with Putin, particularly in international security. While that presents opportunities for the Kremlin, Putin’s remarks also signaled concerns, voiced by insiders, that Trump could be an unpredictable partner.
Putin called Trump “talented” and “colorful” during the U.S. election campaign (Trump said Putin had called him “a genius,” thanks to a mistranslation), but the Kremlin has been reserved in its praise since Trump won the presidency last month. Putin did not mention the president-elect in a speech to lawmakers last week, during which he brushed off accusations that Russia had meddled in the U.S. elections.
In his full remarks, Putin highlighted the difference in responsibility for Trump as a businessman and as a head of state.
“Trump was a businessman and an entrepreneur,” Putin said in the interview, which also touched on international affairs, including the war in Syria. “Now he’s a government official, now he’s the head of the United States of America, one of the leading countries of the world, one of the world’s leading economies, one of the world’s leading military states. To the extent that he was able to achieve success in business, this shows that he’s a smart person. And if he’s a smart person, that means that he will totally and quite quickly understand the different level of his responsibility. We presume that he will act based on this position.”
During the interview, Putin also said that the global balance of power is changing and that “attempts to establish a unipolar world have failed.”