Putin tells Europe on U.S. trade threat: ‘I told you so’
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that he had warned European countries years ago about the risk of the United States imposing its rules on others, and that they were now paying the price for ignoring him.
Speaking during a live television phone-in with the Russian people that lasted over four hours, Putin likened the tariffs that Washington imposed last week on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union to economic sanctions.
“It appears our partners thought that this would never affect them, this counterproductive politics of restrictions and sanctions. But now we are seeing that this is happening.”
The president said he had warned in a speech in Munich in 2007 about a growing U.S. sense of exceptionalism and the risk of it imposing its own rules on other countries.
“That is exactly what is happening now. Nobody wanted to listen, and nobody did anything to stop this from developing. Well, there you go, you’ve been hit. Dinner is served … please sit down and eat.”
Putin also accused the United States of upsetting the strategic nuclear balance, and said nobody should take any hasty steps: “The understanding that a third world war could be the end of civilization should restrain us.”
He put neighboring Ukraine on notice that if it tried to make any military moves against pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine while Russia hosted the soccer World Cup this summer, Ukraine would suffer:
“I hope that there won’t be any provocations, but if it happens I think it would have very serious consequences for Ukrainian statehood in general.”
Putin also said Russian forces would stay in Syria for as long as it was in Russia’s interest.