By the time Putin is ready to put his country’s stamp of approval on a new US president, there’s likely to be a long wait.
That’s because Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, is likely to not only have to contend with the Russian threat, but also to contend for the presidency again.
The Obama administration’s response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its destabilizing actions in Ukraine has been to try to convince Moscow that it is not the primary actor in the conflict in the Ukraine.
That is, it is only the most extreme example of an aggressor nation seeking to assert its power, the Obama administration said.
Putin has said that he considers the US to be an aggressors’ superpower, and that his military has no qualms about using the means at its disposal to maintain the status quo.
The fact that Trump is not a U.S. president is, however, not enough to make Putin hesitate to act in his favor.
In the meantime, Russia has been busy attempting to develop its own sphere of influence in Europe and the Middle East, especially in Syria, which is currently dominated by a brutal regime of President Bashar Assad.
The United States, in contrast, has been unable to influence Assad’s behavior, let alone topple him.
Russia’s most recent military buildup in Syria has been unprecedented, and it has expanded its military presence into the country’s northern borderlands.
The latest Russian military exercises, which began in March and have included more than 50,000 troops, were attended by a record number of NATO troops, according to NATO.
It also announced the creation of a new, joint Russian-NATO military headquarters in the northern city of Hmeymim, a move that came after the Kremlin promised to “take all necessary measures” to protect the country from any foreign threats.
The U.N. Security Council also condemned Russia’s moves, saying the country has violated international law and is not abiding by the peace treaty it signed with the U.K. and the European Union.
Russia is currently also considering sending its forces into eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have fought a bloody war against the government of President Petro Poroshenko.
The Ukrainian government is currently in the midst of negotiations with the United States over a peace plan.
But for the moment, Putin’s Russia has only the United Kingdom, France and Germany, which have been unwilling to offer support to Ukraine’s new government, and the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, which are staunch allies of the Assad regime.
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A Kremlin official told The Associated Press last week that Putin would be ready to help Ukraine retake Crimea, where Russian troops have taken over several cities in the south.
The Kremlin has denied that its troops are in Crimea, and instead accused Ukrainian forces of attacking the region.
The new government has been slow to respond, and Putin’s comments have been inconsistent.
At one point last week, he suggested that Russia could send troops to assist the Ukrainian government in its battle against pro-Russia separatists, while at another time saying he was not prepared to intervene militarily.
The Russian defense ministry has said it is “working hard” to help Kiev retake the territory, but its statements have been vague.
Russia is not alone in the region, however.
Russia has a significant presence in the Crimean Peninsula and has already been sending military equipment and personnel to help the government in the fight against the rebels there.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to journalists after meeting with his defense minister Sergei Shoigu in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, March 2, 2021.Reuters