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Russia's Putin reins in anti-Western rhetoric during speech

Russian President Vladimir Putin smiles as he gives his annual state of the nation address in the Kremlin in Moscow on Thursday. (Pavel Golovkin / Associated Press)
Russian President Vladimir Putin smiles as he gives his annual state of the nation address in the Kremlin in Moscow on Thursday. (Pavel Golovkin / Associated Press)

Russian President Vladimir Putin – whose international aims are under scrutiny as Donald Trump prepares to assume the U.S. presidency – reined in the anti-Western rhetoric in a major speech Thursday.

In his annual state-of-the-nation address delivered from an ornate assembly room in the Kremlin, Putin avoided the harsh references to Washington that are often a hallmark of such high-profile ceremonial speeches. Instead, he focused on Russia’s domestic and economic challenges and painted his government as averse to international friction.

“We don’t want confrontation with anyone – we don’t need it,” official media outlets quoted him as telling an assemblage of Russian political elite. “We are not seeking and have never sought enemies. We need friends.”

That he may have found a friend in Trump, who takes office in less than two months, has been a much-discussed topic in U.S. policy circles. The latest cautionary note was struck by outgoing CIA Director John Brennan, who a day earlier had told the BBC that Trump “needs to be wary of Russian promises.”

During his campaign, the now president-elect repeatedly made admiring references to Putin’s “strong” style of governance, and the two have since spoken of repairing relations that have been tense for much of President Obama’s tenure.

In his speech, Putin said Russia wanted to work with the United States, citing global terrorism as a common enemy.

“We are ready to cooperate with the new U.S. administration,” the Russian leader said. “We have a shared responsibility to ensure national security.”

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