MOSCOW — In biting remarks, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed Russia’s diplomatic row with the United States on Tuesday, saying Moscow could further cut U.S. diplomatic staffing in Russia and calling U.S. searches of a Russian consulate and other diplomatic properties “boorish.”
“It is hard to conduct a dialogue with people who confuse Austria with Australia, but there is nothing we can do about this. It seems to be the level of political culture in a certain part of the U.S. establishment,” Putin said in his first public statements on the diplomatic dispute that has been deepening since Washington announced the closure of Russia’s consulate in San Francisco, as well as diplomatic properties housing trade missions in New York and Washington.
The comments came during a news conference at an economic summit in the Chinese city of Xiamen. Putin repeated boilerplate language about how he and President Trump each defended their national interests, but he laced his remarks with bitter jokes.
Putin swatted away a question about whether he was “disappointed” with Trump, calling it “naive.”
Trump “is not my bride. I am not his bride, nor his groom. We are running our governments,” Putin told a reporter at the economic summit, which hosted leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Trump spoke glowingly of Putin while on the campaign trail and said he would usher in a period of detente between the two countries. That has largely been derailed by allegations about Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
The United States said the closures of Russian diplomatic property would achieve “parity” in the countries’ respective diplomatic missions, a word borrowed from the Russian side, which cut the U.S. diplomatic mission by 755 employees in July.
Yet the series of tit-for-tat expulsions and punishments seems unlikely to end there, and Russia says it is weighing options. In his remarks, Putin said he had ordered the Russian Foreign Ministry to file a lawsuit in U.S. courts over the seizure of the Russian properties in the United States.
“Strictly speaking, the full parity does not mean 455 U.S. diplomats stationed in Moscow but minus 155 more,” Putin said. “So, we reserve the right to make a decision regarding this number of U.S. diplomats in Moscow. We will not be doing it so far.”
Putin also blasted calls for Russia to join sanctions against North Korea shortly after the United States slapped Russia itself with broad financial sanctions.
Without directly naming the United States, he said that putting pressure on North Korea would be pointless. North Korea would “eat grass but will not stop this program unless it feels safe,” he said.
“The escalation of military hysteria will not do any good. It may lead to a planetary catastrophe and a colossal casualty rate. There is no other way to resolve the North Korean nuclear problem but peacefully and diplomatically,” Putin said. North Korea on Sunday tested what it called a hydrogen bomb that the country’s leaders say can be mounted on a missile capable of reaching the United States.
Trump has previously said that “all options are on the table” concerning U.S. retaliation should North Korea target the United States or any of its overseas territories, including Guam.
In New York, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres on Tuesday urged the members of the U.N. Security Council and the five countries that have negotiated with North Korea in the past — including Russia and the United States — to come together with a united strategy to get Pyongyang to negotiate the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
“The solution must be political,” Guterres said. “The potential consequences of military action are too horrific.”
He condemned Pyongyang for defying the international community and recklessly risking the lives of its citizens.
Carol Morello contributed reporting from Washington.