Trump thanks Russia’s Putin for slashing US diplomatic staff

The US embassy building is reflected in a window of a Russian Army store in Moscow, Russia, on July 28, 2017. (REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva)
Updated 11 August 2017

Trump thanks Russia’s Putin for slashing US diplomatic staff

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Thursday thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for ordering the United States to slash its diplomatic staff in Russia, remarks likely to rekindle criticism of Trump’s kid-gloves handling of Putin.
Breaking nearly two weeks of silence on Putin’s July 30 order cutting US embassy and consulate staff by nearly two thirds, Trump said: “I’m very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll.”
Trump said “there’s no real reason for them to go back” and “we’re going to save a lot of money,” in response to Putin’s Cold War-style move, differing from the reactions of other presidents in similar circumstances in the past.
It also clashes with a State Department official having called Moscow’s order “a regrettable and uncalled-for act.”
On Thursday, the State Department had no immediate reaction to the comments Trump made to reporters while on vacation at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Congressional committees and a special counsel are investigating the conclusions of US intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 election campaign by hacking and other methods to help Trump, a Republican. They are also looking into possible collusion between the campaign and Russian officials. Moscow has repeatedly denied meddling in the election and Trump denies any campaign collusion.
Putin, reacting to new sanctions imposed by the US Congress and reluctantly signed into law by Trump, ordered Washington to cut 755 of its 1,200 embassy and consulate staff by September. Many of those affected likely will be local Russian staffers.
It was also a tit-for-tat reaction to former President Barack Obama expelling 35 Russian diplomats from the United States last December over the intelligence agency reports.
During his campaign and since becoming president, Trump has consistently called for better ties with Russia, declined to criticize Putin and refused to unequivocally embrace the conclusions of the intelligence agencies.
Intended to be flippant or not, Trump’s remarks on Thursday were immediately denounced by current and former US officials who have served both Republican and Democratic administrations.
Nicholas Burns, the State Department’s third-ranking official under Republican President George W. Bush, called Trump’s comments “grotesque.”
“If he was joking, he should know better,” said Burns, now a professor at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. “If he wasn’t, it’s unprecedented. A president has never defended the expulsion of our diplomats.”
The State Department has “horrified and rattled” by Trump’s remarks, said a veteran US diplomat who has served in Russia, speaking on condition of anonymity.
And Heather Conley, formerly a top State Department official dealing with European affairs, said the expulsions of hundreds of people from an important US embassy is extraordinary and “it is very difficult to see how the president could view these expulsions as a ‘positive’ development in any form.”
In additional remarks on Thursday, Trump said he was surprised by the FBI raid last month on the home of his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, adding that it sent a “strong signal.”
Trump said he has not given any thought to the possibility of firing special counsel Robert Mueller. In May, Trump dismissed James Comey, who was Director of the FBI when Trump went into office seven months ago.
As presidential candidate, Trump invited Russia to dig up thousands of “missing” e-mails from Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state, vexing intelligence experts and prompting Democrats to accuse him of urging a foreign country to spy on Americans.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing,” Trump said on the campaign.
Clinton kept a private server from 2009 to 2013. She handed over thousands of e-mails in 2015 to investigators, but did not release about 30,000 she said were personal and not work-related.


India celebrates Republic Day with military parade

Updated 26 January 2020

India celebrates Republic Day with military parade

  • Schoolchildren, folk dancers, and police and military battalions marched through New Delhi’s parade route

NEW DELHI: Thousands of Indians converged on a ceremonial boulevard in the capital amid tight security to celebrate the Republic Day on Sunday, which marks the 1950 anniversary of the country’s democratic constitution.
During the celebrations, schoolchildren, folk dancers, and police and military battalions marched through New Delhi’s parade route, followed by a military hardware display.
Beyond the show of military power, the parade also included ornate floats highlighting India’s cultural diversity as men, women and children in colorful dresses performed traditional dances, drawing applause from the spectators.
The 90-minute event, broadcast live, was watched by millions of Indians on their television sets across the country.
Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro was the chief guest for this year’s celebrations.
He was accorded the ceremonial Guard of Honor by President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Rashtrapati Bhawan, the sprawling presidential palace.
Bolsonaro joined the two Indian leaders as the military parade marched through a central avenue near the Presidential Palace.
At the parade, Bolsonaro watched keenly as mechanized columns of Indian tanks, rocket launchers, locally made nuclear-capable missile systems and other hardware rolled down the parade route and air force jets sped by overhead.
Apart from attending the Republic Day celebrations, Bolsonaro’s visit was also aimed at strengthening trade and investment ties across a range of fields between the two countries.
On Saturday, Modi and Bolsonaro reached an agreement to promote investment in each other’s country.
Before the parade, Modi paid homage to fallen soldiers at the newly built National War Memorial in New Delhi as the national capital was put under tight security cover.
Smaller parades were also held in the state capitals.
Police said five grenades were lobbed in the eastern Assam state by separatist militants who have routinely boycotted the Republic Day celebrations. No one was injured, police said.
Sunday’s blasts also come at a time when Assam has been witnessing continuous protests against the new citizenship law that have spread to many Indian states.
The law approved in December provides a fast-track to naturalization for persecuted religious minorities from some neighboring Islamic countries, but excludes Muslims.
Nationwide protests have brought tens of thousands of people from different faiths and backgrounds together, in part because the law is seen by critics as part of a larger threat to the secular fabric of Indian society.