Vladimir Putin has won the Russian presidential election with 77% of the popular vote, and he will serve another six year term. The result left few surprised, and world leaders have had muted reactions to the win.
Donald Trump, after being specifically told by his staff in his briefing notes, “DO NOT CONGRATULATE,” in all caps, congratulated Putin on his election win during a phone call with the leader. Their relations famously cozy, they apparently talked about Syria and Iran, but the recent poisoning of Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripov was never mentioned.
Trump has congratulated several other misbehaving world leaders on their election wins as well, such as Erdogan, but some leaders have still criticized the move. John McCain posted a biting tweet, while others called the move unsurprising.
An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections. And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election. https://t.co/lcQTBi7CA1
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) March 20, 2018
Putin, in his comments after the election, made comments that indicated that he believed his win was a mandate to, “take on a great task in the name of Russia,” as he tries to push economic growth while Russia is deeply isolated from the West and international markets. Russia still suffers from sanctions over the Crimean conflict in 2014, and faces deep structural and social issues, while quality of life and wages have mostly stagnated since the fall of the Soviet Union.
He is 65 years old, and is the longest serving leader since Stalin. He seemed to indicate that this would be his last term, with constitutional limits banning his reelection in 2024. He seemed to laugh off the idea that he would continue to serve into his old age, saying, “am I going to stay around until I’m 100? No.”
Several other leaders, too, offered their congratulations, even amidst deeply tense relations with those countries.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe congratulated Putin, amidst a push by that country for North Korean denuclearization, and increasing militarization of the Pacific. Russia is one of only two countries that share an accessible border with North Korea, and they provide a significant amount of aid to the country. Japan maintains an open conflict with Russia over the sovereignty of the Kuril Islands, but has seemed to put that aside in the meantime. He also apparently told Putin that chemical weapons usage was unacceptable, when prompted about the Skripal case.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also offered his congratuations, in a country where, similarly, those who are able to legitimately run for election are vetted and approved by the empowered group.
Venezuela and Bolivia both effused on their approval of Putin’s win, and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and King both offered congratulations as well.
Staff writer: Ari B