Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed a question about U.S. President Donald Trump at a news conference Tuesday, refusing to comment on U.S. political affairs and distancing himself from the American leader.
Trump is “not my bride, and, likewise, I am neither his bride nor bridegroom. We are statesmen,” Putin told reporters, according to a translation by Reuters.
Putin also said it was “naive” to question whether he was disappointed with Trump’s actions as president, yet he criticized the U.S. order last week that the Kremlin close a Russian consulate in San Francisco and floated the idea of retaliatory action in response to its shuttering.
The news conference took place at an economic summit for BRICS countries ― Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa ― being held in the Chinese city of Xiamen this week. Putin answered questions for around 45 minutes, sometimes using the platform to take jabs at Washington.
“It’s difficult to talk to people who confuse Austria with Australia,” Putin said, in a dig at U.S. officials. President George W. Bush raised eyebrows, and laughs, when he mixed up the two nations in 2007.
The Russian president’s comments come at a post-Cold War low point in relations with the United States. Despite Trump’s praise of Putin during the campaign and vows to repair ties between Moscow and Washington, the relationship has instead deteriorated.
The most recent decline in relations came earlier this summer when the U.S. imposed sanctions on Russia over its meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. Since then, the two countries have issued a series of reprisals aimed at diplomatic institutions, including consulates and embassies. In July, Putin ordered a huge reduction of U.S. diplomatic staff in Russia and on Tuesday threatened that he could further cut personnel if he wanted.
The U.S. and Russia have also been drawn into diplomatic fights over conflicts in Syria and eastern Ukraine, where the two nations have differing international interests. Russia did agree to join in U.S.-proposed sanctions against North Korea in August, but Putin said Tuesday that adding stronger sanctions, which the White House is now calling for, would be “useless.”