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A glimpse into Putin’s mindset

February 5th, 2013
06:25 PM ET

By Mick Krever & Claire Calzonetti, CNN

The Russian-U.S. relationship is, once again, decidedly cold.

Dueling pieces of legislation and the threat of cancelled trips in recent months have been escalating a political tit-for-tat.

A Cold War it is not, but it is certainly enough to make President Barack Obama’s much-trumpeted “reset” in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.

“There are issues that we disagree upon,” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s longtime spokesman and adviser, Dmitry Peskov, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “But we agree… that our relationship is very much important, and we have to work in order to change the negative trend.”And there certainly is a negative trend.

Last September, Russia kicked out USAID, the American relief agency out of the country. In early December, U.S. President Obama signed a law that targeted Russian human rights violators. Then, just before the new year, President Putin signed a law outlawing Americans from adopting Russian children.

The law, Putin and the Russian parliament said, stemmed from several high-profile cases of abuse by adoptive American parents. Many American adoption advocates decried its passage as vindictive.

“Currently I don’t see any chance that this law is revised,” Peskov said.

Just last week, American insiders said that President Obama may decline a Russian invitation to visit Moscow in the spring.

“Frankly speaking, we don’t have this meeting on our close agenda,” Peskov said. “But we do hope that sooner or later such a visit will be on the agenda, and we will be happy enough to receive President Obama in the Russian Federation.”

Peskov added that he hoped to see President Obama at the annual G20 meeting, which Russia is hosting this September in St. Petersburg.

At issue seem to be two main gripes: Russia believes that the U.S. is trying to meddle in its internal affairs. President Obama believes President Putin is being needlessly obstructionist on global issues like the U.N. Security Council action on the Syrian civil war.

“There are issues of domestic nature,” Peskov said, “that cannot be issues for our bilateral discussion, and that definitely should not be taken as a reason for having or not having the visit of the president of the United States to Russia.”

Massive protests in the streets of Russia’s cities over the past year have drawn worldwide attention – both for their size and the government’s occasionally harsh crackdown.

“Like elsewhere in the world once in a while there are parties and individuals who are protesting against something.” Peskov said. “It’s quite natural that Russia as a state is taking measures, is taking legislative steps, in order to put things in order, in order to establish rules that should be obeyed.”

As for Syria, Russia has frustrated Western powers and the Syrian opposition by its seeming unwillingness to part ways with the Assad regime, which has been waging a two-year crackdown turned civil war.

“Traditionally we have quite good relationship with Syria,” Peskov said. “But let’s not over exaggerate it.”

Ties between the countries in the past decade have diminished Peskov said, pointing out that Assad had never been a frequent visitor to Russia before the civil war .

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov surprised some when, last Saturday, he met with Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, the leader of Syria’s opposition. Al-Khatib recently announced that he was now willing to meet and negotiate with representatives of the Assad government.

There has been a bit more cooperation between Russia and the West on the Iranian nuclear issue. This week it was announced that there will likely be another round of talks between Iran, the United States, Russia, and others later this month.

Peskov praised the announcement, but laid out a caution.

“Over-expectations are very dangerous in diplomacy,” he said, but added, “we have to mobilize diplomatic capacity until the last possible opportunity.”

President Obama has begun his second term in office with a clearly domestic-focused agenda; how much “diplomatic capacity” between Russia and the United States is mobilized remains to be seen.

READ MORE: Syrian opposition chief, Russian minister meet, state news agency reports

Filed under:  Latest Episode • Russia
soundoff (75 Responses)

    Very Well Analysed Write-Up On The Past n Possibilities Of US-RUSSIA Bonhomie !

    February 6, 2013 at 2:05 am | Reply
    • vr13

      Well, this more of a re-cap of the interview, rather than analysis. So if you find analysis pieces, they are by Peskov, Russian official. But this does not make those analysis invalid. The cool down started by Obama's desire to mingle in Russian domestic affairs. Whether it is trying to run various government aid agencies there or offering support to various Russian protesters. The Russians are correct to say that some domestic aspects are not up for bilateral discussions. I'm sure if we withdraw from trying interfering in their domestic matters, our relationship will improve greatly.

      February 6, 2013 at 10:44 am | Reply
      • Steve

        "don't mess in our internal affairs" is the excuse of the tyrant, despot, and dictator worldwide. this lame excuse is only used by repressive regimes. you never hear the USA, or sweden, for that matter, say "this is an internal affair." It is an excuse used only by the Chinas, Russias, Myanmars, Afghanistans, and Saudi Arabias of the world.

        February 8, 2013 at 10:52 am |
      • Vlad

        The cooling of the relations started in the mid to late 1990s, when NATO was taking in every country west of Russia who wished to join. NATO is perceived as a military alliance first and foremost, and its expansion when Russia was most vulnerable was completely unnecessary from the tactical point of view. OTOH, strategically speaking it sowed a deep mistrust for the US in the minds of the general population in Russia. Now any move that the US makes, whether helpful or not, looks like they try to influence Russian policies.

        February 11, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
      • Realist

        Steve – stop being a hypocrite! I'm sure you, your fellow Americans and your government would be less than amused if Russia or China funneled funds into let's say a Ron Paul candidate and will be threatening war for "interfering in our domestic affairs"... 😛

        July 10, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
      • Konga

        That's so not true, Steve. Any government, whether it be run by the people, monarchs or dictators, will react if a foreign government tries to meddle with their domestic affairs. It's part of any government's sovereignty. The U.S. has done it several times in its history.

        NATO has been acting as an empire since the USSR collapsed. And people wonder why most Russians, regardless of their propoganda, dislike the west.

        March 24, 2015 at 9:51 am |
  2. spacecalculus

    “The measure of a man is what he does with power.”
    ― Plato

    February 6, 2013 at 9:17 am | Reply
    • vr13

      To whom do you apply this quote? I presume you are talking about Putin, but why?

      February 6, 2013 at 10:45 am | Reply
      • spacecalculus

        The quote applies to no one...only a reflection.

        February 6, 2013 at 10:56 am |
      • jj

        Well, to me it most certainly applies to Putin and demonstrates that Russia needs term limits because what they have now is pretty much a dictatorship in disguise. Even when not directly in power, he worked behind the scenes, and often not so behind the scenes, to empower himself.

        February 6, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
      • Steve

        Perhaps it has something to do with Vladimir Vladimirovich enriching himself to the tune of 30-60 billion dollars personally while in office while acting as a de facto dictator – stifling free press and free opposition and landing his country near last on nearly every independent benchmark and rating of freedom, from freedom of the press (reporters withour borders) to corruption (transparency international) to human rights (amnesty international)? The russian apologists will point to small problems in, say, the USA and try to pretend theyre the same. They're not, of course, as every thinking person knows.

        February 8, 2013 at 10:57 am |
      • Konga

        JJ, Russians have historically been dominated by their elite class, whether they be boyars, tsars, emperors, communists, or Putin and his oligarchs. They probably would have a better chance of freedom if the Bolsheviks didn't take over after the royal family. It'll take another revolution to bring real democracy to Russia.

        As for the quote, that can be applied to literally anyone regardless of their idealogical differences. Good quote.

        March 24, 2015 at 10:01 am |
  3. Xiao Jiang

    Much of America's foreign policy is to be condemned...but I do hope they eliminate Russia. Old bear is almost useless anyway to either side...

    February 6, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Reply
    • Peter

      Your folks have nice settlement plans going on in Siberia apparently, illegally according to Russians I know 🙂

      February 6, 2013 at 2:25 pm | Reply
    • Ray

      Better an old bear than an old dragon.

      February 6, 2013 at 6:31 pm | Reply

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        The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of people who don't do anything about it"

        February 6, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
    • Ragin Cajun

      America has a foreign policy? That's a hoot. Democracies in their very nature don't have foreign policies as that would require focus impossible for a majority built on loose coalitions centered on domestic issues. If anything America becomes aware of foreign issues every now and then but usually right as the political appointees (hacks) change. Make no mistake about it, our real foreign policy revolves around a super big military and a super big economy that makes others flinch when we sneeze.

      February 11, 2013 at 7:07 am | Reply
    • capit

      how very hateful of you :/

      May 22, 2013 at 2:34 am | Reply
  4. Gazza Alao

    Obama has an extreme rightwing anti Russia policy: the missile offense shield, the meddling in Russia's elections, the attempt to overthrow Russia's allies in the Middle East. .

    February 6, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Reply
  5. Ted

    It's all very simple: US realized that Putin as there to stay for decades, and that as long as he is in charge, he will do all he can to undermine US on a foreign policy, and tighten the screws even more on a domestic policy. Bottom line – why bother engaging him if there is little to no hope.

    February 6, 2013 at 4:42 pm | Reply
  6. Guest

    She's lucky she got an interview with his representative.

    February 6, 2013 at 6:28 pm | Reply
    • Andrey

      It buggers me that somebody in Russia is so confused to even talk to CNN "journalists"! It is so obvious that CNN will turn whatever they say into another piece of anti-Russian propaganda!

      February 8, 2013 at 10:18 am | Reply
  7. Frangible

    I think the mistake many Americans make is assuming that there are alternatives with a chance of being elected that are better for either Russia or the West. Other than United Russia, you've got communists (the real kind), and then ultranationalists who would just as soon nuke the US.

    I don't know what people expected Putin and the Duma to do after we keep poking the Red Bear by building our little "Iranian" missile defense system and having congress pass inappropriate laws that are inevitably going to provoke an equal response.

    I also find it deeply ironic that the same democrats who criticized Ronald Reagan for funding missile defense because it was impossible "science fiction" and so-called "Star Wars" and would provoke Russia are now in fact using the very same research and technology from the SDI program to provoke Russia. Also ironic: Ronald Reagan ended up having a better relationship with Russia than the same democrats today who criticized him of being too aggressive.

    And for those of you who don't know, Russia itself has a missile defense system installed in Moscow - the oldschool kind, using ground-to-air nuclear missiles to intercept incoming nuclear missiles. (which works quite well, and is no science fiction) The US conversely dismantled all of its similar missile defense systems. And now we're building them in ... Poland. So the US is completely defenseless still to a nuclear attack, but we're borrowing billions from China over the ridiculous implausibility of Russia nuking Poland. Rather than doing something that makes sense, like rebuilding the missile defense systems we once had, or renegotiating with Russia for more permitted US-based local missile defense systems that would actually do something in the slightly more likely implausible event of Iran nuking us.

    February 6, 2013 at 6:40 pm | Reply
  8. tomg

    Sounds like Romney might have been right after all.

    February 6, 2013 at 8:44 pm | Reply
  9. Majav

    Had Romney been elected things would have even been worse. Obama is more than reasonable. Putin is a dictator wet nursed on the KGB. He is a common criminal with a superior intellect- not the best combination for Russians or the region.

    Putin is licking his lips over EU troubles and would love reclaim the Baltics- his henchmen already run Riga like the mafia runs Naples. Putin does have better things to do than irritate the USA. He could bring true reforms to his people. He could respect freedom of the press. He could invest billions of petrol rubles in education. He could get young people off the booze which has thwarted Russian progress for generations. He could welcome diversity in Russia's sphere of influence instead of Russification by force.

    He is Stalin in sheep's clothing. Instead of murdering adversaries he assassinates their character and imprisons them. For the real tough cookies- journalists and politicians- he secretly poisons them. He also wages cyber attacks on neighboring sovereign nations. Not much progress in the last 7 decades. He is a hooligan impressed with his own martial arts- too bad he forgot the intent of judo- integrity.

    February 6, 2013 at 10:41 pm | Reply
    • Andrey

      You are wrong: there is no difference between Obama in Romney as far as USA international policy is concerned. They have got the same master: they can make a show of having some disagreements on US internal matters (after all they have the election campaign to play): but they cannot be bothered about any international issues.

      February 8, 2013 at 10:22 am | Reply
    • Andrey

      And you are wrong about everything else by the way: nobody in Russia is f* bothered about your f* beloved Riga! Just bugger off and leave us alone: we do not want to support your f* economy anymore in any f* way! You can cease to exist as far as any Russian is concerned!

      February 8, 2013 at 10:25 am | Reply
      • Tester99999


        August 13, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
  10. Majav

    Russia is a back water with only half of the population of the former USSR. Russia has more in common with Myanmar, Iran, Syria, and North Korea than the West. Putin is to blame- not the people. The people need to rise up and be counted. If the Arabs can do it so can the Russians.

    I just fear the Russians are too cynical and apathetic at this point. How many revolutions can a people endure if none of them deliver freedom and liberty? Maybe one more. Maybe.

    February 6, 2013 at 10:47 pm | Reply
  11. mountainlady

    Russia is only missing being a failed state because the Russian mafia that is actually running the country works hand in glove with Putin rather than fighting against him. The Russian crime lords figured out that having Putin as a mouth piece keeps the heat off of them and is cheaper in the long run. They are draining Russia dry and have absolutely no reason to try to get along with the US no matter who is President.

    February 7, 2013 at 12:43 am | Reply
    • Andrey

      And nothing stopps USA being a failed state dummy!

      February 8, 2013 at 10:16 am | Reply
  12. Aydar

    It is so nice to see comments of those who have never been in Russia and blaming Putin being a mafia or whatever, probably basing the opinion on Hollywood movies. During last years, lets say 10 years, the criminal situation in Russia has improved fantastically. In 2000, you could be killed by criminals on the street very easily, and no one would care. Now people are safe, of course there are still criminals, but they are not that much spread anymore. The same happened with the life standards. So for Russians he did a lot and thats why he is so well supported. I dont care about the relationships with the USA.

    February 7, 2013 at 7:54 am | Reply
    • David

      Right on. Don't take this the wrong way... But we don't really care that much about Russia either. Live long and prosper under whatever dictator you want. We have our own dictator to worry about.

      February 7, 2013 at 8:49 am | Reply
      • Aydar

        Thank you, the same to you)

        February 7, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • KEVIN

      Aydar, I like Putin. He is a man's man. And I think Obama and Biden also like him (underneath these diplomatic head games)

      February 7, 2013 at 11:28 pm | Reply
  13. KEVIN

    I didn't know about Russia kicking out the USAID program. What was that all about? Otherwise, the Russians are being overly cautious and negative concerning their expectations of diplomatic resolution. Kerry and Biden can help with this.

    February 7, 2013 at 11:07 pm | Reply
  14. Andrey

    "Massive protests in the streets of Russia’s cities over the past year have drawn worldwide attention..." – there is no USAID in Russia any more: there are no more "massive protests"! It was so obvious how these protests were staged and financed by USAID: they thought they could do whatever they wanted!
    Any responsible government should take it as its first duty that no foreign powers meddle with countries internal politics! I wish more countries would have leaderships similar to what Russia has now!

    February 8, 2013 at 10:15 am | Reply
    • Steve

      Andrey, I look forward to hearing of your condemnation of Russia's blatant manipulation of the election in Ukraine and in other regional states. Please. Prove to us that you are not a hypocite. Go. We're waiting.

      Oh wait, I forgot:

      Russia's accusations against USAID: unproven conspiratorial nonsense.
      Russia's interference in Ukrainian elections: proven beyond any shadow of a shadow of a doubt.

      February 8, 2013 at 10:59 am | Reply
      • Natasha

        Steve, Ukraine is not a regional state but an indipendent country with one of the most corrup governemt in the world.

        February 12, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
      • Natasha

        Forgive my typos, corrupt government.

        February 12, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
      • broden

        Ahem... speaking of hypocrites... Why would US single out Russia in their fight against human right violators?
        How about Saudi Arabia? They are hardly a champion of liberties (women and religions rights, anyone), yet the US does not dare speaking against that.

        Oh I see – the oil... so then its all about the right price, is it not? speaking of hypocrites....

        February 14, 2013 at 11:11 am |
      • Realist

        Steve – so is your country's history for intervening in the internal affairs and elections of many countries. Just look at Iran pre-1979.

        July 10, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
      • Realist

        To learn more, start by reading Noam Chomsky's "Failed States" ...

        July 10, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
  15. Mike D

    It's true that the American's are trying to stick their noses into the internal affairs of Russia. Which Russians don't take kindly too.

    They could have very easily taken advantage of the whole "1%" and "Occupy wallstreet" crap (which was very embarrassing for the US) but they didn't.

    February 8, 2013 at 12:04 pm | Reply
  16. Mike in Iowa

    Wikileak cables revealed that the US Ambassador in Moscow had been sending denigrating messages about Mr. Putin to Washington. Such is the insatiable thirst of the Us govt. is that the resultant gossip have caused some major damage across the globe. Case in point: Tunisia, Egypt. America's meddling in sovereign nations in the name of human rights has evolved to a boiling point no one should have to put up with. Diplomats are not spys but American diplomats are. As to the charge of dealing with a "Dictator", America has been in bed with some of the most brutal Tyrants, history reveals. America has blood at its hands from conducting torture in Iran under the puppet Shah. America has no problem with the Chinese. America worked with "Uncle Joe" happily and the union saved the day for America. America, as long as it acts like an international bully will never be able to sit at a dining table with the Russians nor does it genuinely care to engage with Russia except when it needs its vote in the Security Council. From Nazi Germany to McCarthyism to Cold War era, the West has chosen to demonize Russia for not towing the line. America needs to restore its diplomats to diplomacy, it needs to stop meddling into domestic affairs of others, and it needs to stop acting like a bully because someone will drive a bully into the ground. America must rescind the death warrant on Mr. Assange. It is a dictator's warrant in the guise of National Security. President Obama whom I voted for twice is distracted, is looking strangely distant, has no mandate to engage with Russia, and is on his way to make sure that the next president will be a Republican.

    February 9, 2013 at 12:35 am | Reply
  17. S. Brown

    Do we really want "good" relations with an autocratic regime?

    February 11, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Reply
    • Hriday

      The core of your writing wshilt sounding agreeable originally, did not really settle properly with me after some time. Someplace within the sentences you actually managed to make me a believer but just for a short while. I however have a problem with your jumps in assumptions and one might do nicely to fill in those gaps. If you actually can accomplish that, I will undoubtedly end up being impressed.

      January 24, 2014 at 4:01 am | Reply
  18. nunya

    CheRnoble... is affecting Putins Putin........ its kinda warm.. well down right Hot on the lew..... know what i mean... he is getting uncomfortable.. and really needs to Detox.. NO Putin.. around... K??

    February 11, 2013 at 11:37 pm | Reply
  19. Biggie Wiggie

    US has been jeopardizing its relationship with Russia. To me it is quite strange. US initiative may be coming from an influencial group "advising" our govt to behave in such an unproductive way. I believe it may stem from the fact that Russia is nearly debt-free, thus it can not be manipulated/controlled to do the bidding of nefarious bankers as is the case with US and several other Western nations.

    February 12, 2013 at 11:23 am | Reply
  20. pnm9pnm

    stay out of putin,s mind he has right,s,.pnm,.

    February 13, 2013 at 1:35 am | Reply
  21. Not a fan of Russia today

    Greed runs most of the motives behind post-cold war ties when dealing with Russia's previous Soviet Union geopolitical (Warsaw Pact) and Middle Eastern strategic concerns now.

    Russian is helping Syria in order to have a naval operations area in the Middle East. It's about the only one it has besides the big one in Sevastopol in Ukraine for its Black Sea Fleet.

    Russian is helping Iran to build nuclear facilities? For medical purposes? No... money, pure and simple.

    Russia is interested in helping Russian rich guys who can kick back dollars to those in power. Its short sighted and ignorant, but that's the state of Russia today...

    Not a fan of Russia today. I was a huge fan of Glasnost and have hope Russia will stop begin to behave for the global good. If Greed is good, then Russia is doing just fine...

    February 13, 2013 at 10:54 pm | Reply
    • broden

      And the US calling Saudi Arabia their friend – is it not about greed? How about being silent on human rights violations by China – not greed at all? How about arming the future Al Qaeda?

      Why do americans so easily forget their own shortcomings?

      Remember the Bible: "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

      February 14, 2013 at 11:15 am | Reply
  22. broden

    Seriously, maybe the US should remember the Bible: "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

    the US calling Saudi Arabia their friend, and those are hardly human rights champions. At least russians dont stone their women and dont persecute other religions. How about being silent on human rights violations by China – not greed at all?

    If the US wants to lead, they should lead by example, not by meddling

    February 14, 2013 at 11:18 am | Reply
    • sam

      We have a nice little thing called the separation of church and state,. Although i do agree with you.

      June 10, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Reply
  23. don

    Obama should go there, but regarding adoption Russian babies in the US, I"m glad that's over. We have enough babies here up for adoption.

    February 15, 2013 at 8:28 pm | Reply
    • sam

      this i agree we should give homes to the children we already have here

      June 10, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Reply
  24. Peter Egan

    This story is 150% misinformation. Obama was raised and groomed by KGB Officer Frank Marshall Davis back when his (Obama's) name was legally Barry Soetoro, which as we're all aware by now was not the name on his fake Hawaiian birth certificate. The state of Hawaii somehow knew decades in advance of Soetoro legally changing his name from Barry Soetoro to Barack Obama that he would eventually experience a severe mental illness which would bring out a deep bout of depression culminating in his legally changing his name to that of his alleged deadbeat African father (although nobody really knows for sure who his father is - it could just as easily have been Davis).

    Putin and Russia are the ones writing U.S. foreign policy. Any story suggesting otherwise is state-controlled propaganda and blatant misinformation intended for the lowest of the low-information voters.

    February 27, 2013 at 6:44 am | Reply
  25. YaValioCacaWates

    It's hard to trust the Russians when they are flying nuclear armed bombers in Guam during President's Obama State of Union Address. It's hard to trust the Russians when they patrol the Gulf of Mexico with their nuclear submarines. Seems to me that the Russians are looking for a fight? The meteor that flew over Russia caught Putin with his pants down., didn't have a chance to warn his own people. Looks like the cold war never ended, thanks to King Putin for making it worst.

    March 3, 2013 at 9:58 am | Reply
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  27. No

    Putin cries people meddle in his affairs, so he gets rid of NGOs. Now let us get rid of that horrible RT news that Putin is forking the big bucks out for. Which meddles in our affairs. Funny thing is since Putin got rid of NGO's the next time something bad happens in Russia he can't blame us he got rid NGO's. Who can he blame now? Yet we have the pair to allow his trashy news channel to appear to American people because we allow our people to make their own minds up. Putin is full of it and just because he takes his shirt off, fakes PR stunts, does not mean he is a man. It means he is a spiteful little man of 5foot7. A liar and a crook who accuses the west of doing things that he actually does, like propaganda. He is not fooling every one.

    June 12, 2013 at 1:21 pm | Reply
    • Realist

      Who paid you to spout this nonsense?

      July 10, 2013 at 9:26 pm | Reply
  28. badaboom

    This CNN article is biased. Nearly every line of this article is a lie.

    July 7, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Reply
  29. lupin

    I have been reading CNN news for several months especially news about Asia, some points of the articles are really nonsense.....but it seems some of your guys just believe it and condemn China or Russia, I guess it's better to go there and say what's really happening...

    August 17, 2013 at 3:51 am | Reply
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  31. Mark

    I can say Russia is not what many in the West thnks it is. Moscow is a safe city arguably safer than new york or LA. Russians are overall nice and simply normal people. Putin is not russia and he is not russians. I don't know putin personally, but his portrayal in the western media is not something i would trust. go to russia for yourselves, get to know the place and the people, then draw your own conclusions.

    February 18, 2014 at 11:42 pm | Reply
  32. R Queen

    reinstate SDI, then NUKE Russia & Iran

    April 25, 2014 at 9:10 pm | Reply
  33. S Richards

    I agree we should reinstate SDI and be prepared to defend our allies, and do WHATEVER

    April 25, 2014 at 9:12 pm | Reply
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  35. Rob

    All this crap about Putin being this ,obama that . Let's try and get something into perspective here me personally I wouldnt and never will trust these liars running our country's ,you only hear what you need to know from them but deep down they couldn't give a toss about any of there people just how much they can make out of you,s Fact

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