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Donald Trump more dangerous than North Korea’s Kim Jong-un: Russian state media

LiveMint logoLiveMint 17-04-2017 Henry Meyer

Moscow: Russian state television has no doubt as to who is unpredictable enough to bring the world to war in the North Korean crisis, and it’s not reclusive dictator Kim Jong-un.

According to Dmitry Kiselyov, the Kremlin’s top TV mouthpiece, the riskiest is US President Donald Trump, the man Russian officials and propagandists hailed just a few weeks ago as just the kind of leader the world needed.

In the latest sign of the Kremlin’s abrupt about-face on its erstwhile American hero, Kiselyov pronounced Trump “more dangerous” than his North Korean counterpart. “Trump is more impulsive and unpredictable than Kim Jong-un,” he told viewers of his prime-time Sunday Vesti Nedelyi programme, which earlier this year carried paeans to Trump for his pledge to warm up relations with Russia.

On other channels, Kisleyov and his colleagues also went after Trump’s family, noting that Kim hadn’t given his four-year-old daughter an office in his residence, in contrast to Trump’s appointment of his 35-year-old daughter, Ivanka, to a White House role.

‘Very risky’

Russian officials aren’t so harsh in public. Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday urged the US to avoid any unilateral use of force against North Korea, warning that this would be “a very risky course of action” and compared it to the US missile strike earlier this month in Syria, which Moscow denounced as aggression. Lavrov spoke after US vice-president Mike Pence said “the era of strategic patience is over”, while on a visit to the demilitarized zone between South and North Korea on Monday.

While Russia condemns the “brinkmanship’’ of the ballistic missile tests by the isolated Stalinist state in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, this does not justify breaking international law, said Lavrov. “So I really hope that the same unilateral actions we saw in Syria won’t happen,” he added. Russia maintains close ties to North Korea, with which it shares a border, but is not an ally to the regime like China.

The US attack in Syria, against Russian ally President Bashar al-Assad, fuelled a deepening disillusionment in the Kremlin with the Trump administration. State media, whose messages are closely controlled by senior officials, are a bellwether of the shift.

“Ivanka already convinced Trump to bomb Assad, what if she convinces him to bomb Kim,” warned NTV’s main newscaster, Irada Zeynalova.

A highly-anticipated visit by US secretary of state Rex Tillerson to Moscow last week—the first by a top official of the new administration—did little to reassure the Russian leadership.

Nuclear war

“The world is a hair’s breadth away from a real nuclear war with all its catastrophic consequences,” Kiselyov warned his viewers. Other state-TV presenters offered a ray of hope for Russians, pointing out that the radioactive fallout from a possible conflict on the Korean Peninsula likely would be carried eastward by prevailing winds, away from Russia.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on whether Kiselyov’s views reflected official policy, saying only that “it’s usually close, though not every time”. The Kremlin called for all sides to “show restraint” and not take actions that could be perceived as “provocative”.

Kiselyov is known for sometimes extreme statements, such as when he warned that Russia could turn the US into “radioactive ash”.

The message of disappointment with Trump has been building on state media for several weeks. A survey conducted by the state-run pollster VTsIOM released on Monday found that 39% of Russians hold a negative opinion of Trump, versus only 7% in March.

In a sign of the tensions, Lavrov hit out at US national security adviser H.R. McMaster for saying the Trump administration will have “tough discussions” with Russia. The top Russian diplomat said Moscow won’t pay attention to the words of an adviser since Trump has said he’s committed to dialogue.

McMaster, who replaced the Kremlin-friendly Mike Flynn after his ouster over undisclosed Russia contacts, praised China’s unprecedented decision not to join Russia in vetoing a UN Security Council resolution on Syria last week that demanded Assad cooperate with an investigation. Chinese President Xi Jinping was “courageous” in isolating the Russians and Bolivians, who also voted against the measure, the security adviser said on ABC television on Sunday. Bloomberg

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