On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin lauded President Donald Trump for his decision to withdraw 2,000 military troops from Syria.

Putin’s remarks came in his regular end-of-year news conference. The Russian leader said he agreed with Trump’s assessment that ISIS has been defeated in Syria, and that it is time for the U.S. to withdraw its forces.

“As for defeating ISIS, I do generally agree with the President of the United States,” said Putin. We have struck major blows and advances. There are now concerns that those terror groups can infiltrate neighboring countries … and pose a risk to Russia, the US, Europe and Central Asia.”

Putin added that he remains somewhat skeptical of whether the U.S. would completely end its operations in Syria.

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“As far as the withdrawal of US troops is concerned, I really don’t understand what it’s about, because the US has been present for some 17 years in Afghanistan,” he said. “They’re (the US) still talking about withdrawing them, but they haven’t done it yet.”

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis announced his resignation Thursday, just one day after Trump announced the decision about Syria. Mattis, who will officially leave the White House in February, said he fundamentally disagreed with the president on many issues.


Several Republican lawmakers like South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham rebuked Trump’s Syria decision, noting that Russia, Iran and Syrian leader Bahsar Al-Assad would likely be content to hear about the exit of American troops from the Middle Eastern country and that this could prove very dangerous.

“They are ECSTATIC!” Graham tweeted Thursday about Russia, Iran and Assad in response to a post from Trump.

Putin’s comments at Thursday’s press conference quickly sparked speculation of a possible upcoming meeting between the Russian leader and Trump. The pair met in Helsinki, Finland in July for a one-on-one summit that drew many calls of treason from the national intelligence community due to Trump’s remarks about Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Shortly after that encounter, reports said Trump and Putin could likely meet again sometime in Washington, D.C. over the coming months.

On Thursday, Putin also reportedly answered questions about the increasing threat of a potential nuclear arms race between the U.S. and Russia.

“The danger of the situation escalating is being downplayed,” Putin said on the subject.

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