The last time President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin met, in September, they shared a brief handshake and pleasant smiles. Next year, Putin hopes there might be a few more moments like that.
In a New Year’s Eve greeting to Obama on Tuesday, the Russian president praised cooperation between the two nations in 2013. He said Moscow is “determined to pursue constructive relations” with the United States.
“The events of this year have vividly shown that by acting in the spirit of partnership and respect for each other’s interests, Russia and the U.S. are able to make an actual contribution to efforts aimed at maintaining global stability and resolving the most complex international problems,” Putin wrote, according to The Voice of Russia.
This year has been a rocky one for U.S.-Russian relations, thanks to a myriad of reasons: a ban on Americans adopting Russian children, Edward Snowden, conflict in Syria, critical op-eds, and American concerns with antigay laws in Russia ahead of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
In times of tragedy, however, the two countries have put politics aside. After two suicide bombings killed dozens in Russia this week, the White House offered its “full support” to Moscow in security preparations for the winter games, adding that it “stands in solidarity with the Russian people against terrorism.”
The two countries have closed out the year on shakier terms in the past. On this day in 1961, President Kennedy issued a statement extending his “sincere wishes” to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and the rest of the Soviet Union for a peaceful and prosperous New Year. The year had been a “troubled one” between the two world powers, Kennedy wrote, and he hoped 1962 would bring improved relations. Khrushchev pledged future cooperation too. Their holiday exchange came at the height of the Cold War, when nuclear war was almost a palpable threat.
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A DHS report "found gaping holes in domestic nuclear detection and defense capabilities and massive failures during covert testing." A team put in place to assess our readiness capabilities found significant issues in detecting dangerous radioactive and nuclear materials, failing to do so in 30 percent of covert tests conducted over the course of the year. In far too many cases, the person operating the detection device had no idea how to use it. And when the operator did get a hit, he or she relayed sensitive information over unsecured open radio channels."
Donald Trump is planning to reverse an Obama-era order requiring that schools allow students to use the bathroom that coincides with their gender identity. Trump "has green-lighted the plan for the Justice Department and Education Department to send a “Dear Colleague” letter to schools rescinding the guidance." A case is going before the Supreme Court on March 28 in which Gavin Grimm, a transgender high school student, is suing his high school for forbidding him to use the men's room.
Retired Russian diplomats and members of Vladimir Putin's staff are compiling a dossier "on Donald Trump's psychological makeup" for the Russian leader. "Among its preliminary conclusions is that the new American leader is a risk-taker who can be naïve, according to a senior Kremlin adviser."