MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin on Thursday accused forces in the United States of trying to undermine the success of his first summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, and said the two leaders had managed to begin to improve U.S.-Russia ties anyway.
Putin and Trump sat down for their first summit in Helsinki on Monday, an event that sparked a storm of criticism in the United States after Trump refused to blame the Russian leader for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, comments he later appeared to backtrack on.
Putin, speaking to Russian diplomats from around the world assembled in Moscow, said on Thursday that the summit had been a success overall, but complained about what he described as "powerful" U.S. efforts to sabotage it.
"We see that there are forces in the United States that are prepared to casually sacrifice Russian-U.S. relations, to sacrifice them for their ambitions in the course of an internal political battle in the United States," said Putin.
The Russian leader said those forces appeared ready to sacrifice U.S. jobs and hurt the U.S. economy while waging their political battle.
He said it would have been naive to expect that the summit could have resolved problems that had built up over many years in the space of a few hours, but that a start had been made.
"... The path to positive changes has all the same begun," said Putin. "It's important that a full-scale meeting has finally taken place allowing us to talk directly."
Putin warned however of the dangers of Moscow and Washington failing to continue to mend ties, saying the New START strategic arms reduction treaty would expire in a year and a half unless work on extending it started now.
(Reporting by Olesya Astakhova; Writing by Tom Balmforth/Andrew Osborn; Editing by Peter Graff)