On March 18th, 2018, incumbent Vladimir Putin won his reelection campaign as the President of Russia. He won with 77% of the popular vote, beating out Pavel Grudinin, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Ksenia Sobchak, Grigory Yavlinsky, and Boris Titov. Events, deaths, and arrests leading up to the election have provoked suspicion that this election was not entirely democratic. China was, reportedly, the first country to react to the election news, sending its congratulations to Putin. This message was followed by similar congratulatory phone calls from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Egypt, Cuba, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and—finally—the United States.
News sources report that both President Trump and select aids were “furious” after the leak of sensitive notes for briefing the president before a call with Vladimir Putin. The leak was designed to embarrass Trump for congratulating, rather than confronting, Putin—he went against the note’s recommendation. Public knowledge of this story means that someone leaked the president’s briefing papers, and offense which is, according to a White House official, “likely illegal.”
According to a fact-checking resource, former U.S. President Barack Obama congratulated Putin on his 2012 win. According to an official summary, “President Obama called Russian President-elect and Prime Minister Putin to congratulate hi on his recent victory in the Russian Presidential election.” International observers raised doubts about the legitimacy of Putin’s 2012 win; Obama’s State Department noted concerns about the conditions under which the campaign was conducted. Previously, in 2008, President George W. Bush called Dmitry Medvedev following his successful presidential bid.
Commentators are pushing back on the notion that Trump’s outreach is akin to that of his predecessors, noting Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. The countries are experiencing strained diplomatic relations, and the recent nerve gas attack in the United Kingdom (allegedly by Russian operatives) has put further pressure on the already weakened ties.