Unlike some world leaders, Russia’s Vladimir Putin is a man of relatively few words. Lately, however, he has aimed some explicit warnings at the United States. President Trump, when he has a tweet-free minute, might want to take heed.

While attending an economic summit this week, Putin growled that imposing more sanctions on North Korea, such as the U.S. announced, would not tame that country’s maniacal leader, Kim Jong Un. “Do not succumb to emotions and drive North Korea into a corner,” Putin said, in stark language certainly directed at the unpredictable Trump. “Now, more than ever, everyone needs to be calm and avoid steps that lead to an escalation of tension.”

A day earlier, Putin issued another near-ultimatum to the U.S. against providing defensive weapons to Ukraine. Of course, Putin is responsible for the 2014 seizure and annexation of the Crimea, in eastern Ukraine.

While claiming that no regular Russian troops crossed the border, Putin certainly authorized the use of irregular, pro-Moscow forces to seize the territory. Since then, much of eastern Ukraine has been under Russian control, while diplomats try to unravel the impasse.

It’s worth noting that Putin has a history of making silky threats before taking decisive action. He calmly presided over the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, just before special forces in unmarked uniforms began the Crimea land grab.

It’s worth noting that Putin has a history of making silky threats before taking decisive action. He calmly presided over the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, just before special forces in unmarked uniforms began the Crimea land grab.

American Defense Secretary James Mattis said last month the U.S. is actively reviewing whether to provide weapons to Ukraine. Naturally, Putin will see any armament deliveries to Kiev as a threat, and could use it as an excuse to ratchet up the Russian military posture.

On North Korea, Putin is in a no-lose situation. While no doubt enjoying the spectacle of Trump trying to be tough without starting a nuclear war, Putin also wants to see China’s Xi Jinping wiggle with discomfort. China, North Korea’s main patron, is supposed to be able to influence Kim. Xi was badly embarrassed when North Korea exploded what it claimed was a hydrogen bomb just as the Chinese leader was opening a high-profile conference on expanding world trade.

Trump, occupied as he is with Houston’s hurricane recovery, another impending weather event in Florida, and assorted domestic issues, may not consider the Russian leader’s ominous language worth weighing. He would be wrong.

Putin’s measured tone on both North Korea and Ukraine suggest he’s not looking for a confrontation with Trump. So far, the two countries have confined their conflict to tossing out each other’s diplomats. But unlike Trump, Putin does not shovel word salad. It’s not necessary for the U.S. to obey him, but it should listen carefully to what he is saying before it makes fateful decisions that will affect the world.

John Moody is Executive Vice President, Executive Editor for Fox News. A former Rome bureau chief for Time magazine, he is the author of four books including “Pope John Paul II : Biography.



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