Moscow - In biting and sometimes caustic remarks, Russian President Vladimir Putin waded into Russia's diplomatic row with the United States on Tuesday, saying Moscow could further cut US diplomatic staffing in Russia and calling US searches of a Russian consulate and other diplomatic properties "boorish".
"It is hard to conduct a dialogue with people who confuse Austria with Australia, but there is nothing we can do about this. It seems to be the level of political culture in a certain part of the US establishment," Putin said in his first public statements on the deepening diplomatic spat since Washington announced the closure of Russia's consulate in San Francisco, as well as diplomatic properties housing trade missions in New York and Washington.
The comments came during a news conference at the BRICS summit in the Chinese city of Xiamen.
Putin repeated boilerplate about how he and President Donald Trump defended their national interests, but laced his remarks with bitter jokes.
Putin swatted away a question about whether he was "disappointed" with Trump, calling it "naive."
Trump "is not my bride. I am not his bride, nor his groom. We are running our governments," Putin told a reporter at the economic summit, which hosted leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
Trump in particular spoke glowingly of Putin while on the campaign trail, and said he would usher in a period of detente between the two countries. That has largely been derailed by allegations about Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential elections.
The United States said that the closures of Russian diplomatic property would achieve "parity" in the country's respective diplomatic missions, a word borrowed from the Russian side which cut the U.S. diplomatic mission by 755 employees last month.
Yet the series of tit-for-tat expulsions and punishments seems unlikely to end there, and Russia says it is weighing options.
"Strictly speaking, the full parity does not mean 455 US diplomats stationed in Moscow but minus 155 more," Putin said. "So, we reserve the right to make a decision regarding this number of US diplomats in Moscow. We will not be doing it so far."
Putin also blasted calls for Russia to join sanctions against North Korea shortly after slapping Russia itself with broad financial sanctions.
Without directly naming the United States, he said that putting pressure on North Korea would be pointless, saying that North Korea would "eat grass but will not stop this program unless it feels safe."
"The escalation of military hysteria will not do any good. It may lead to a planetary catastrophe and a colossal casualty rate. There is no other way to resolve the North Korean nuclear problem but by peaceful and diplomatic means," Putin said concerning North Korea, which on Sunday tested a hydrogen bomb that the country's leaders say can be mounted on a missile capable of reaching the United States.
Trump has previously said that "all options are on the table" concerning US retaliation should North Korea target the United States or any of its overseas territories, including Guam.
In response to North Korea's test, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned of a "massive military response" if the United States perceives a threat to itself or its allies. The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un appeared to be "begging for war."