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GOP Rep. Who Defended Russia Is Sad Putin Hasn't Thanked Him Yet

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AP Photo / Susan Walsh

“I kind of wish I would get some sort of word back,” he told the New York Times on Thursday. “But I haven’t even gotten so much as a thank you.”

The Cold War veteran, who once had a drunken arm-wrestling match with Putin when he was deputy mayor of St. Petersburg in the 1990s, said Tuesday that Crimeans had every right to "self-determination" and that the U.S. should be happy about the bloodless transfer of power.

"Yet we have to go and condemn the Russians, of course, when no one lost their life in an attempt to make sure the people of Crimea had a right to control their own destiny and their own self-determination," he said.

The White House does not officially recognize the referendum in Ukraine because it took place "under threats of violence and intimidation from a Russian military intervention that violates international law."

But Rohrabacher thinks Russia has changed for the better.

“There have been dramatic reforms in Russia that are not being recognized by my colleagues,” he told the Times. “The churches are full. There are opposition papers being distributed on every newsstand in Russia. You’ve got people demonstrating in the parks. You’ve got a much different Russia than it was under Communism, but you’ve got a lot of people who still can’t get over that Communism has fallen.”

The Republican congressman found some bipartisan backing in Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), who believes the United States should be "pleased" with the situation in Ukraine.