'Mr. President, are you a murderer?': Putin gave a long interview to an American television company
Vladimir Putin answered questions from NBC TV journalist Kir Simmons. The interview took place on June 11 in the Kremlin. Here is the translation of the interview - as it was published on the site The Kremlin.
K. Simmons (as translated): Mr. President, you have not given interviews to American journalists for a long time. It seems to me that three years have passed. Thanks for taking the time. There are tons of topics for discussion. I am sure that we will have time to discuss a lot.
I'll start with this. Today news came from the United States, it says that over the next few months Russia is preparing new hacks of military facilities for the Iranian nuclear program. It's true?
Vladimir Putin: Please repeat the question again: we are preparing hacking of what objects?
K. Simmons: A report came out today, and there were reports that Russia was preparing to transfer satellite technology to Iran that would allow Iran to track and strike military targets.
Vladimir Putin: No, we do not have such programs with Iran, this is just another nonsense. We have plans for cooperation with Iran, including in the field of military-technical cooperation, all this is within the framework of the decisions that were agreed in our program, on the Iranian nuclear program within the framework of the UN decisions, together with our partners in the preparation of the JCPOA, where at a certain stage there are sanctions from Iran should be removed, including in the field of military-technical cooperation. We have certain programs, but these are all conventional weapons, if it comes to that, but so far we have not even moved on to this, while we have no real cooperation in the field of conventional weapons, so someone is coming up with something about modern space technology is just fantastic, just another stuffing, fake. I don't know anything about this, at least. Those who talk about this know better than I, I guess. Well, nonsense.
K. Simmons: That is, you agree that transferring such satellite technologies to Iran would endanger the American military, if Iran received such technologies from Russia, because they could transfer such information to the Houthis in Yemen, could transfer information to Hezbollah. And the transfer of such technologies to Iran would be a dangerous development of events.
Vladimir Putin: Listen to us discussing problems that don't exist? There is no subject for discussion. Someone is inventing something, I don’t know, maybe it’s a stuffing-in connected with the general limitation of any military-technical cooperation with Iran. I will repeat again: this is just a fake stuffing, about which I do not know anything at all, I hear it from you for the first time. We have no such intentions. I don't know if Iran is technologically ready to accept even such cooperation. This is a separate topic, very high-tech.
Yes, indeed, we do not exclude the possibility of our cooperation with many countries of the world in space. But probably everyone is well aware of our position that we are categorically against the militarization of outer space in general. We believe that outer space should be free of any types of weapons deployed in near-Earth space, and so on. Therefore, we do not have such plans, especially for technology transfer of the level that you just mentioned.
K. Simmons: All right.
The next question is about the summit with President Biden. Before that, he meets with the leaders of the GXNUMX, with NATO partners, with the leaders of European states. This is his first trip, his first visit to Europe. This is presented as an attempt to rally the ranks of the world's democracies. Now he is going to meet with the President, who is being portrayed as a dictator, an autocrat.
Vladimir Putin: I do not know, someone is serving under such a sauce, someone looks at the development of the situation and at your humble servant in a different way. All of this is presented to the public as is deemed appropriate for the ruling classes in one country or another.
It is not unusual for President Biden to meet with his allies. What is unusual here - the meeting of the "seven"? We know what the GXNUMX is, I have been there many times, I know the values of this site. But when people get together and discuss something, it is always good, better than not getting together and not discussing. Because within the GXNUMX there are also issues that require constant attention and consideration, because there are contradictions, no matter how strange it may seem, there are different assessments of certain events in the international arena and between them. Well, well, let them meet and discuss.
As for NATO, I have said many times: this is a vestige of the Cold War. NATO was born during the Cold War era, but why it exists today is not very clear. There was a moment when they said that it was being transformed, this organization, now somehow they have somehow forgotten about it. We proceed from the premise that this is a military organization, but these are allies of the United States, well, perhaps from time to time it is necessary to meet with allies. Although I can also imagine how the discussion is going there. It is clear that everything is decided by consensus, but still there is one correct opinion, and all the others are not very good - so, carefully, let's say. Therefore - well what? Allies meet, and what's so unusual about it? I don't see anything unusual here.
Moreover, this is a tribute to their allies before the meeting of the presidents of the United States and Russia. Probably, this is presented as a desire to find out their opinion on key issues of the modern agenda, including on the issues that we will discuss with President Biden. But still, I am inclined to think that, despite all these polities, the United States will promote in relations with Russia what it considers necessary and important for itself and, above all, for itself, for its economic, political and military interests.
Hearing what the allies think about this is probably never harmful, so nothing, work process.
K. Simmons: Then a few more questions about the summit. As you know, President Biden requested this meeting, he did not put forward any preconditions. Didn't that surprise you?
Vladimir Putin: Not. Our bilateral relations have degraded to the lowest level in recent years, but still there are issues that require a synchronization of clocks, the determination of some mutual positions, so that issues of mutual interest are resolved more effectively in the interests of both the United States and and Russia. Therefore, there is nothing unusual here. In fact, despite such seemingly harsh rhetoric, we expected such proposals, because the domestic political agenda in the States did not give us the opportunity to restore relations at some acceptable level. It had to take place sooner or later.
Well, President Biden took this initiative. Before that, as you know, he supported the extension of the START Treaty, which could not fail to meet with support from our side, because we believe that this treaty in the area of deterring strategic offensive arms has been sufficiently developed and meets our interests - both Russian and American. ... Therefore, such an offer was quite expected.
K. Simmons: Here you go to the summit. Do you plan to carry out additional stages of negotiations on arms control immediately after that, because Biden extended START by five years, and it is believed that this is the beginning of the dialogue, not its end?
Vladimir Putin: We know what issues, what problems the Americans want to discuss with us. We understand these issues and problems, we are ready for this joint work. We have certain, if not disagreements, then a different understanding of the pace and in which directions we should move. We know what is the priority for the American side. In general, this is a process that needs to be moved at a professional level: through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the State Department, respectively, the Pentagon and the Ministry of Defense of Russia. We are ready for this work.
We have heard signals that the American side would like to resume these negotiations at a professional, expert level. We'll see. If, after the summit meeting, conditions are created for this, please, we do not refuse, we are ready for this work.
K. Simmons: President Biden is interested in stability and predictability. And you?
Vladimir Putin: This is the most important value, one might say, in international affairs. If we could ...
K. Simmons: Sorry to interrupt, but he said that it is you who fix the instability and that you are the source of unpredictability.
Vladimir Putin: He says one thing, I say another. Maybe sometime in some way our rhetoric diverges, but if you are now asking my point of view, then I tell you what it is: the most important value in international relations is stability and predictability. From the outside, as I believe, our American partners have not seen this in previous years. What kind of stability and predictability, if we remember the events in Libya in 2011, when the country was destroyed? Well, what kind of stability and predictability is there?
All the time it was said that the troops would remain in Afghanistan. Then once, suddenly - a boom, the troops are withdrawn from Afghanistan. What is this stability, predictability?
Are events in the Middle East stable and predictable? Where will this all lead? Or Syria? What is stable and predictable here?
I asked my American colleagues: do you want Assad to leave, and who will take his place, what will happen next? The answer is strange: I don't know. Well, if you don't know what will happen next, why change what is? After all, it could be a second Libya or a second Afghanistan. Is this what we want? Not. Let's sit down together, talk, look for solutions, look for compromises that are acceptable to all parties - this is how stability is achieved. It cannot be achieved by imposing one point of view, the “correct” point of view, all the rest are “wrong”. Similarly, stability is not achieved.
K. Simmons: Let's move on to another topic. I wanted to talk about your relationship with President Biden. This is no longer a summit in Helsinki, Biden is not Trump. You once said that Trump is an outstanding and talented person. How would you describe President Biden?
Vladimir Putin: I still believe that the former President of the United States, Mr. Trump, is an outstanding and talented person, otherwise he would not have become the President of the United States. He is a bright person, someone may like him or not. This, of course, is not a product of the American establishment, it has never been in such big politics before. Naturally, I like it, I do not like it, but it is so.
President Biden, of course, is fundamentally different from Trump, because he is a professional, he has spent almost his entire life conscientiously in politics. He has been doing this for many, many years, I have already spoken about this, and this is an obvious fact: how many years he was a senator, how many years he was engaged in issues of, say, disarmament, international politics, actually at the expert level. This is a different person. I very much hope - there are pluses and minuses - that there will be no such impulsive movements on the part of the incumbent President, that we will observe certain rules of communication, we will be able to agree on something, and find some common ground. That, as a matter of fact, is probably all. And what will actually happen, it will need to be looked at on the basis of real, practical policy and its results.
K. Simmons: President Biden said that you met once, that you saw each other face to face, and he told you, he says so: I look into your eyes and do not see any soul. And you said: we understand each other. Do you remember this conversation?
Vladimir Putin: I don’t know about the soul, we still have to think about what a soul is. But I don’t remember this part of our conversations, to be honest, I don’t remember. But we all, when we meet, talk, work, achieve some decisions, we act in the interests of our states, our peoples. And this is the basis of all our actions, thoughts, and this is an incentive for organizing meetings of this kind.
As for the soul, go to church, please.
K. Simmons: Yes, you are often described as a religious person, and he said that he said to his face: you are a soulless person.
Vladimir Putin: I don’t remember that. "Something has become of my memory."
K. Simmons: He says it was 10 years ago when he was vice president.
Vladimir Putin: He has a good memory, I guess. I don’t exclude it, but I don’t remember that. In general, in personal meetings, people try to behave somehow correctly. I do not remember the incorrect elements of behavior on the part of my colleagues, until now nothing like this has happened. Well, maybe he said something, but I don't remember.
K. Simmons: Do you think it is inappropriate to say such things?
Vladimir Putin: It depends in what context, in what form. You see, you can say it all in different ways, it can be presented in different ways. But in general, people meet in order to improve relationships and create conditions for joint work, to achieve some positive results. And if you need to sort things out with each other and doggie, as they say in Russia, swear, why then meet, waste time? Better to deal with issues of budgetary and social policy within the country. We have many questions that we must address. What's the point? Just a waste of time, that's all.
You can, of course, serve it up for domestic political consumption, which, in my opinion, has been done in the United States in recent years - Russian-American relations have been sacrificed all the time to an acute internal political struggle in the United States itself.
We see this, we know well, we were not accused of anything: interference in elections, cyberattacks, and so on. Moreover, they never bothered to present any evidence, just unfounded accusations. I’m surprised why we haven’t been accused of provoking the Black Lives Matter movement until now - it would also be a good line of attack. But we didn't do it.
K. Simmons: What do you think of the Black Lives Matter movement?
Vladimir Putin: I think that, of course, this movement was used domestically by one of the political forces in the course of the election campaign, but there are certain grounds for this. Let's remember Colin Powell, who was both the Secretary of State and the Pentagon, he wrote in his book that even he, a high-ranking official, all his life felt some kind of injustice towards himself as a person with a dark complexion.
And also since Soviet times, and we are in Russia, we have always treated with understanding the struggle of African Americans for their rights, and this has certain roots and grounds. But at the same time, no matter what noble goals someone is guided by, if it goes to some extremes, acquires some elements of extremism, we, of course, cannot welcome this. And here we have a very simple attitude to this: we support the struggle of African Americans for their rights, but we are against any kinds of extremism, which we sometimes, unfortunately, also observe now.
K. Simmons: You mentioned cyberattacks and deny Russia's involvement in these attacks. But, Mr. President, now there is a huge amount of evidence, and certain cyberattacks, which, apparently, were sponsored by the state. I'll give you five.
The U.S. intelligence community said Russia interfered in elections in 2016, and those in charge of the elections said that in 2020 Russia interfered in elections. Those in charge of cybersecurity say hackers have interfered with the use and development of a coronavirus vaccine.
SolarWinds was also the worst cyberattack, the worst cyberattack, there were nine U.S. agencies affected. And shortly before the summit, Microsoft announced that there was another attack and that the targets were the organizations that criticized you, Mr. President.
Mr. President, are you waging a cyber war against America? Is it so?
Vladimir Putin: Dear Cyrus, you said that there is a whole set of evidence of cyberattacks by Russia, and then you listed those official American departments that announced this, right?
K. Simmons: I am simply giving you information about who said this so that you can answer.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, you are giving me information about who said. But where is the evidence that this was actually done? I'll tell you: both this, and that, and he said, and this one said - but where is the evidence? To such unsubstantiated accusations, I can answer you: you can complain to the International League of Sexual Reforms. Will this suit you?
But this is just a conversation about nothing. Well, at least put something on the table so that we can look at it and somehow react to it. But there is none of this.
As far as I know, one of the most recent attacks was on the US pipeline system.
K. Simmons: Yes.
Vladimir Putin: As far as I know, the shareholders of this company even decided to pay the ransom. They bought off the cyber bandits. But if you listed a whole set of respected US special services, they are powerful, global, can they find those who get paid the ransom in the end or not? I hope they will be convinced that Russia has nothing to do with this.
Now some kind of cyberattack on some kind of meat-packing plant. Then they'll say the painted eggs have been attacked, do you understand? It just turns into some kind of farce, an endless farce. You said there were many, many proofs, but you didn’t bring a single one again. This is a conversation in the void, in favor of the poor at all. What we are talking about?
K. Simmons: You got down to the issue of this ransom and criminals. Russian-speaking criminals are always said to threaten the American way of life, hospitals, water systems, food. Why do you think these criminals are destroying Russian diplomacy? Do you want to understand who is behind this, so that they do not spoil the image of Russia?
Vladimir Putin: You know, the simplest thing would be for us to sit down calmly and agree on joint work in cyberspace. We also proposed this to the Obama Administration ...
K. Simmons: In September.
Vladimir Putin: ... sometime in October. Started in September, proposed in the last year of his presidency. At first they were silent, and somewhere in November they answered that yes, it is interesting. Then the elections were lost. We have repeated this offer already to the Trump Administration. We were told that it was interesting, but it did not come to real negotiations.
There is reason to believe that we can build work in this area with the new Administration. I hope that the internal political alignments in the United States itself will not prevent this from happening.
But we offered this work: let's see together what we can get out of, agree on the principles of joint work, agree on how we will build opposition to this process, which is gaining momentum. Here, in the Russian Federation itself, the number of cybercrimes has grown significantly in recent years, within the country. We are trying to react accordingly, looking for these cybercriminals, if we find them, we punish them. We are also ready to work with participants in international communication, including the States, but they refuse. You refuse to work together. What can we do? We cannot build this work unilaterally.
K. Simmons: I am not the Government, Mr. President, I am just a journalist, and I ask, I ask several questions. But if you would like to conduct such negotiations, you probably need to request an armistice, because now there is a war. When there is a war, what kind of negotiations can there be?
Vladimir Putin: You know, as far as war is concerned, let's say NATO officially, I want to draw your attention to this, officially announced that it considers cyberspace a sphere of warfare and conducts military exercises in cyberspace. We never talk about it.
K. Simmons: And you are a participant in these hostilities.
Vladimir Putin: No.
K. Simmons: Russia is waging a war on this field. Is that so?
Vladimir Putin: No not like this. This is not true.
K. Simmons: Really?
Vladimir Putin: If we wanted to do this ... NATO said that it considers cyberspace a sphere of warfare, and is preparing, and even conducting exercises. Well, what is stopping us, we would also say: you are so, and we will do so. But we don't want that. Just as we do not want the militarization of outer space, we do not want the militarization of cyberspace. And they have suggested many times to agree on joint work in the field of security in this area, but your government refuses.
K. Simmons: I saw your proposals from September, they were made in September. That is, you are proposing that if you can come to an agreement, to an agreement on hacker attacks and interference in elections, then you will withdraw all these actions, in fact, if America does not comment on and interfere with your political actions and political opponents?
Vladimir Putin: We count on the fact that no one should interfere in the internal political processes in another country: neither America in ours, nor we in America, nor in any others. It is necessary to give an opportunity to the peoples of all countries of the world to develop in peace. Even if there are crisis situations, they must be resolved by the people inside the country, without outside interference.
But it seems to me that this appeal to the American Administration, including the current Administration, is worth little. Because it seems to me that the US government will still interfere in the internal political processes in other countries, this process can hardly be stopped, it has gained a lot of momentum. But it is definitely possible to agree on joint work in cyberspace, on the prevention of unacceptable actions by cybercriminals. We very much hope that we will be able to establish this process together with our American partners.
K. Simmons: If you were in America, what would you be afraid of next - that the lights are turned off? Are these, for example, any actions that took place in Ukraine in 2015?
Vladimir Putin: I didn't understand: if I were in America, what would I be afraid of? If I was American or what?
K. Simmons: What are the Americans to fear and fear? What can happen if there is no agreement to counter cyber banditry?
Vladimir Putin: Just like the militarization of outer space, this is a very dangerous area. After all, once, in order to achieve in the nuclear sphere, in the sphere of confrontation in the field of nuclear weapons, the Soviet Union and the United States agreed to curb this arms race. But cyberspace is a very sensitive area. Today, many types of human activities and the implementation of state functions are tied to digital technologies. Of course, interference in these processes can cause serious damage, serious damage, everyone understands this. I repeat for the third time: let's sit down and agree on joint work to ensure security in this area, that's all. What's wrong with that?
I am not asking you, I do not want to put you in a difficult position, but for me, as an ordinary citizen, it would be incomprehensible why your Government refuses this? Accusations continue to pour down to the point of interfering in a cyberattack on a meat processing plant of some kind, and our proposals to start negotiations on this topic are rejected. Nonsense! But this is exactly what is happening.
I repeat once again: I hope that we will be able to reach positive work in this area as well.
What is there to be afraid of? Why do we propose to negotiate? Because what can be feared in America can be dangerous for us too. The United States is a high-tech country. If NATO has announced that cyberspace is a sphere of military operations, it means that they are planning something there, preparing something there. Of course, this cannot but cause our concern.
K. Simmons: Are you afraid that American intelligence has penetrated deep into the Russian system and could harm you in the cyber realm?
Vladimir Putin: I'm not afraid, but I mean it is possible.
K. Simmons: Let me ask a question about human rights. This is a question that President Biden will raise. He will talk about Alexei Navalny, about various murders, about who is in prison now. Why are you so afraid of the opposition, Mr. President?
Vladimir Putin: Who told you that the opposition scares us or the opposition scares me? Who told you that? You know, it's even funny.
K. Simmons: Sorry, the Russian court has now outlawed the organization that is associated with Mr. Navalny. And the entire non-systemic opposition is now facing criminal charges, also journalists, many are given the status of foreign agents, and this causes, in fact, a serious disruption in their activities. That is, dissent in Russia is no longer tolerated.
Vladimir Putin: It is you who present this as dissent and intolerance of dissent in Russia. We look at it in a completely different way. And you mentioned the law on foreign agents. But this is not our invention, it was in the 30s that the law on foreign agents was adopted in the United States, and it is much more stringent than ours, and is aimed, among other things, at preventing interference in the domestic political life of the United States. And in general, in general, I believe that it is justified.
K. Simmons: But, Mr. President, it's just that in America we call what you are doing now, “but you yourself, look at yourself” - that's what they say in America. I will ask a direct question, a frank one.
Vladimir Putin: Let me answer, you asked me a question. You do not like my answer, and you interrupt me immediately. It is not correct.
So in America this law was adopted long ago, it works, and the sanctions are much tougher than ours, up to imprisonment and so on.
K. Simmons: You are talking about the United States again.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, I’ll tell you now, I’ll come back to us now, don’t worry, I will not stay only on the platform of the problems of the United States. I'll be back now to comment on what is happening here.
K. Simmons: I thought that you think that countries should not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries and should not comment on politics, but you are doing this again now.
Vladimir Putin: Not. If you have patience and let me say to the end what I want to say, everything will become clear to you. But you don't like my answer, you don't want your audience to hear my answer, that's the problem. You shut me up. Is this freedom of expression? Or is it freedom of expression in the American way?
K. Simmons: Answer please.
Vladimir Putin: Well, a law was passed in the United States. We adopted it quite recently in order to protect our society from outside interference. If in some states foreign observers approach the polling station, the prosecutor says: just a few more meters closer and I will put you in jail. This is normal? Is this democracy in the modern world? And in some states it is practice. We have nothing of the kind.
When I talk about these laws, about non-interference or attempts to interfere, what do I mean in relation to Russia? Many structures of the so-called civil society ... Why do I say "so-called"? They are financed from abroad, appropriate action programs are being prepared, activists are being trained abroad, and when our official structures see this, in order to prevent such interference in our internal affairs, we make appropriate decisions and laws, and they are softer than yours.
We have such a proverb: there is nothing to blame on the mirror if the face is crooked. This has nothing to do with you personally, but if someone accuses us of something, you look at yourself, you will see yourself in the mirror, and not us. There is nothing unusual here.
As for political activity and the political system, it is developing. We have 34 registered parties, and I think 32 will now take part in various electoral processes throughout the country in September.
K. Simmons: But this is a registered opposition.
Vladimir Putin: There is a non-systemic opposition. You said that someone is detained, someone is in places of imprisonment - yes, that also happens. You mentioned some of the names.
K. Simmons: Yes, I'm talking about them.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, yes, I'll tell you now. Now I will say, I will not miss a single question of yours, do not worry.
K. Simmons: Alexey Navalny is his name.
Vladimir Putin: It does not matter.
K. Simmons: Let me ask a direct question: did you order him to be killed or not?
Vladimir Putin: Of course not. We do not have such a habit of killing someone, this is the first thing.
Second, I want to ask you: did you order the murder of the woman who entered Congress and was shot by the policeman? Did you know that you have 450 people arrested after entering Congress? And they did not come to steal a computer there, they came with political demands. 450 people were arrested, they face jail time from 15 to 25 years, and they came with political demands. Isn't this a persecution for political views? Some are accused of conspiracy to seize power. Some are generally accused of robbery. They didn't come to rob.
The people you mentioned - yes, they were convicted of violating the regime of people who were conditionally convicted. Twice the person was sentenced conditionally. In fact, this was simply a warning so as not to violate the legislation in force in Russia. No, complete disregard for the requirements of the law. In the end, the court made an appropriate decision, changing the measure of restraint to detention. There are, I can tell you, there are thousands of them a year in Russia who violate the conditional detention regime, are not registered, ignore the requirements of the law. Thousands! And they have nothing to do with political activity. And if someone is hiding behind political activities in order to solve their own affairs, including commercial ones, then it is necessary to answer accordingly for this.
K. Simmons: Look, you say so again: how is it in America? and in America how? I will ask this question. You spoke about the American Congress. Again, a direct question: accusations are heard, they are repeatedly heard in the United States, the late John McCain called you a murderer right in Congress, and Biden did not deny this either, and even Trump did not deny it. And when Biden was asked directly, he also answered. So, Mr. President, are you a murderer?
Vladimir Putin: Listen to me, during my work I have become accustomed to attacks from different directions on very many occasions, of different quality and severity. It doesn't surprise me. We are with the people with whom we work, we argue in the international arena - we are not a bride and groom, we do not swear to each other in eternal love and friendship. We are partners and in some ways we compete with each other.
As far as harsh rhetoric is concerned, it seems to me that this is generally a manifestation of partly a common American culture. Of course, let's say, in Hollywood there are - we remembered Hollywood at the beginning of our conversation - deep things that can certainly be attributed to works of art in the field of cinematography. But more often than not it is such macho. It seems to be considered normal in American, including political, culture. By the way, we don't. But if this rhetoric is followed by a proposal to meet and discuss bilateral issues and issues of international politics, I perceive this as a desire to work together. If this desire is serious, we are ready to support it.
K. Simmons: But you, in my opinion, did not answer the question directly.
Vladimir Putin: Answered. I'll add it now, if you will.
I have heard dozens of such accusations, especially during the period of our difficult events during our fight against terrorism in the North Caucasus. At the same time, I am always guided by the interests of the Russian state and the Russian people, and these maxims about who, how, what and whom they call do not bother me at all.
K. Simmons: Here is a list of names: Anna Politkovskaya was shot, Litvinenko was poisoned with polonium, Sergei Magnitsky, presumably beaten, died in prison, Boris Nemtsov was shot to death a few meters from the Kremlin, Mikhail Lesin died of physical injuries in Washington. These are all your sacrifices.
Vladimir Putin: You know what, I don't want to sound rude, but it looks like some kind of indigestion, only verbal.
You have listed many people who really suffered and died at different times for different reasons at the hands of different people.
You mentioned Lesin. He worked for me in the Administration, I treated him very well. He died in the USA, died or died - I don't know, but we must ask you how he died there. For example, I am still sorry that he passed away. In my opinion, he is a very decent, decent person.
As for the others, we have found someone, someone is not - of those criminals who have committed these or other crimes, someone is in prison. We are ready to continue to work in the same vein and in the same regime, identifying everyone who goes against the law and by their actions causes damage, including the image of the Russian Federation. But to dump everything like this is simply pointless, incorrect and has no basis whatsoever. If you think of this as a line of attack, please let me hear it again. I repeat, I have heard this many times, but it does not confuse me at all. I know in which direction we need to move to ensure the interests of the Russian state.
K. Simmons: Okay, I'll change the subject.
Ukraine and Belarus - these two countries will clearly rise at the meeting with President Biden. Did you know in advance that there would be coercion to land an airliner, that two people would be arrested, disembarked and arrested?
Vladimir Putin: I didn't know about it. I did not know about any liner and about the people who were arrested there, I also did not hear anything. I learned about it from the media. I didn't know about any detainees, I have no idea. This is of no interest to us.
K. Simmons: You seem to agree, approve of such an act. After all, you met immediately after that with Lukashenka.
Vladimir Putin: I’m not really approving or condemning. It happened. I told recently in one of my conversations with a European colleague that the version of Mr. Lukashenko, which he told me about, is that they themselves received information that there was an explosive device on board. They informed the pilot, did not force him to land, and the pilot decided to land in Minsk. That's all.
K. Simmons: And do you believe it's true?
Vladimir Putin: Why shouldn't I believe him? You ask the pilot. The simplest thing is to ask the commander of the ship: were you forced to land or not? Ask him. Did you ask him? Something I have never heard an interview with this ship commander, who boarded in Minsk. Why not ask him: were you forced to sit down? Why don't you ask him? This is even strange. Everyone blames Lukashenka, but they don't ask the pilot.
You know, I cannot but recall another case of this kind, when the plane of the President of Bolivia was landed in Vienna by order of the American Administration. Board No. 1 of the President, like that, they were forced to sit down. The President was taken out of the plane, the plane was searched, and you don't even remember about it. Do you think this is normal? It was good there, but did Lukashenka act badly? Listen, let's somehow speak the same language and operate with some identical concepts. Here is “Lukashenka is a bandit”. Is it good there? Then, in Bolivia, they perceived this as a nationwide humiliation, but everyone kept silent so as not to aggravate relations. Nobody remembers, and this, by the way, is not the only case. Not the only one. So why is Lukashenka? If this is him, then you have shown him an example.
K. Simmons: You talked about this, but this is a completely different example. Mr. President, we are now talking about a commercial flight. Look, people should have the right to buy a plane ticket and fly in peacefully, not fearing that they will be hit by a fighter jet, that they will not be forced to land, that they will not board and arrest journalists.
Vladimir Putin: Listen to me, I am telling you once again what President Lukashenko told me. I have no reason not to believe him. After all, ask the pilot, for the third time I tell you. Why don't you ask? Was he forced, he was frightened? The fact that there was information that there was an explosive device on board, that people, passengers, citizens who had nothing to do with politics or any internal conflicts, something else, could somehow perceive it negatively , could be worried about this - of course, this is bad. What's good about it? We, of course, condemn everything connected with this case: with international terrorism, with the use of aircraft and so on. Of course we are against it.
You told me that the landing of the plane with the President of Bolivia is a different case. Another, yes, only he is just ten times worse than what was done, if something was done, in Belarus. And you don’t want to just admit it, turn a deaf ear and want millions of people around the world not to notice or forget it the next day. Will not work.
K. Simmons: Okay, Ukraine is your neighbor. Earlier, at the beginning of this year, the EU stated that there was a large concentration of armed forces, Russian troops on the border with Ukraine. What was the reason? Why was it done?
Vladimir Putin: Listen, firstly, Ukraine itself constantly dragged, yes, in my opinion, and now it is still continuing - both personnel and military equipment to the conflict area in southeastern Ukraine, to the Donbass - first.
Second, we conducted planned exercises on our territory and not only in the south of the Russian Federation, but also in the Far East, and in the north, in the Arctic, conducted exercises. At the same time, exercises were conducted in several regions of the Russian Federation. At the same time, the United States was conducting exercises in Alaska, just for a minute. Do you know anything about this? Not? Probably not. And I'll tell you, I know. This is also in the immediate vicinity of our borders, but this is on your territory. We didn’t even pay attention to it.
And here's what is happening now: the Defender Europe exercises are now taking place on our southern borders. 40 thousand personnel, 15 thousand units of military equipment, some of them have been deployed from the American continent directly to our borders. Have we transferred our equipment to the American borders? Not. What are you worried about?
K. Simmons: Very often these teachings that we conduct are in response to your actions and to your teachings. Your confrontation with NATO has in many ways aggravated the situation, and NATO plays a kind of defense.
Vladimir Putin: Wow defense! During the Soviet era, Gorbachev was still, thank God, he is alive and well, ask him orally, but still it was promised that there would be no eastward expansion of NATO. Well, where are these promises? Two waves of expansion ...
K. Simmons: Where is it written, where was this promise secured?
Vladimir Putin: You are well done! That's right, they deceived the fool with four fists - that's what the people say here. Everything must be fixed on paper.
But why was it necessary to expand NATO eastward, bringing the infrastructure closer to our borders? And you say that it is we who are behaving aggressively. Why on earth? What, even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia posed some kind of threat to the United States and other European countries? We have voluntarily withdrawn all our troops from Eastern Europe straight into an open field. People suffered with us, for decades military families lived there, without normal living conditions, including for their children. We went to huge costs. And what did you get in return? The infrastructure is here on our borders. And you say that we are threatening someone? Yes, we conduct exercises on a regular basis, including conducting exercises that were unexpected for our Armed Forces. Why should this be of any concern to NATO partners? I just do not understand.
K. Simmons: But now would you undertake a commitment not to send Russian military personnel to the sovereign territory of Ukraine, a separate state?
Vladimir Putin: Listen to me, did we say that we are going to send some of our armed formations somewhere? Here you say: and now you could? We conducted exercises on our territory. How is it not clear? I say it again and I want your viewers, your listeners to hear on TV screens and on the Internet: we conducted exercises on our territory.
Imagine that we would send our troops in close proximity to your borders, how would you react? We did not do this, we are on our territory. Here you were in Alaska - well, God bless you! But you came across the ocean to our borders, brought thousands of soldiers and thousands of pieces of equipment. And you think that we are behaving aggressively, but you are not. Hello, we've arrived.
K. Simmons: Okay. Next topic.
Biden administration officials have said that Paul Whelan and Trevor Reid will be traded at this summit. These are the former US Marines. Trevor Reid contracted coronavirus in prison. Do you think this gesture of goodwill would be a good gesture?
Vladimir Putin: I know that we have some American citizens who are in prison, convicted. But if we take the number of citizens of the Russian Federation who are in the prisons of the United States of America, then this is an incomparable number. In recent years, the United States has adopted the practice in third countries of catching Russian citizens, dragging them in violation of all norms of international law to itself and imprisoning them.
Now, wait a second.
K. Simmons: It's just that time is running out. But if we are given more time, we will be happy to talk.
Vladimir Putin: Okay. This is where I set the time, so don't worry.
Your Marine guy is just a drunkard and a bully. He got drunk, as we say, got drunk on vodka and started a scuffle, including hitting a policeman. There is nothing special there, everyday life in fact.
As for possible negotiations on this score - please, you can talk. Naturally, we will raise the question of our citizens who are in jail in the United States. This is the subject of conversation. You are welcome. But, it is true, the American Administration didn’t seem to put the question like that, but we are ready for that too, to talk about this topic.
Our pilot Yaroshenko has been with you for many, 15 or almost 20 years already. There, too, it seems like purely criminal cases. Need to talk. But we are not talking about this topic. Maybe there will be an opportunity. If the American side is ready to discuss this topic, we are ready, please.
K. Simmons: You know, it hurts his family to hear such words that, they say, a bully. Are you considering the possibility of a "prisoner exchange"?
Vladimir Putin: What is offensive here? He got drunk on vodka, started a fight, got into a fight with the police. What is offensive here? Well, it happens so in life, there is nothing so terrible here. Well, it happens to our peasants: vodka will wave to itself and into a fight. What is it? Well, he broke the law, they put him in prison. And you would have, if he had a fight with the police, he would have just been shot on the spot, that's the end of it, right?
K. Simmons: As for the prisoner exchange, could you consider this possibility and discuss it during your meeting with President Biden?
Vladimir Putin: Sure. It would be even better to discuss the possibility of concluding an agreement on the extradition of persons who are in prison. This is a common world practice; we have such agreements with some countries. We are ready to discuss this with the United States.
K. Simmons: I just want to understand which Russian citizens who are in the United States, whom do you want to return back to Russia, which of them? By name.
Vladimir Putin: We have a whole list there. So I just said, the pilot we have there, Yaroshenko, who was taken from a third country to the United States, was given a rather long time there. He has big health problems, but somehow the administration of places of deprivation of liberty does not pay attention to it. You paid attention to the coronavirus of your citizen, but the illness of our citizen - no one remembers this.
We are ready to discuss these issues. Even more than that, I think it is advisable. There are questions, as you rightly said, I completely agree with you, of a humanitarian nature. Why not discuss it? Concerns the health and life of a particular person, their families. Sure.
K. Simmons: Before I move on to the next topic ... Again, as for Alexei Navalny: can you promise that Alexei Navalny will leave prison safe and sound?
Vladimir Putin: Listen, in our country it is not the President who makes such decisions; such decisions are made by the court - to release, not to release. As far as health is concerned, the administration of one or another institution of the respective institution is responsible for all people who are in places of deprivation of liberty. There are far, probably, not in the best condition medical institutions located in prisons, in institutions of this kind. They are watching this. I hope it is due.
To be honest, I have not been to places of this kind for a long time, once I was in St. Petersburg, I was deeply impressed by the medical services of places of deprivation of liberty. But during this time, I hope, something has been done to improve the situation. I proceed from the fact that the same methods will be applied to the person you mentioned, no worse, this can be said for sure, than to all other persons in prison.
K. Simmons: His name is Alexey Navalny. Aren't you ready to say that he will get out of jail?
Vladimir Putin: Listen to me carefully. He can be called whatever you like, he is one of the people in prison. For me, he is one of the citizens of the Russian Federation who has been convicted by a Russian court and is in places of imprisonment, there are many of them. By the way, our so-called prison population - people who are in prison - has almost halved in recent years. This is a great, I believe, victory on our part and a serious sign of the humanization of our legal system. Therefore, no worse than others. We shouldn't do any kind of exclusiveness to anyone, and it would be wrong, everyone should be in an equal position, this is called the “most favored nation principle”, no worse than anyone else. And this also applies to the person you mentioned.
K. Simmons: Thank you for your time, Mr. President, we were in quarantine for two weeks, this is a very important interview for us.
I would like to ask a question about China. China is now working on a fourth aircraft carrier, they have two, Russia has one, and it is not on duty right now. China refuses to participate in negotiations, last year it refused to negotiate on arms control. You are complaining about NATO in the West. Why are you not complaining about the militarization of China in the East?
Vladimir Putin: The first thing I want to say is that over the past years, over the past decades, we have developed a strategic partnership with China, which we have not previously achieved in the history of our states. A high level of trust and cooperation, and in all areas: in politics, in the economy, in the field of technology, in military-technical cooperation. We do not believe that China is a threat to us. It is a friendly country. She does not declare us an enemy, as they did in the United States. Don't you know anything about this? This is the first thing.
Second: China is a huge, powerful country, one and a half billion people. In terms of purchasing power parity, the Chinese economy has become larger than the US economy, and in terms of trade turnover over the previous year, China came out on top with Europe, while the United States moved up to second. Do you know this?
China is developing. I understand that such a confrontation is starting with China. We see it all. Everyone understands this. What is there to hide and be afraid of these questions? But this does not bother us, also because we believe that our defense sufficiency, as we are talking about it, is at a very high level, and this is also why. But the most important thing is the nature and level of relations with China.
You said China will have four aircraft carriers. How many aircraft carriers does the United States have?
K. Simmons: A lot more.
Vladimir Putin: That's what I'm talking about. Why should we be afraid of China with aircraft carriers? Among other things, we have a huge border with China, but it is overland. Do you think that they will send their aircraft carriers through our territory, or what? Well this is just about nothing to us. And the fact that there will be four of them is right.
K. Simmons: You also have a coast there.
Vladimir Putin: What is the coast? The coast may be huge, but the main border with China is overland. The fact that four aircraft carriers are correct, because one should be on service, one on alert, one should be undergoing repairs, and so on. There is nothing superfluous for China.
And what you said: China refuses to negotiate - it refuses to negotiate on the reduction of nuclear offensive arms. But it is you, first of all, ask the Chinese whether this is good or bad, it is up to them to determine. But their arguments are simple and straightforward: in terms of both the number of warheads and the number of delivery vehicles, the United States and Russia are far ahead of China, and the Chinese rightly ask: “Why should we cut if we are already smaller than you? We have less of all of this. Or do you want to freeze our level of nuclear deterrence? Why should we freeze? Why can't we, a country with a population of one and a half billion, set a goal for ourselves to at least reach your level? " These are all controversial issues that require careful consideration. But it’s ridiculous to shift responsibility for China’s position onto us.
K. Simmons: What do you think about how China treats the ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, the Uyghurs?
Vladimir Putin: You know, I have met some Uighurs. You can always find people who criticize the central authorities. But I met with Uyghurs when I was visiting China. And I assure you, in any case, what I have heard with my own ears, that they generally welcome the policy of the Chinese authorities in this direction. It is believed that China has done a lot for the people living in the area, in terms of the economy, raising culture, and so on. Therefore, what should I give assessments, looking at the situation from the outside?
K. Simmons: Indeed, you know, many Uyghurs do not say this, that America accused China of genocide, and the Secretary of State accused China of genocide, a million Uyghurs are now in a concentration camp. What message would you like to send to the Muslim community in the former Soviet Union in connection with this situation?
Vladimir Putin: I must guide the message to the Muslim community in Russia by the policy of the Russian authorities towards the Muslims of the Russian Federation. Russia is an observer in the Organization of the Islamic Conference. We have 10 percent and even more, probably, is the Islamic population.
These are citizens of the Russian Federation who have no other homeland. They make a colossal contribution to the development of our country. This also applies to ordinary citizens, this applies to religious authorities. Why am I going to talk and build relationships with this part of our citizens with references to the situation in China, without thoroughly understanding what is happening there?
I think you had better deal with all these problems at the State Department or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China.
K. Simmons: It's just a question as to whether you are prepared to criticize China. For example, China abstained from the Security Council on Crimea, and China's largest banks did not support US sanctions against Russia. That is, you have XNUMX% support from China, do you think so?
Vladimir Putin: You know, we are neighbors, neighbors are not chosen. We are pleased with the unprecedented high level of our relations, as I said, which have developed over the previous decades, we value this. Just as our Chinese friends value this, we also see it. Why are you trying to entice us into any issues that you assess as you think are necessary for building your relations with China?
I'll tell you quite frankly - can I tell you frankly?
K. Simmons: Yes.
Vladimir Putin: We see attempts to destroy relations between Russia and China, we see this in practical politics. And your questions are also related to this.
I have stated my position to you. I believe that this is enough, and I am sure that the Chinese leadership, understanding the whole set of these issues, including the Uyghur part of the population, will find the necessary solutions to ensure that the situation remains stable and benefits the entire multimillion Chinese people, including its Uighur part.
K. Simmons: You understand, of course, I'm just trying to ask you a question about Russia's position on China and the United States. I will ask in a different way: are you separating from the US space program, going towards China?
Vladimir Putin: No, why? We are ready to work with the United States in space, and, in my opinion, the head of NASA just said recently that he cannot simply imagine the development of space programs without his partnership with Russia. We welcome this statement and value ...
K. Simmons: Let me explain. The head of the Russian space agency threatened that Russia would withdraw from the international space project in 2025. He talked about sanctions while talking about this threat.
Vladimir Putin: To be honest, I do not think that Mr. Rogozin - that is the name of the head of Roscosmos - threatened someone in this regard. I have known him for many years and I know that he is a supporter of developing relations with the United States in this area, in space.
Recently, I repeat again, the head of NASA spoke in the same vein. I personally support in every possible way, and we have worked with pleasure all these years and are ready to continue working.
It's just that the International Space Station, due to technical reasons, is gradually ending its resource, and, perhaps, in this regard, Roskosmos has no plans to continue its work. But, as far as I heard from American partners, they also look at future cooperation in this area in their own way, but in general, cooperation with the United States in space, it seems to me, is a good example, where we, in spite of any problems of political relations in recent years, we have managed to maintain partnership and we value it on both sides. Therefore, I think that you simply misunderstood the head of our space agency.
I want to assure you that we are interested in the further continuation of work with the United States in this area and we will do this if the American partners themselves do not refuse this. But this does not mean that we should localize our work only with the United States. We are working with China and will continue to work. This applies to all sorts of programs, including the study of deep space. In my opinion, there is one positive thing here. To be honest, I don't even see any contradictions here.
K. Simmons: Let me ask you another question in another way. I just want to understand the relationship between China and Russia and America. If, for example, the Chinese Liberation Army enters Taiwan, how will Russia react to this?
Vladimir Putin: Do you really know about China's plans to solve the Taiwan problem by military means? I don't know anything about this.
As we often say, the subjunctive mood is inappropriate in politics. Therefore, “if only, what would, if only” - I cannot comment on anything that is not the reality of today's world. It seems to me that this is simply - you are not angry with me, please - is a question nowhere. This is not the case. Has China announced that it is going to solve Taiwan's problems by military means? Until now, this has not happened. For so many years, China has been developing relations with Taiwan, there are different assessments: in the United States, their own, in China, their own, in Taiwan, maybe their own. But, thank God, nothing reached the "hot" phase.
K. Simmons: They tell me that it's time to wrap up. But I want to ask you a couple more questions.
Andrea Mitchell was in Syria this month. She saw that people were alive ... You say that this border crossing will be closed in July, the Security Council spoke about this. Why are you doing this, given that it will lead to the death of refugees?
Vladimir Putin: Listen, there are, unfortunately, a lot of tragedies. All our joint actions should be aimed at stabilizing the situation, bringing it back to normal. With the support of Russia, Syria returned under its control, the Syrian authorities, over 90 percent of Syrian territory.
And now you just need to organize humanitarian aid to people regardless of any political context. But our partners in the West, in the aggregate West - both the United States and the Europeans - say that we will not provide assistance to Assad. But what does Assad have to do with it? Help people who need this help the most basic things. After all, restrictions are not being lifted even on the supply of medical equipment and medicines, even in conditions of coronavirus infection. It's just inhumane. Nothing can explain such a cruel attitude towards people.
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As for these crossings for the delivery of humanitarian aid: there is the Idlib zone, where the militants simply rob everything, people are still being killed and raped, and nothing. Et-Tanf is a zone that is controlled, by the way, by the American military. Recently, we also caught a group of bandits, they came from there and directly say that they have a certain task in relation to Russian military facilities.
With regard to border crossings, our position is that it is necessary to provide assistance, as it should be all over the world, as it is prescribed in the norms of international humanitarian law, through the central government, there is no need to discriminate against it. And if there is reason to believe that the central government of Syria will steal or plunder something there, well, please put in control by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, check it all. And I don’t think that anyone in the Syrian government is interested in stealing something from this humanitarian aid there; it should be done simply through the central government. In this sense, we support President Assad, because another way of behaving is to undermine the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic, that's all.
As for the Idlib zone, there Turkish troops actually control the border between Syria and Turkey, and there are convoys back and forth in unlimited numbers.
K. Simmons: I know that the Constitution was amended in Russia: you can be President until 2036. In your opinion, the longer you are in power, the longer there is no one who can replace you, it will not work out so that there is a successor, and then all this will collapse overnight?
Vladimir Putin: And what will collapse overnight? Look, if we look at the situation in which Russia found itself in 2000, it was balancing on the brink of preserving its sovereignty, territorial integrity, the number of citizens below the poverty line was colossal and catastrophic, the level of GDP fell below the baseboard, we had 12 billion in gold and foreign exchange reserves, and the debt was $ 120 billion, if we speak in dollar terms.
But now the situation is different. There are many problems now, but the situation is completely different. Someday another person will definitely come to my place. And why should all this collapse, or what? We fought international terrorism - thank God, we strangled it in the bud. It should be reborn again, or what? I think no. Another thing is that different people with different views can appear on the political scene. Well, good.
You know, I have so tied my whole fate with the fate of the country, for me there is no other, more significant task in my life than strengthening Russia.
Therefore, if I see that a person, even if he is critical of some areas of my activity, but I see that this is a person with constructive views, a person is devoted to the country, ready to put on the altar of the Fatherland not just years, but all of his life, no matter how he treats me personally, I will do everything for such people to be supported.
Once upon a time, of course, this is a natural process, a biological one - we will all be replaced: you are in your place, I am in my place. But I am sure that the fundamental foundations of the Russian statehood, the Russian economy and the political system will be such that it will stand firmly on its feet and look confidently into the future.
K. Simmons: And now you are looking at this person. Will you expect from him the same protection as you once suggested to President Yeltsin, that he, too, will protect you?
Vladimir Putin: I don't even think about it, these are questions of generally tertiary importance. The most important thing is the fate of the country and its people.
K. Simmons: Got it.
Thank you very much for your time, Mr. President. I know that the interview has already been delayed. Thank you for a very interesting conversation.
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