n these times of uncertainty and concern over unsettled international relations on Earth, particularly relations between East and West, greater understanding between the people is vital to establish peace. Increased awareness and understanding of views from all sides of major debated issues is important, in that more beneficial actions and resulting outcomes become possible.
American editor and writer Norman Cousins (1912-1990), in his 1953 book titled “Who Speaks For Man?”, wrote: “War is an invention of the human mind. The human mind can invent peace.” May the high spirit and power of Norman Cousins’ wise words now flood the Earth.
(Thank you to Russia Insight at YouTube, Inessa S for English translation)
Editor’s note: The video documentary originally published at Russia Insight and here was taken down at YouTube, for reasons we have not determined.
“If we look at the trends for development in the world, then it’s best to have Russia as your ally. We’re a great power. Nobody likes competition. Competitors are kept at bay – but I think in the long run, we will win. Few expected that we would act so quickly, decisively, boldly. I have some very good anchors – those anchors are the interests of the Russian Federation and its people.”
“World Order – 2018”
amburg, Tehran, Beijing, Paris, Moscow; difficult, sometimes very difficult negotiations … Press conferences, flights – our crew have filmed the President on business trips for over a year … Working with various kinds of people; allies and opponents, politicians and diplomats; the interests of Russia, the interests of the world; principles and contradictions. Everything is as usual – handshakes, photos; 1-on-1 meetings, or in teams … Speaking with journalists.
What happens behind closed doors? What does it take to achieve each new step toward mutual understanding? When he has a chance, Putin answers our questions, explains the logic behind his decisions. Everything that has taken place over the past few years – the difficult search for agreement between different peoples, leaders, states.
“Vladimir Vladimirovich: Who makes Russian foreign policy? Is it you, or is there a team of people? Are there dominant figures, or are they inclined toward various forms of dialogue? How does it happen in the context of daily changing situations?
“You want me to reveal all the secrets?
“That would be very interesting!
“I think it would be wrong. It’s a sacred thing. But you described it as it is – there are different points of view in our teams; different approaches, different proposals. Shall we do it like this or like that? There are times when we are in full agreement – for example during the events in Crimea. But it happens differently more often – discussions, exchange of opinion, but in the end I have to make a final decision. It can’t be any other way…
“The burden of power!
“Well, burden or not, it’s a responsibility. Once a decision is taken, then everyone works to make it happen.”
Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria. [Sochi, 2017] He faced the fate of Hussein and Gaddafi; that of his country – Iraq or Libya. “From the people of Syria – I would like to express my gratitude for what you have done. We will not forget it.”
The civil war started in Syria in 2011. The West supported the Syrian opposition. Then United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We are taking new steps in supporting the opposition, in its movement toward democracy, as well as toward isolation of the Syrian regime.”
In autumn 2014, the majority of the country ended up under the control of ISIS rebels. The Western coalition, headed by the US, began the bombardment of ISIS on Syrian territory.
September 2015 – Syria is at a point of collapse. President Assad appeals to Russia with a request for military help.
“When making the decision on Syria, it’s not because we wanted to play around with weapons, or to show off how cool we are. No – we had real information that caused us to be significantly concerned.
“There were 2,500 Russian nationals fighting on the side of ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra … A further 4,500 nationals of Central Asian states. We don’t have borders with these countries – we have visa-free regimes. They can easily come in. That’s one thing. The second thing – the destruction of the Syrian government would eventuate in a large scale terrorist hub for many decades. And to have a second Afghanistan so close to us – this was undesirable.
“There could have been other consequences too, if we didn’t do what we did. That is to bomb the terrorists and destroy a large majority of them … And if we didn’t help preserve Syrian government structures. Despite the big challenges still ahead – we are resolving this situation.
“The important thing is for peace to prevail. So that civilians can return to their homes, so that refugees return to Syria. I think only Russia can achieve peace in Syria.” [Carla Del Ponte, UN prosecutor on Syrian war crimes]
After meeting with Assad, Putin holds phone conversations with all the key players of Middle Eastern politics. (20:50 – President of the US, Trump | 21:20 – King of Saudi Arabia, al-Saud | 22:00 – President of Egypt, el-Sisi | 22:05 – PM of Israel, Netanyahu) … The next day in Sochi, a key meeting takes place. The leaders of Iran and Turkey discuss the situation in Syria and its future.
“On the one side: official US enemy, Iran. On the other side – NATO ally, Turkey. Thirdly: Russia, who they included in the sanctions list together with North Korea and Iran. Yet these countries are resolving issues that would previously be addressed at Camp David. Now – the key players are in Sochi … What did you see, that the President of the US did not? Why did we intercept this initiative, when they entered the region earlier, and ‘dealt’ with these matters before us?
“The point here is that we didn’t intercept anything – we just followed our own path. It turned out it brought results … Positive results for all. So what took place? You just mentioned it – they went and included everyone in their enemies list. That’s a sign of weakness, not strength … When you swat everyone, the same way. It’s technically impossible [that everyone is bad]… it only shows their incompetence.
“You mentioned that everyone came here for the meeting – but that was the final meeting, to a large degree. We made other agreements, for example on the zone of de-escalation, with US and Israel. They weren’t too public about it, but they were the direct players in the negotiations. Then we were in Vietnam, in Danang – where we made a joint statement together with the US. For the most part, it reflects the statement that was made here in Sochi.
“Can we trust these partners? All of them are very complicated, with a difficult history. How can we tell they won’t trick us – as it was in the USSR; utilize our might, and then ‘thanks, goodbye – we’re off to barter with the Americans!’
“Vladimir Rudolfovich! If you asked me, ‘can we trust ladies?’ I could have a discussion on that. But with countries, it’s a substantively different understanding [of “trust”]. What does it mean to trust? Each country has its national interests – Russia, Middle East; Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Israel, Jordan. Of course such key global players as the US, China, India all have them too. The first thing that you always have to do is to treat their national interests with respect, at the same time, ensure that they treat ours with respect too.
“It’s a difficult process. Despite the difficult relations between these countries – we sat at one negotiation table with both Turkey and Iran. We became the guarantors of certain agreements, and these agreements work.”
Vladimir Putin to troops in Syria: “The challenge to fight off the armed rebel gangs, with the large – scale use of forces; this challenge, has, for the most part, been resolved. It has been resolved fantastically well. I congratulate you.”
Soldiers: – “Serving the Russian Federation!”
The next day, America’s “The Washington Post” comes out with an article titled “Putin is outplaying Trump in the Middle East”. Also in December, the White House presents the new strategy on US national security, which states; “after being dismissed as a phenomenon of an earlier century, great power competition has returned.” The world began to speak of a new Cold War – the end of the previous one, was announced three (3) decades earlier.
“Since the beginning of the end of the Cold War, you served in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), with a wide availability of information at your fingertips. How accurate was our intelligence then, depicting the real sentiments within political circles? Did the forecasts differ to what actually happened, or were they accurate?
“That’s a difficult question for me. I’m not playing dumb – I can talk a big game, from my current position, and it would look nice and tidy! But to be honest, and going back in that time, it’s a difficult question to answer because I was just a private [lowest military rank] of the intelligence … That’s one thing. Secondly, I was not involved in analytical work of information. In general, I couldn’t tell you what information from the GDR and other parts of the world made it to the consumer of said information, the General Secretariat. You’d be better off asking Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev. I was involved in recruitment [of agents]. These people are unique, one of a kind goods – of course I use the word ‘goods’ in quote marks. They are unique in their principles, in their intellect, in their moral code. They are just unique people. For me, it was a colossal experience.
“Could you have foreseen back then, how things would go down?
“No, I couldn’t have foreseen that. I doubt anybody could. We saw that serious changes were happening, predominantly in our country. We thought about the way things would develop – how it would affect the world. But nobody could imagine that the process would take place the way it did, and at such speed.”
“It was a great time for us all – we helped privatize enterprises, we helped to establish private companies. [Anthony Brenton, UK Ambassador to Russia 2004 – 2008] We helped to bring about democratic values and a market economy to Russia. We were used to thinking of the Soviet Union as a big power, strong and enduring economy, nuclear weapons and various armed forces. Suddenly, we found a country on a smaller scale with a weaker economy – given its collapse. It was a country that was faced with a loss of its territories [bits of it falling off].”
“The 1990s were a time of selling off of that which we inherited. I had the sense that it was no longer possible to create a sense of national identity, it was lost and dispersed. [Zahar Prilepin, author, Special Forces Commander, Chechnya veteran, 1999] And all of a sudden, the symphony of the power structures and the Russian people, they joined into one melody. In spring of 2014 we understood that we are one people, this is our president, our forefathers are behind us, this is our history – and all of this combined is our whole.”
A woman citizen of Crimea: “We waited for 23 years – we waited, we hoped! We’re so happy, if you only knew… [Crimea]”
U.K. response: “The United Kingdom, together with the EU, does not recognise the Crimean referendum.”
U.S. response: “This will require a response that can match the level of this problem.”
Germany response: “I think it’s good that Europe has responded mutually.”
“After the ‘Crimean Spring’ – did you anticipate sanctions?
“I had no doubts about it … Of course. I didn’t know what format they would take, but when making the decision I had to weigh up the reunification with Crimea, and the potential consequences as they pertain to our relationships with countries of the world. When we put on the one side the fate of millions of people, I’d like to emphasise that it’s millions – more than 2 million – moreover, those that wanted to return to Russia, and our potential difficulties with other countries. I think the former is much more important. I sometimes think – and I think my thoughts are grounded in something substantial – that we were deliberately led to a certain line, at which we had to act the way that we did. Of course, few expected us to act as quickly, decisively, and boldly. Our opponents, or ‘partners’, worked out a very good strategy, in a tactical sense – they are achieving their goals. But I think in the long run – we will win.”
“Of course, the German and French economies also suffer from the [anti-Russian] sanctions… [Dominique Strauss-Kahn, IMF President 2007-2011]
“We tried to think of various ways to avoid this problem. Greece was against the sanctions from the beginning. [Alexis Tsipras, Greek Prime Minister]
“We thought that Russia would leave the East of Ukraine. I would welcome this. It was also supposed that the sanctions will make Russia leave the Crimea. [Klaus Mangold, Chairman of Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations of German Industry.] I think, three years after the imposition of sanctions, everyone has understood that Russia remains true to its course.”
“Vladimir Vladimirovich, will the sanctions be cancelled?
“I didn’t impose them! Ask those who did!
“You had that opportunity [to ask] – we had our good friend here, [Czech President], wonderful person, and he spoke [Russian] very well – why can’t they show a bit of backbone?
“What can they do? They’re very dependent on the EU. They do nothing independently.
“Who in the world are independent players?
“And the US…?
“There are a couple other countries. But I don’t answer for them. You should ask them themselves as to the degree of their independence. When difficult political processes occur – countries become dependent on these processes. They become unpredictable, and unreliable. Are they independent or dependent – and if so, on whom?
European economic official: “We’re very closely tied to our strategic partner – the US. They’re important to us from an economic and political perspective. But irrespective of that, we must loosen ourselves from this influence. Today I see the way the US is making decisions, toward prolonging the sanctions regime. They even state that the measures being imposed are against a political opponent.”
“Vladimir Vladimirovich – this ‘Kremlin List’? What are the Americans trying to achieve? Are they trying to strangle us economically, or sow seeds of doubt among the people in the list, drive them into a meltdown? In this way, exert pressure on you personally? … To change the policies of Russia? … What’s behind it?
“It’s a very old, if not ancient, instrument. It’s used by many countries, including the US. As early as the 1920s! The Jackson-Vanik amendment of 1974 was in place for 34 years, I think. What’s curious is that on the day of its abolishment, on the very same day, if I’m not mistaken, they introduced the Magnitsky Act … Under absolutely imaginary pretexts. Yes, the person died while in prison. But under this pretext a new ‘Magnitsky List’ came about, and a new wave of sanctions. 50 new sanctions, I think. I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that this is 2012 – before any events in Ukraine, before the reunification with Crimea, but sanctions are in full swing!
“Why, you asked. Good question, but the answer is very simple. It was always like this in the history of our country – as soon as it became strong, it caused panic among all our partners. They have always attempted to ‘contain’ the development of our country – so, I think the answer is simple. It’s just a method against competition. It’s illegitimate, it’s unjust, but that’s how it is. And of course – it’s an attempt to contain the defense capability of our country.”
“The geopolitical interests of the US differ from ours. We have to strive to return to successful neighborly relations with Russia, the way it was before. For me personally, this is important. We Germans often forget what pain we brought to Russia during WWII. We even forget the deciding role that Russia played in the reunification of Germany.”
“Many allies of the GDR, in the Western bloc, they were doubtful. They showed apprehension and even disagreement that the two parts of Germany should unify. The US doubted it – just ask Henry Kissinger. He was unsure himself whether it should be done. But Russia didn’t. We considered that if the German people wanted to unite – then to stand in its way is counterproductive and unjust. And then it aided that reunification – genuinely. The loans that we received for it – were nothing. They only went toward the withdrawal of troops from there. We not only aided the reunification of Germany and took our troops out, but we took them out of other Eastern European countries too. We expected that with the end of the Warsaw Pact – NATO would cease to exist too. Or at least, as we were told at the time, this organization would not expand. We assumed some kind of tectonic changes in international relations to take place, but they did not.
“It turned out, that under the guise of this ideological war – there was also a geopolitical war … For geopolitical interests. That’s one thing – secondly, they considered that they no longer had to consider anyone else in their decisions. The world order that formed after WWII was practically dead, and everything had to be rewritten from a blank page. That’s where the nihilism of the UN and international law came from. They started to support separatism and radicalism in our Caucasus region. They bombed Yugoslavia in 1999 without a resolution from the UNSC. They just spat on everything – they bombed it, destroyed the country, carried out an intervention. It’s difficult to speak in retrospect – is it good or bad? If the people of Yugoslavia strove for independence – maybe it’s good. But did you have to do it by that method? Should you have bombed in the center of Europe, without a UNSC resolution? I doubt it. I am assured it should not have been done. How on Earth do we explain that? Then Afghanistan … then Iraq. Then two waves of NATO expansion. One after the other … unpredicted. We should have expected it – but we – how can I put this softly…. at the least, we showed incompetence. As well as a lack of understanding of what will happen in our country and the world, from this one-sided surrender of our position.”
Libya, July 2017
Refugee: “I’m from Mali. I am the oldest in my family. One day, my mother became ill. She had no money to pay for medicine. If I make it to Europe, I will be able to take care of my mother. That’s why I’m in Libya.”
Libya: major hub for illegal immigration. In the not so distant past it was a strong and wealthy state, whose previous leader Gaddafi did not let migrants pass through into Europe. Capital of Libya, Tripoli – leisurely residents, cafes, shops – looks like a usual depiction of civilian life in a Middle Eastern city – but this is not so. The country is divided. One third 1/3 of the territory is under rebel control. ISIS recruiters, slave trade, borders are unprotected. A unified Libyan state exists only on a map.
Prior to that – the so called “Arab Spring”, civil war, bombardment by the West, the murder of Gaddafi …
Putin – 2015: “Instead of democracy and progress – violence, poverty, a social catastrophe … Human rights – including the right to life itself – are entirely ignored. I’d like to ask those who created this situation – do you understand now what you have done?” [UN, 2015]
“Your positions have changed over time. I watch footage from 2001, 2007, then 2015. The dynamics have changed – why is that?
“Where do you see the dynamics change? But firstly, everything is always changing, always in motion.
“I’d say there are less illusions, less hopeful that the West will hear us. The address in 2001 in Bundestag was quite constructive, where you propose Europe to strengthen its reputation. In 2007, [Munich Security Conference speech] was almost revolutionary – they couldn’t grasp what on earth just happened? Why is a country that they thought hardly exists speaking to them in such tone? And of course, 2015 – ‘look at what you’ve done.’ You’ve changed.
“That’s not right. You recalled my address in the Bundestag, 2001, by that time I had already worked as the Secretary of the Security Council of Russia, a period of time as a Prime Minister, 1 year as President, and before that Director of the FSB… I had a lot of information. I had formed my opinions on what’s happening and where it’s all going. In 2001, when I said that we should be uniting with Europe, combine our efforts to create a common space – it probably sounded like I came up with it, but it wasn’t my idea … In 1992 or 1993 – the then Mayor Sobchak, took me with him to Bonn, where he met with Chancellor Kohl. At some point, Kohl asked all the attendees to leave, including the translator. So I was left to translate between the two. And that was the first time I heard the Chancellor say – who was still in his residence in Bonn, and not Berlin – he said; I don’t see a future for Europe without Russia. For me, as a former KGB officer, it was completely unexpected … Unexpected, but very interesting. He then explained why; there are new giants emerging in the world, new centers of power in Asia. He said the US will probably be more and more involved in their own politics, and issues of their own continent – this is what we see now.
“As Kohl said in 1992 is what’s happening. ‘For Europe to remain a stable center of power and civilization, we should unite with Russia – due to its territorial mass, its natural riches, it’s people are close to us culturally and spiritually, its science, its defense potential. All of this combined would allow us to remain an independent center of power in the world.’ He said it. I simply repeated it in the Bundestag. I couldn’t quote him then, but I have always supported and continue to support this position.”
“Today, we must say once and for all, the Cold War is over. We reject our stereotypical ambitions, and from now on we strive to guarantee the security of Europe, and the whole world. ”
“That never happened, unfortunately. Then, what did I say in 2007 in Munich? I said that one country, the US, is attempting to stretch its jurisdiction beyond its national borders – nobody is going to like this. I said that in 2007. Some European politicians, God bless them, said ‘that was kind of rough the way you put it.’ I said – ‘well, what don’t you agree with?’ They just looked down, didn’t say anything.
“You don’t need to pretend to be God and resolve everyone’s problems. We can only create the necessary conditions that would help other people solve their problems. [Munich, 2007] You can be a guarantor of certain agreements – but you can’t oblige them to do it, without driving the situation into a corner.”
“We are making huge mistakes. Our failed policies have destabilised the Middle East and North Africa. The fact we did it together with the Americans is not an excuse. [Viktor Orban,PM of Hungary, 2017] We need to speak frankly, even if it is painful. We have a competitive crisis. We have a migration crisis. We have a security crisis, from terrorism. We have a demographic crisis. The influence of the EU is decreasing. This is bad policy – and it’s time to change it.”
“The worst decision ever of the past 100 years was Chancellor Merkel’s decision to open all European borders for migrants.” [Geert Wilders, Dutch politician]
According to various sources, between 2.5 and 3 million migrants have arrived into Europe over the past couple of years.
E.U. official: “Due to an ageing population, the economy of Germany, in the next 20 years, will require young people, who could uphold a high productivity rate. We need to do all we can to teach them the German language, and prepare them in a professional capacity.”
But analysis of the situation, as admitted by German experts, shows that 4 out of 5 migrants don’t wish to study. They want to receive benefits.
Wilders: “Don’t forget that over the past few years, Europeans have been under austerity measures. Social benefits and public health have been reduced by billions of euros. Native residents wake up at 6m and work all day – wives usually work part-time. Every day they struggle to make ends meet … Normal, hardworking people. Today, we see non-native residents, migrants, come to developed European countries, and receive free accommodation, free social security, free healthcare. This doesn’t make sense to many people. Look at Europe today – it is not the Europe of a few decades ago. It’s a completely different country. Look around major cities in Europe – and you will find yourself in the Middle East.”
“Basic doctrines are changing before our very eyes. Not so long ago, we thought of liberalism as the only direction, and it’s always going to win. All of a sudden, a Caliphate emerges, from an ancient past. We understand that something isn’t right in the world…
“There’s always going to be something wrong – that’s the mechanism for development. It’s nothing to be surprised by, or to be scared of. It’s an inevitable, constant movement. Where are we moving now? Yes, in some places liberalism is giving up its positions. The people aren’t happy with something; something has not been realized. This multicultural model they tried to build in Europe – not only did it not work, but my [European] colleagues who wanted it, today say themselves that it failed.
“This is the future, and in many ways a global trend – when national identities are erased. Will we lose our national identity?
“Us? … No. It’s too dear to us – what does it mean to lose identity? It’s the end of the existence of a certain ethnos. Russians, or other peoples who live in Russia – Tatars, Jews – some become Orthodox. Other Russians convert to Islam – but still together, this is ‘us’. As for that which is happening in other countries – I honestly didn’t expect things to change quickly. But it is happening.”
Brexit – and now maybe Frexit or Nexit – words meaning the potential exit of France and Netherlands from the EU. The solidarity of the EU is in jeopardy. Italian regions Lombardy and Veneto, French Corsica, Spanish Catalonia would like autonomy – but within the framework of the EU.
“We came across significant changes. We have no concrete structures, nor an understanding of the final result of these changes. [Horst Telchik, Head of Munich Security Conference] Doubtfulness increases in such phases – so the key to politics today, is the creation of new structures that can guarantee the security of the population … Especially in light of terrorism.”
Paris-2015, London-2017, Barcelona-2017, Nice-2016
“There are people who don’t believe in co-existence. There are people who believe in killing other people. We must fight against a militaristic Islam.”
“To defeat terrorism in one country is not enough, to defeat it fully. Actually, this is not a problem that can be solved with weapons alone – but without them too, it is impossible to fight terrorism. However, we need to eradicate the causes of terrorism. What is the cause? It’s injustice in international relations. It’s poverty. It’s also – and this is a big factor – lack of education among young people. One could do absolutely anything they want to an uneducated young person. You can put absolutely any kind of idea into his head – and often, he believes his recruiters, especially if they give him $10. Why? – Because no one else taught him anything good. He has no personal beliefs or knowledge. This is a major cause of terrorism, which we need to eradicate. At the same time, efforts must be combined in the battle field too. We must create a strong, international anti-terrorist front.”
“There are many problems in the world; the Syrian problem, terrorism, the North Korean issue – resolving these issues, and that of Ukraine too, cannot be done without Russia in the dialogue [PM of Japan, Shinzo Abe]”
“Ukraine is Europe”
“I’ll talk about that which is known, and something that is unknown. We know that on the 19th or 20th February, 2014, Western countries initiated a conversation between President Yanukovich and his opposition. They agreed to sign an agreement, in which President Yanukovich compromised on a lot, including early elections, and a series of other steps. Three European Foreign Ministers; Poland, France and Germany, signed this agreement as guarantors, who will oversee that it is carried out. One or two days later – a coup d’etat is carried out in Kiev. What should the guarantors have done?
‘Not recognize it?
“Correct. Not recognize it, and influence those who did it, urging them to act constitutionally. Moreover, it was absolutely clear, almost 100%, that with the holding of early Elections – opposition would come into power. It would have been a legal, lawful way. There would not be a clash, there would not be the horrors of Donbass [Eastern Ukraine], but our European colleagues went a different way – they immediately recognized the coup as legitimate. But that is well known – I’ll tell you what isn’t. At the same time, our American partners appealed to us too. They asked us to ‘do all we can’, I quote, to ensure that Yanukovich does not utilize the army, so that the opposition can begin carrying out the said agreements. We said – ok. The next day, the coup was carried out. They didn’t even call us -not one word. There’s something called ‘excess of the executor’, [when a crime is committed beyond the intention of the perpetrator.] ‘But we will do everything in our power to rectify things.’ Not one word – to the contrary, full support of those who carried out the coup. So what’s left for them to do if not support the current authorities – they made it with their own hands. They drove themselves into a corner.
“Is it the first time they tricked us?
“You know – I think, that rudely and brazenly, perhaps, the first. To insinuate they would do one thing – but actually do the opposite, without saying a word to us. I don’t think we’d had that before. That’s one thing. Secondly – they should have understood that the events are unfolding at our borders. Many Russians live there, or those who have close ties to Russia. It’s not just a country somewhere – it’s a country with which we have built a relation-ship over centuries. We have a unified energy and transportation complex, how can all of this not be taken into account? I spoke to the former leadership of the European Commission – and the response was strange, in my view … They said – ‘We don’t interfere into your relations with China. So, don’t interfere into our relations with Canada.’ – Well, why interfere into our relations with Ukraine? It’s very different things. It was strange to hear that at all. By the way – if they did it slightly differently, Ukraine would have benefitted much more. Our cooperation networks would not have been destroyed, Ukraine would have preserved much of its production industries. The Antonov factory was just closed [aircraft manufacturing] – it was a real achievement of the country, more so than the gas transportation networks. It was the intellectual potential of Ukraine. Now look – everything is destroyed. What for? …For some kind of ‘civilizational choice’? What are they choosing – poverty? …Or to work illegally in Europe on their tourist visa? Is that the choice?”
Poroshenko of Ukraine: “This day will forever be imprinted on the history of Ukraine, as the final step of our departure from the Russian Empire, and a return of the Ukraine into the family of European peoples. Dear Ukrainian people – I’d like to say ‘yes!’ we did it!”
[Ukraine-EU border, start of visa-free regime 2017]
Wilders: “I don’t want the Ukraine in the EU … not because we hate the Ukraine. We just don’t think it should never be a member of the EU.”
Prilepin: “Do you remember at the beginning of these events – they laughed and said ‘where did you see [Stepan] Bandera sympathizers?’ [Ukrainian “nationalist” during WW2, Hitler’s spy known as “Consul 2”] Now they have a street named after Bandera, his portraits in every school; Shuhkevich, and all the rest of them have been formally integrated into the national intellectual context – or the anti-intellectual, I should say. How can it even be discussed? For us it’s a direct insult – they have brought the Nazism project back to life, in its most clear form. In 5-7 years, there will be diehard Banderovites in power, who studied it in kindergarten and school, and will be entirely ready for such work. That will be a very different story [from before], not one that can be changed quickly.”
“Do we have the Armed Forces [in Eastern Ukraine]? Volker [Special US Representative to the Ukraine] seems to think there are more tanks there than in all of Western Europe!
“There are no Russian Armed Force in Ukraine – but the Donbass is well armed. When asked – where do the armaments come from? I always say, where one side takes [from the Americans], then the other side will find opportunities too. The Ukrainian authorities tell me – and also as part of the Normandy discussions – that Ukrainian servicemen are dying from weapons that they consider are transported from Russia … This in its entirety is awful. Every time I think about it, I am always upset. Because I consider everyone there as ‘us’ [same nation] – really … But I want to ask – from whose shells are civilians dying in the Donbass? That’s the question. That’s not what we should be talking about – but how to stop this. How do we achieve peace?”
Prilepin: “My fighters say things like – I’d like to meet Putin, I wish I could chat with Putin – they become like children in that sense. They’d share what they can – a pack of cigarettes. Because they believe he’s out there somewhere – and he thinks about us … He doesn’t forget us, he will come to our aid. He’s a person that solves colossal, cosmic challenges – meanwhile, we’re here, just holding down a small part of [national interests] In this sense – the Donbass is not only politically and religiously important, it is a place where our ethnic interests coincide. [Hero of DPR, Arsen “Motorola” Pavlov – Hero of DPR, Mikhail “Givi” Tolstykh.] The Donbass is the border of Russia.”
“Why did they have to go and impose a regime of full isolation of these territories from Ukraine? Ukraine itself cut them off from itself. How can that not be clear? The law on an amnesty is not being signed, the law on the special status of Donbass is not signed … practically nothing is signed. To the contrary, they signed a law on ‘de-occupation’, which doesn’t mention the Minsk agreements at all. They do this to themselves, with their own hands – I don’t even understand why. They asked us to arm the OSCE observers which are there…
“We’re happy to! It’s the OSCE who said no. – What would that achieve? It was the initiative of the President of Ukraine, to which I agreed. The OSCE refused [to be armed]; it’s not their practice, they don’t have the trained people, and they think once they take guns into their hands they become a target … But it’s not clear which side they meant. Then they said – let the OSCE be guarded by UN peacekeepers. We not only agreed, but put through a resolution for it. But no, this also wasn’t enough, so it was rejected. It’s a very difficult dialogue to keep up. But another way, besides talking and finding solutions – does not exist.”
UN General Assembly – 19 December, 2017. On the initiative of Ukraine, a resolution on the Crimea is being discussed.
Ukraine U.N. representative: “The situation on the temporarily-occupied Republic of Crimea, and Sevastopol, has not improved, but only got worse.”
In favor of the resolution, that is to say that the Crimea is “occupied” – 77 countries voted “for”, including Turkey.
“So what does this mean? Erdogan is a friend, and talks nicely about you, calling you a comrade – but here Erdogan takes Poroshenko’s side. Then – some kind of statement on the ‘bad situation’ of the Crimean Tatars….
“Turkey is a big country. Our neighbor. Over centuries, we had various kinds of relations. We are objectively interested in good relations with Turkey. When it comes to Turkey and Crimean Tatars … Well, firstly, the majority of Crimean Tatars voted for the reunification with Russia. For which we are very grateful. As a percentage point, it’s around the same as the rest of the Crimeans who voted. Yes, there are people of radical viewpoints. They are against Crimea rejoining Russia. For Turkey, it is an obvious thing that they support Crimean Tatars – there are 200k to 250k of them in Crimea, but in Turkey – up to 3 million! So it’s perfectly normal that Turkish authorities pay attention [to these voters] and Erdogan personally asks questions about Crimean Tatars. When I tell him of our steps in the socio-economic sphere, for the re-birth of the Crimean Tatar people … A real re-birth, because many people there live in a really dire economic situation. The Crimean-Tatar language was never recognized as a state language [in Ukraine] – but we’ve done this. We’ve resolved many moral-political questions, but we have a whole program for social-economic rehabilitation. So this kind of rhetoric is met with support and cooperation from Turkey.”
Japan Prime Minister Abe: “One judoist, whom Putin respects too, Jigoro Kano said: ‘Mutual prosperity of self and others: use might, for the purposes of good’. When a person enters a kodokan, you can tell immediately if he’s a judoist or isn’t. Before stepping onto the tatami, a judoist bows – Putin, despite being the President, bowed when he entered. Without a doubt, President Putin is a judoist.”
“Vladimir Vladimirovich – in the West, they say ‘Putin plays strong with weak cards.’ How weak are our cards, and why is the game strong – what’s your secret?
“If we play strong with weak cards – that means they can’t play at all …That means they’re not that strong after all, they’re lacking something … In times like these, I draw examples from my previous sports life. When I reached Master of Sports level [classification title for professional athletes] – one of my friends didn’t make it. He was a strong guy, and I considered he had every chance … He said ‘well, if I wanted to, I’d make it to Master of Sports too.’ I said ok – but I thought, if you could then you would have. That means something was missing; willpower, patience, hard work, courage – something was missing. There was not enough of something. When I speak with colleagues – I say, this problem can be solved we just need a little more patience. Maybe we can approach it another way, avoiding future crises … So, sometimes they’re just lacking something. We hope that this void will be filled with common sense, good judgment and mutual respect to other plays in international affairs.”
“The temptation for one sided actions, happens mostly by the US. It’s the last remaining superpower. [Wolfgang Thierse, Bundestag President 1998 – 2005]
The European Union is weak, because it has no common foreign and security policy. If we compare European countries to super- powers, then they have no real weight. The American people actually don’t know what the US President is trying to achieve, which direction he will go in. The world order is not set yet – it continues to develop…
“Now, the whole world is on the geopolitical arena. That’s why it’s quite normal that new powers such as China, India, Brazil have appealed to the superpower of the past… [Strauss -Kahn] It’s not surprising today – but it would have been 2 decades ago. And so it changes, the rules of the game. We are living on the cusp of a new era.”
Putin: “Of course, those who were on the highest pedestal don’t want to step down – they want to stay there at any cost. Many experts now believe this is impossible. What we have to create now is that these new powers feel a sense of responsibility that is relative to their growth … And those that inevitably have to step down from 1st place on the pedestal – they have to do so with dignity, with respect, and without hysteria.”
The New Yorker – March, 2017. “What lay behind Russia’s interference in the 2016 election?”
Time – May . An article about how Russia is influencing the US elite and the President.
New York Times, December. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson – “On Russia, we have no illusions about the regime we are dealing with. Today, the relationship of the US is poor with a resurgent Russia, which threatens our sovereignty, when it meddles in the elections of our country and those of others.”
“Vladimir Vladimirovich, what’s it like to be the main global villain?
“Ask the main global villain!
“When you open Western sources, the impression is…
“That’s just the opinion of Western sources, but not all of them…
“Does it affect you emotionally?
“No, I’m well used to it … I have some very good anchors – those anchors are the interests of the Russian Federation and its people. If I feel that I am going in the right direction, and not taking incorrect turns – then nothing else really bothers me… I [sh*t on them], well I don’t want to use a bad word – let’s just say, it doesn’t distract me from the tasks I consider necessary for my country.”
G20 Summit, Hamburg. July 2017 – Each summit of this high level is accompanied by protests. In Hamburg, tens of thousands protestors took part, from anti-globalists to environmentalists. Police are brought in from all over Germany. Water cannons, helicopters are in the sky all hours of the day. Assemblies, discussions, meetings go ahead anyway. The first meeting between the Presidents of the US and Russia took place in Hamburg, at the G20.
“It seemed that you were able to hit it off [with Trump] – are you [now] disappointed?
“No, I can’t be disappointed. Personally, he made a good impression on me. I think he is a balanced person, despite some provocative behavior. I think he became accustomed to that, as part of his previous life experience and job. But when we talked business – he understands the problems, he communicates well, he listens to his interlocutor … you can come to an agreement with him. I can see it’s possible to find compromises with him. I’m disappointed not in him, but in the system. You cannot be disappointed in it, because it demonstrates its ineffectiveness and it destroys itself from within. Cooperating with such a system is difficult because it is unpredictable.”
The meeting between Putin and Trump lasted 1.5 hours longer than planned.
“Vladimir Vladimirovich – what did you speak to Melania Trump about?
“I spoke not only to Mrs. Trump, also the spouse of the Prime Minister of Italy. I spoke with them about our demography program – the women were particularly interested in this. I spoke about when and how we introduced measures that support motherhood, and children. What is ‘maternal capital’? How the program works – they were very interested and were surprised by the magnitude of it. I talked about the ways in which it can be used, and what other instruments we use. I spoke about results.
“You weren’t recruiting them?
“No, I haven’t worked in that field for a while! Of course, I enjoyed doing that, it was my job for a long time. I also spoke to them about Russia, about Siberia, about fishing … I exaggerated a little, as we do with such stories … [about size of fish caught] When we talk about fishing, is it possible not to exaggerate? I told them about Kamchatka, our fauna, tigers in the Far East, bears in the Kamchatka…”
“Putin loves his country very much, and has a strong will. I also love my country very much – Japan. Sometimes our discussions are very difficult, but I am sure that together we can solve even the most difficult problems. [Shinzo Abe, PM of Japan]
“One has to always take an absolutely principled, fair and open position. It’s like that with people, and in international relations; if our partners know that we aren’t tricking them, aren’t manipulating them, not trying to get the upper hand … We have a position – you can argue it, you can disagree with it. But it’s clear, transparent and stable. You can work with this – and that creates trust, and at the end of the day, respect. This is the basis for cooperation.
Carla Del Ponte – Former U.N. chemical weapons inspector: “This is a great moment for Russia, because it is very active on the international arena. Yes, Russia is important – it is strong, because it has a strong President.”
“We see the targeted approach to distance our allies from us. They’re working Belarus, Kazakhstan, working Armenia very actively… we see the way they drip poison into their ears. How can we counteract this?
“Whoever drips poison anywhere – will end up drinking it themselves, at the end of the day… We have a good saying about it; ‘don’t spit into the well…’
“Yes, don’t spit into the well, you might need to drink from it.
“Yes, that’s exactly how it is. In the end, it works against those who do it. Hence, that isn’t what they should be doing – they need to work on building good relations with Russia. It’s best for everyone.
“Today, history has become a victim of international politics. Sometimes I think – if not for the Holocaust – then Hitler would have been rehabilitated [spoken well of] … Because I see the way Forest Brothers [Baltic guerrilla partisans during WWII] are propagated, how the crimes of Shuhkevich and Bandera are entirely ignored. I began to understand that only the Holocaust prevents a complete rewriting of history of WWII. Amid this backdrop, Israel celebrates precisely 9th of May as its government holiday – so that nobody has any illusions [Soviet Victory of WWII.]
“This is firstly wisdom on behalf of the Jewish people, and a good historical memory. We respect it, that Jews do not forget their extermination during WWII. It’s the correct thing to do – but other peoples faced the same tragedy. I won’t even mention small ethnicities – the gypsies, they were exterminated one by one … What about Slavs? What about Russians? [The Nazis] had a whole plan for the Russian people – all of this is written in documents, you can read it in the archives. The plan was to exterminate most, while use others as labor slaves – and those who weren’t killed or couldn’t work, send them further beyond the Urals, to die. What is that? That’s the same as a Holocaust – but for the Russian people. We can’t forget this under any circumstances. Not for the purposes of blaming someone – but to ensure that it never repeats.”
“I’m a third year student of the Ryazan airborne forces institute, Daria Sokolova. I’m the daughter of the Hero of Russia – Roman Sokolov. My father died on 1 March, 2000, at Height 776, in the Argun Gorge, Chechen Republic. It was a very scary battle – 90 [Russian] soldiers against 2000 rebels. My father was deputy commander of the 6th brigade. He took the fire on himself. To give your life for your country – it’s the highest of awards. [That day], 84 of the soldiers died. A year later after the deaths of the 6th brigade, the Commander-in-Chief, Vladimir Putin, visited Height 776. He died when I was 3 – he used to pick me up from kindergarten. I remember, when he returned from the First Chechen war, he came to pick me up in uniform. I wasn’t expecting it so I remember calling out to him – ‘daddy came for me!’ When I walk down Hero’s alley, and I see his name – I’m very proud. My father also studied here – I took the same oath. It’s the main thing in life – if you love your country, and want to protect it.”
“…The sense of responsibility – when the fate of millions of people depends on your decision, if not all of humanity. I’m talking about the nuclear button … The sense of responsibility, when you have to send our guys far away, without any guarantees that they will return alive. How do you make those decisions? How do you bear that responsibility every day?
“Responsibility is inevitable. It’s part of the job. But before making those decisions – everything has to be well weighed up. When it comes to the nuclear button – I don’t think that’s a [politically] correct question!
“I had to ask!
“Yes, but firstly, we didn’t start this. I’ll remind that it wasn’t us that obtained the atomic bomb first, but the US. That’s one thing. Secondly, we’ve never used nuclear weapons. The US has – against Japan. Many Japanese textbooks silence this fact – it says ‘the allies used nuclear weapons’! What allies?! The USSR was an ally of the US, but nobody let us know of their plans. The experts didn’t consider this necessary. But the US did do this … Where’s the guarantee that this won’t be repeated? Thirdly, we are not the only nuclear power; the US, China, France, Britain, Russia … The five main ones. But there are nuclear powers that are not recognized as such by the international community – India, Pakistan, Israel. So we are not alone – if all these countries have this kind of weapon, then why shouldn’t Russia? When it comes to the actual question – it is of course a very sensitive theme. But I’d like to say, and I want our country to know this as well as the world … that our theoretical plans for using nuclear weapons, which I hope never occurs, it’s only as a response.
“What does that mean? It means that the decision to use nuclear weapons may only happen when our missile defense systems capture not only the launch of a missile [from elsewhere], but has provided a clear prognosis, trajectory of the flight. It even provides the time that the missile will hit the territory of Russia. This is called a response hit. That means, if someone makes the decision to destroy Russia – then we have a lawful right to respond. Yes, for humanity, it would be a global catastrophe. For the whole world – it would be a catastrophe. Me, as a citizen of Russia, and Head of State – I ask the question – why do we need that kind of world, where there is no Russia?”
[St. Petersburg symphony orchestra – Palmyra, Syria 2016]
“The USSR army was very strong … Then came a time of total collapse. I saw this army in Yugoslavia … [Dominique Trenkan, Head of French military mission for the UN] Today the Russian army has recovered its military might, both in the technological sense, and the level of professionalism of its soldiers. Today, it plays an important role.”
British official: “Russia has always been a great country, and everyone understood that you cannot ignore it. Its power and pride would return. I’m talking about national unity and togetherness – the feeling that to be Russian is something special.”
“Historians consider that over the past 300 years, no major events occurred in Europe in which Russia didn’t play a major part. What is a ‘great power’ in your understanding, how important is it for Russia to continue to influence the world?
“I don’t know how [these historians] made their analysis – that without Russia, decisions weren’t made, but for the most part this is true. When it comes to greatness, one of our military- political experts of the 18th century, a Marshal, said, this is an approximate quote, ‘Russia has certain advantages before the international community, because it is directly ruled by God. If that wasn’t true – then it’s not clear how it is able to exist at all.’ Russia is a complicated, large country. It has huge potential. Modern ‘greatness’ of any country, is grounded in the economy. Without an effective economy, without a social sphere that creates political stability – you can’t speak about greatness. Only these two components together, allow the third foundational component to be created – the total defense potential of the country. But it won’t work without a history, a culture, a mentality of the people. It’s the factor that unites it all. All of this together creates a country, securing its internal unity, and determines its role on the international arena. What we have to do in the near future is to ensure that it is technological innovation that is the main driver behind Russia’s development. If we can achieve this – this includes all of its components; digital technology, biology, fundamental sciences – then without a doubt, Russia will preserve the status of a great superpower … Including, in the sphere of defense capability of the state. Russia has to be open to everything new, in all fields. The world is changing, and Russia must change too, step by step. In this sense, Russia must be an organic part of the international community.
“Vladimir Vladimirovich – final question. Your colossal knowledge of information, constant awareness of operational information – do you remain an optimist, or a pessimist?
“As I’ve said before, I’m an optimist. And our whole country is like that – we are all optimists. We expect the best from the future, and we will achieve it.
“Thank you, Vladimir Vladimirovich.”
Speaking with Vladimir Putin is always interesting – about us, citizens of Russia, about the world we live in … About politicians and politics. About values, threats, decisions, about the way Russia is realizing itself, and what future it is building. How do we coexist with the world, which is changing quickly, determinedly, almost unpredictably.
March 1, 2018 – Russia State of the Union:
“Here I must go back into the recent past. We long persuaded the Americans not to destroy the Anti Ballistic Missile agreement [ABM Treaty 1972], not to infringe on the strategic balance, but everything was in vain. [1 March, 2018, Federal Assembly Address] In 2002, the US unilaterally withdrew from this agreement. But even after that, we tried for a long time to obtain a constructive dialogue with them. At some point, I thought that a compromise could be found. But no – all of our proposals, all of them, were rejected. Despite our protests and numerous appeals, the American machine just kept going – like a conveyor belt – so what did we do, besides protests and warnings? How did Russia respond to this threat? Like this … Ever since the US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, we worked hard on possible defense technology. We were able to take big steps in the creation of new strategic weapons.
“It’s surprising, given the problems we faced in the economy, in finances, in the defense sector, the army – Russia always was and is a major nuclear power. But no, nobody wanted to speak with us. Nobody wanted to listen to us – well, you should listen now. We are not threatening anyone; we have no plans to invade anyone. We don’t plan to take anything from anyone, under the threat of our weapons. We have everything that we need. To the contrary, I consider it important to emphasize – and this is very important – Russia’s growing military potential is a stable guarantee for peace in our world. Our politics are never based on the notion of ‘exclusivity’ – we defend our interests and respect those of other countries. We rely on international law, and consider the UN to play a key role. We must sit down at the negotiation table, and think of a new security strategy, and a stable development plan for civilization.
We have always told you this. All of our proposals remain valid. Russia is ready for this.