For the Record
President Vladimir Putin
On the eve of the G8 Summit in St. Petersburg, President Vladimir Putin gave a series of interviews to foreign television stations, where he confidently expressed his views on a number of topics.
In 2008, Russia will have a new President. Who it will be and whether that person will follow the Putin policy line is a question of speculation. As for the President amending the constitution so he can run for a third term, he rejects that option: “Because the President of Russia is the guarantor of the Constitution. It is the President’s direct responsibility to guarantee its stability, and I think that this stability is precisely one of our greatest achievements of recent years. We cannot have a stable situation in the country if we destabilize the Constitution,” he stressed to his interlocutors. “I will do everything I can to ensure that everyone in the Russian Federation, starting with the head of state, respects the laws of this country.”
On Russia’s International Image
“Not everyone in the West has understood that the Soviet Union has disappeared from the political map of the world and that a new country has emerged with new humanist and ideological principles at the foundation of its existence. I see that some still base their positions on an outdated view of the world, but I think that the situation is changing quite fast,” he told French TV. “Concerning Russia’s image, of course we can no doubt use some special means to improve our image by promoting information on the real situation in the Russian Federation. But sooner or later everything will fall into place in any event, because life itself will show just how fundamentally Russia has changed and how its role in the modern world is changing.“
“We went from the tsarist regime straight into communism and only at the beginning of the 1990’s made a decisive step towards developing democratic institutions. We made this choice for ourselves because the practice of recent decades in the world has shown that democratic organization of society is the only way forward. It is an essential condition for effective development. And if we want to be an effective country and this is what we want, then we must adhere to these rules. This is what we shall do.” “The early 1990s saw the collapse of the Soviet Union. This was a very difficult time for our economy. Our social system broke down entirely. You were living here and you saw all of this. In reality, our country was balancing on the edge of preserving its statehood. This was a huge country, after all, hard to govern, lurching from one crisis to another, and it was easy to manipulate it and influence its domestic and foreign policy. And suddenly in the space of just five or six years everything has changed quite radically, but some of our partners have not lost their desire to manage and dictate the situation within Russia and to influence our foreign policy. And so they have begun feverishly looking round for those levers through which to exert influence, but little opportunity remains today for influencing Russia.”
“It was not us who began the war in 1999. Back then, international terrorist groups launched an attack on Dagestan, also a Muslim republic, from Chechen territory, and the Muslims of Dagestan, together with a large part of the Chechen population, fought back against these terrorists. Only later did our regular armed forces come to their aid. Only later,” he told French TV. “We had no choice but to take this action. I think that any country would rise to the defense of its territorial integrity, because in this case we were not just trying to stamp out a hotbed of terrorism in the North Caucasus and in Chechnya in particular. For us it was clear that if we allowed the creation of a fundamentalist state from the Caspian to the Black Sea, this would spill over into other parts of Russia where Muslims are a large part of the population. “This was a question of the survival of the Russian Federation itself, of our statehood, and I think that all of our actions were justified.”
On Reliability as an Energy Partner
“When in the middle of the 1970s Germany and the USSR thought of constructing a gas pipeline system to provide German consumers with our natural gas, America was against this. At the time they talked about the unreliability, the problems related to possible dependence on the USSR. And we both know that no dependence ensued.” “Moreover, the Berlin Wall fell with the support of the Soviet Union and Germany was united. And despite all the difficulties and dramatic events of that period, Russia has been a most reliable supplier for over 40 years,“ he told German television.
On Iraq after Saddam Hussein
“I think that there are greater prospects now for making life better, but from the security point of view the situation has worsened and a real threat that the state will collapse has emerged. People are talking about this more and more often now. If this does happen it will be a major event with farreaching and perhaps negative consequences for the region as a whole. “In terms of the economic and welfare situation, things have not improved. I say once again that there is hope for the future now and we all want to see these hopes realized,” he told NBC.