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Russia on the global stage and relations with the United States (interview to TASS)

March 11, 2020

The eleventh part of Vladimir Putin's interview to TASS News Agency has been published.

The 20 Questions with Vladimir Putin project is an interview with the President of Russia on the most topical subjects of social and political life in Russia and the world. Total recording time is 3.5 hours.

Andrei Vandenko: So you addressed Trump as ‘Donald’, in a friendly way.

Vladimir Putin: He calls me Vladimir, I call him Donald.

Andrei Vandenko: I mean, you have worked with four American presidents. Once Bush saw something in your eyes…

Vladimir Putin: Yes…

Andrei Vandenko: But things did not go well with Obama, is that correct?

Vladimir Putin: Well…

Andrei Vandenko: Who was it that you felt most at ease with?

Vladimir Putin: It is difficult for me to say now. Indeed, I had fairly constructive relations with each of them.

Andrei Vandenko: But it did not go well with Obama.

Vladimir Putin: Did it or didn’t… I had good relations with Bush.

Andrei Vandenko: Did somebody put you at odds with him?

Vladimir Putin: What?

Andrei Vandenko: Did somebody put you at odds with him?

Vladimir Putin: No, it has nothing to do with ‘being at odds’. It's just that, when a person says that…

Andrei Vandenko: Do you mean Barack?

Vladimir Putin: Sorry?

Andrei Vandenko: Do you mean Barack?

Vladimir Putin: Yes. He already stated that the US is an exceptional nation, with special, exclusive rights to practically the entire the world, I cannot go along with that. God created us all equal and gave us equal rights. So, I think it is absolutely ungrounded to say that some people should have exclusive rights to anything.

Andrei Vandenko: On a scale from one to five, not to make it too complicated, how would you rate Russia’s current relationship with the US?

Vladimir Putin: I would give it a three.

Andrei Vandenko: A three? Not bad.

Vladimir Putin: Between a two and a three. More like a three though. Look…

Andrei Vandenko: And how about earlier?

Vladimir Putin: Look, we do cooperate on counter-terrorism. I’m serious… It was actually me who called Trump to thank the US for giving us the information.

Andrei Vandenko: You mean on the St Petersburg cell?

Vladimir Putin: Yes. They had been looking into them for a long time. And after that, the FBI provided this information to the Federal Security Service.

Andrei Vandenko: Does it mean that the Americans are working better than us on our own soil?

Vladimir Putin: They work… I am not going to talk about it now, because this information is classified. They work globally.

Andrei Vandenko: I won’t tell anyone.

Vladimir Putin: I'll whisper in your ear afterwards.

Andrei Vandenko: Deal.

Vladimir Putin: They work globally, and so do we.

Andrei Vandenko: Ok.

Vladimir Putin: But they were the ones who tracked this case down. That time, we did not. Our services track down a lot of them, thus preventing dozens of terrorist attacks, they catch and intercept them. Several dozen a year. That specific case was detected by the US. I would like to thank them a lot for sharing that information with us.

Andrei Vandenko: So it’s a three now, but what was the peak rate?

Vladimir Putin: Well, let’s see… Trade turnover used to be higher, it dropped to 20 from 28, still very low. But in the last two years, under Trump, trade turnover started to grow.

In terms of security, a while ago we concluded an agreement with Obama, the New START was also signed when he was in office. Now it has not been extended. Just yet. So this raises a question.

The US keeps imposing sanctions on Russia. Another question. Take Nord Stream 2, they imposed sanctions on it as well. The US has always been against the development of our economic relations with Europe, even in the 1960s, when we launched the construction, you remember, the gas-for-pipes deal. Thank God, now we produce large-diameter pipes ourselves, which is, by the way, another recent achievement of our white metallurgy and other sectors. 75 percent, and it is crucial, 75 percent of facilities in our manufacturing sector, as well as machinery and equipment, have been manufactured in recent years, in the last 10 to 15 years. This is quite an achievement. They have always been against it. Against Nord Stream 1 – they did oppose it, now they oppose Nord Stream 2 in the same manner.

So why did they do it, what for? What was the reason – to ensure transit through Ukraine. Looks a bit strange too, doesn’t it? So they are wooing Ukraine and have introduced external control over it, but they want Ukraine to be sustained by our money as well. They don’t want to give Ukraine money themselves. They want Ukraine to receive something from us through transit fees. Ok, we agree, because following from the growth of gas consumption in Europe in general and in Ukraine in particular, we, too, will be interested in it and we will go on with gas transit. The volumes will be lower, but we will continue.

However, the main motivation, the excuse for imposing sanctions against Nord Stream 2 was the need to ensure transit through Ukraine. We have signed a transit agreement with Ukraine. So, what is needed now? Sanctions against Nord Stream should be lifted. There are no grounds for imposing them. And if the sanctions remain, it will mean that there is only one motive – to ensure competitive advantages for their LNG, for their liquefied gas.

Andrei Vandenko: The strongest player sets the rules.

Vladimir Putin: They are securing a market for their products, exclusively in their own selfish interests and at the expense of European consumers. But if the price of a fossil fuel rises by 25 to 30 percent, the competitiveness of the German economy, as well as the European one, will be undermined.

Andrei Vandenko: But in fact, in geopolitical terms, Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok does not exist anymore.

Vladimir Putin: But it never existed. ‘Anymore!’ You’re talking now about something which never existed, as if it is something we have lost. Back in the day, de Gaulle spoke about a Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals. Then I extended that idea a little, and started saying: why to the Urals, why not to the Pacific, to the Far East? But I think we should aim for it.

Andrei Vandenko: Was your Munich speech an overreaction?

Vladimir Putin: Not at all. Now they repeat everything I said. For example, the German leaders. They almost repeat it word for word… They were mad at me at the time, angry with me, they said, why did you do that?

Andrei Vandenko: They took offense.

Vladimir Putin: No. Got angry because, well, it was a bit rude, at the wrong time; ‘why would you do that’. And what did I say? I said that it is inadmissible that one country, the United States, extends its jurisdiction beyond its national borders.

Today, say, the German leadership says exactly that, that it is inadmissible that the United States imposes secondary sanctions, i.e. on companies, that have no relation to the United States, trying to prevent them from pursuing their national interests.

Andrei Vandenko: Not only distant, but also our close neighbours started to distance themselves from us in a way.

Vladimir Putin: Well, I don't see that. Who exactly started to distance themselves?

Andrei Vandenko: Take Georgia, for instance.

Vladimir Putin: They didn’t just distance themselves – they jumped aside. Through no fault of ours. They should thank Mikheil Nikolayevich [Saakashvili] for that.

Andrei Vandenko: But he hasn't been around for a long time.

Vladimir Putin: Not at all! He is running around, from square to square, taking to rooftops, like a tomcat. We had a lot of discussions with him on the subject when he was still president. I think Mikheil Saakashvili would recall that. I told him: ‘Listen, don't you ever try to deal with South Ossetia and Abkhazia using force.’ ‘No, I'll never do that,’ he said. And he still stormed in. He stormed in and got knocked back!

March 11, 2020