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Putin: ‘Does Anyone Seriously Imagine That Russia Can Somehow Influence the American People’s Choice?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016 11:49
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(Before It's News)

Yes, Hillary thinks that little of the American people that they would believe this ridiculous fable that she has constructed in order to distract from her criminality, lies, disastrous foreign policies across Africa and the Middle East. Funny how she never mentions her reset button with Russia in all of this catastrophic nonsense of hers.

hillary-reset-button

Putin At Valdai Club: ‘Does Anyone Seriously Imagine That Russia Can Somehow Influence The American People’s Choice?  MEMRI, November 1, 2016:

Russian President Vladimir Putin took part in the final session of the Valdai International Discussion Club’s 13th annual meeting in a session lasting three-and-a-half hours. This year’s theme was: “The Future in Progress: Shaping the World of Tomorrow.” The final session was also attended by former president of Finland Tarja Halonen, former president of Austria Heinz Fischer, and former president of South Africa Thabo Mbeki. In his speech, Putin discussed the new world order. He stated that countries that viewed themselves “as victors” in the Cold War opted to reshape the global political and economic order to fit their own interests. “In their euphoria, they essentially abandoned substantive and equal dialogue with other actors in international life,” Putin said. He then added: “If the powers that be today find some standard or norm to their advantage, they force everyone else to comply.”

Discussing NATO, Putin described the organization, established during the Cold War, as “clearly out of date.” He accused NATO of churning out “imaginary and mythical threats such as the Russian military threat.” According to Putin, to talk about the “Russian military threat” is a “profitable business that can be used to pump new money into defense budgets at home, get allies to bend to a single superpower’s interests, expand NATO and bring its infrastructure, military units and arms closer to our borders.”

Concerning U.S.-Russia relations, Putin described as “hysteria” the U.S. accusations that Russia is meddling in the American presidential elections. Putin said: “You would think that the election debates would concentrate on these and other unresolved problems, but the elite has nothing with which to reassure society, it seems, and therefore attempt to distract public attention by pointing instead to supposed Russian hackers, spies, agents of influence and so forth.” He then added: “I have to ask myself and ask you too: Does anyone seriously imagine that Russia can somehow influence the American people’s choice? America is not some kind of ‘banana republic’, after all, but is a great power. Do correct me if I am wrong.”

During the Q&As, Putin also discussed the U.S. elections, saying that the media have created the view that Russia favors Republican candidate Donald Trump. “I think that this idea, inserted into the public consciousness in the middle of the U.S. presidential campaign, pursues the sole aim of supporting those defending the interests of Ms. Clinton, the Democratic Party candidate, in her fight against… Trump,” Putin stated. He then added: “How is this done? First, they create an enemy in the form of Russia, and then they say that Trump is our preferred candidate. This is complete nonsense and totally absurd. It’s only a tactic in the domestic political struggle, a way of manipulating public opinion before the elections take place.”

With regard to nuclear weapons, Putin said that nuclear weapons are “a deterrent and a factor of ensuring peace and security worldwide.” He stated it is impossible to consider nuclear weapons as a factor in any potential aggression. “It would probably mean the end of our civilization,” he added. However, Putin stated that Russia and the U.S. escalated the arms race in this area, since the U.S. withdrew from the ABM treaty in 2002.

Below are excerpts from Putin’s speech at the Valdai International Discussion’ annual meeting:

Putin at a meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club. (Kremlin.ru, October 27, 2016)

‘Countries That Saw Themselves As Victors In The Cold War… Took The Course Of… Reshaping The Global Political And Economic Order To Fit Their Own Interests’

“… Our esteemed moderator [Timothy Colton] just wished me a good departure into retirement, and I wish myself the same when the time comes. This is the right approach and the thing to do. But I am not retired yet and am for now the leader of this big country. As such, it is fitting to show restraint and avoid displays of excessive aggressiveness. I do not think that this is my style in any case.

“But I do think that we should be frank with each other, particularly here in this gathering. I think we should hold candid, open discussions, otherwise our dialogue makes no sense and would be insipid and without the slightest interest… Last year, the Valdai forum participants discussed the problems with the current world order. Unfortunately, little has changed for the better over these last months. Indeed, it would be more honest to say that nothing has changed.

“The tensions engendered by shifts in distribution of economic and political influence continue to grow. Mutual distrust creates a burden that narrows our possibilities for finding effective responses to the real threats and challenges facing the world today. Essentially, the entire globalization project is in crisis today and in Europe, as we know well, we hear voices now saying that multiculturalism has failed.

“I think this situation is in many respects the result of mistaken, hasty and to some extent over-confident choices made by some countries’ elites a quarter-of-a-century ago. Back then, in the late 1980s-early 1990s, there was a chance not just to accelerate the globalization process but also to give it a different quality and make it more harmonious and sustainable in nature.

“But some countries that saw themselves as victors in the Cold War, not just saw themselves this way but said it openly, took the course of simply reshaping the global political and economic order to fit their own interests.

“In their euphoria, they essentially abandoned substantive and equal dialogue with other actors in international life, chose not to improve or create universal institutions, and attempted instead to bring the entire world under the spread of their own organizations, norms and rules. They chose the road of globalization and security for their own beloved selves, for the select few, and not for all. But far from everyone was ready to agree with this.

“We may as well be frank here, as we know full well that many did not agree with what was happening, but some were unable by then to respond, and others were not yet ready to respond. The result though is that the system of international relations is in a feverish state and the global economy cannot extricate itself from systemic crisis. At the same time, rules and principles, in the economy and in politics, are constantly being distorted and we often see what only yesterday was taken as a truth and raised to dogma status reversed completely.

If the powers that be today find some standard or norm to their advantage, they force everyone else to comply. But if tomorrow these same standards get in their way, they are swift to throw them in the bin, declare them obsolete, and set or try to set new rules.

“Thus, we saw the decisions to launch airstrikes in the center of Europe, against Belgrade, and then came Iraq, and then Libya. The operations in Afghanistan also started without the corresponding decision from the United Nations Security Council. In their desire to shift the strategic balance in their favor these countries broke apart the international legal framework that prohibited deployment of new missile defense systems. They created and armed terrorist groups, whose cruel actions have sent millions of civilians into flight, made millions of displaced persons and immigrants, and plunged entire regions into chaos.

‘It Can Be A… Profitable Task To Portray Oneself As The Defender Of Civilization Against The New Barbarians. The Only Thing Is That Russia Has No Intention Of Attacking Anyone’

We see how free trade is being sacrificed and countries use sanctions as a means of political pressure, bypass the World Trade Organization and attempt to establish closed economic alliances with strict rules and barriers, in which the main beneficiaries are their own transnational corporations. And we know this is happening. They see that they cannot resolve all of the problems within the WTO framework and so think, why not throw the rules and the organization itself aside and build a new one instead. This illustrates what I just said.

“At the same time, some of our partners demonstrate no desire to resolve the real international problems in the world today. In organizations such as NATO, for example, established during the Cold War and clearly out of date today, despite all the talk about the need to adapt to the new reality, no real adaptation takes place. We see constant attempts to turn the OSCE, a crucial mechanism for ensuring common European and also trans-Atlantic security, into an instrument in the service of someone’s foreign policy interests. The result is that this very important organization has been hollowed out.

“But they continue to churn out threats, imaginary and mythical threats such as the ‘Russian military threat’. This is a profitable business that can be used to pump new money into defense budgets at home, get allies to bend to a single superpower’s interests, expand NATO and bring its infrastructure, military units and arms closer to our borders.

“Of course, it can be a pleasing and even profitable task to portray oneself as the defender of civilization against the new barbarians. The only thing is that Russia has no intention of attacking anyone. This is all quite absurd. I also read analytical materials, those written by you here today, and by your colleagues in the USA and Europe.

“It is unthinkable, foolish and completely unrealistic. Europe alone has 300 million people. All of the NATO members together with the USA have a total population of 600 million, probably. But Russia has only 146 million. It is simply absurd to even conceive such thoughts. And yet they use these ideas in pursuit of their political aims.

Another mythical and imaginary problem is what I can only call the hysteria the USAhas whipped up over supposed Russian meddling in the American presidential election. The United States has plenty of genuinely urgent problems, it would seem, from the colossal public debt to the increase in firearms violence and cases of arbitrary action by the police.

“You would think that the election debates would concentrate on these and other unresolved problems, but the elite has nothing with which to reassure society, it seems, and therefore attempt to distract public attention by pointing instead to supposed Russian hackers, spies, agents of influence and so forth.

“I have to ask myself and ask you too: Does anyone seriously imagine that Russia can somehow influence the American people’s choice? America is not some kind of ‘banana republic’, after all, but is a great power. Do correct me if I am wrong.

‘I Would Like To Have Such A Propaganda Machine Here In Russia… We Have Not Even Global Mass Media Outlets Of The Likes Of CNN, BBC And Others’

“The question is, if things continue in this vein, what awaits the world? What kind of world will we have tomorrow? Do we have answers to the questions of how to ensure stability, security and sustainable economic growth? Do we know how we will make a more prosperous world?

“Sad as it is to say, there is no consensus on these issues in the world today. Maybe you have come to some common conclusions through your discussions, and I would, of course, be interested to hear them. But it is very clear that there is a lack of strategy and ideas for the future. This creates a climate of uncertainty that has a direct impact on the public mood.

“Sociological studies conducted around the world show that people in different countries and on different continents tend to see the future as murky and bleak. This is sad. The future does not entice them, but frightens them. At the same time, people see no real opportunities or means for changing anything, influencing events and shaping policy.

“Yes, formally speaking, modern countries have all the attributes of democracy: Elections, freedom of speech, access to information, freedom of expression. But even in the most advanced democracies the majority of citizens have no real influence on the political process and no direct and real influence on power.

“People sense an ever-growing gap between their interests and the elite’s vision of the only correct course, a course the elite itself chooses. The result is that referendums and elections increasingly often create surprises for the authorities. People do not at all vote as the official and respectable media outlets advised them to, nor as the mainstream parties advised them to. Public movements that only recently were too far left or too far right are taking center stage and pushing the political heavyweights aside.

“At first, these inconvenient results were hastily declared anomaly or chance. But when they became more frequent, people started saying that society does not understand those at the summit of power and has not yet matured sufficiently to be able to assess the authorities’ labor for the public good. Or they sink into hysteria and declare it the result of foreign, usually Russian, propaganda.

“Friends and colleagues, I would like to have such a propaganda machine here in Russia, but regrettably, this is not the case. We have not even global mass media outlets of the likes of CNN, BBC and others. We simply do not have this kind of capability yet.

“As for the claim that the fringe and populists have defeated the sensible, sober and responsible minority – we are not talking about populists or anything like that but about ordinary people, ordinary citizens who are losing trust in the ruling class. That is the problem.

“By the way, with the political agenda already eviscerated as it is, and with elections ceasing to be an instrument for change but consisting instead of nothing but scandals and digging up dirt – who gave someone a pinch, who sleeps with whom, if you’ll excuse me. This just goes beyond all boundaries. And honestly, a look at various candidates’ platforms gives the impression that they were made from the same mould – the difference is slight, if there is any.

“It seems as if the elites do not see the deepening stratification in society and the erosion of the middle class, while at the same time, they implant ideological ideas that, in my opinion, are destructive to cultural and national identity. And in certain cases, in some countries they subvert national interests and renounce sovereignty in exchange for the favor of the suzerain.

“This begs the question: who is actually the fringe? The expanding class of the supranational oligarchy and bureaucracy, which is in fact often not elected and not controlled by society, or the majority of citizens, who want simple and plain things – stability, free development of their countries, prospects for their lives and the lives of their children, preserving their cultural identity, and, finally, basic security for themselves and their loved ones.

‘My Personal Agreements With The President Of The United States Have Not Produced Results’

“People are clearly scared to see how terrorism is evolving from a distant threat to an everyday one, how a terrorist attack could occur right near them, on the next street, if not on their own street, while any makeshift item – from a home-made explosive to an ordinary truck – can be used to carry out a mass killing.

“Moreover, the terrorist attacks that have taken place in the past few years in Boston and other US cities, Paris, Brussels, Nice and German cities, as well as, sadly, in our own country, show that terrorists do not need units or organized structures – they can act independently, on their own, they just need the ideological motivation against their enemies, that is, against you and us.

“The terrorist threat is a clear example of how people fail to adequately evaluate the nature and causes of the growing threats. We see this in the way events in Syria are developing. No one has succeeded in stopping the bloodshed and launching a political settlement process. One would think that we would have begun to put together a common front against terrorism now, after such lengthy negotiations, enormous effort and difficult compromises.

“But this has not happened and this common front has not emerged. My personal agreements with the President of the United States have not produced results either. There were people in Washington ready to do everything possible to prevent these agreements from being implemented in practice. This all demonstrates an unexplainable and I would say irrational desire on the part of the Western countries to keep making the same mistakes or, as we say here in Russia, keep stepping on the same rake.

“We all see what is happening in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and a number of other countries. I have to ask, where are the results of the fight against terrorism and extremism? Overall, looking at the world as a whole, there are some results in particular regions and locations, but there is no global result and the terrorist threat continues to grow.

“We all remember the euphoria in some capitals over the Arab Spring. Where are these fanfares today? Russia’s calls for a joint fight against terrorism go ignored. What’s more, they continue to arm, supply and train terrorist groups in the hope of using them to achieve their own political aims. This is a very dangerous game and I address the players once again: The extremists in this case are more cunning, clever and stronger than you, and if you play these games with them, you will always lose.

“Colleagues, it is clear that the international community should concentrate on the real problems facing humanity today, the resolution of which will make our world a safer and more stable place and make the system of international relations fairer and more equal. As I said, it is essential to transform globalization from something for a select few into something for all. It is my firm belief that we can overcome these threats and challenges only by working together on the solid foundation of international law and the United Nations Charter.

“Today it is the United Nations that continues to remain an agency that is unparalleled in representativeness and universality, a unique venue for equitable dialogue. Its universal rules are necessary for including as many countries as possible in economic and humanitarian integration, guaranteeing their political responsibility and working to coordinate their actions while also preserving their sovereignty and development models.

“We have no doubt that sovereignty is the central notion of the entire system of international relations. Respect for it and its consolidation will help underwrite peace and stability both at the national and international levels. There are many countries that can rely on a history stretching back a thousand years, like Russia, and we have come to appreciate our identity, freedom and independence. But we do not seek global domination, expansion or confrontation with anyone.

“In our mind, real leadership lies in seeing real problems rather than attempting to invent mythical threats and use them to steamroll others. This is exactly how Russia understands its role in global affairs today.

“There are priorities without which a prosperous future for our shared planet is unthinkable and they are absolutely obvious. I won’t be saying anything new here. First of all, there is equal and indivisible security for all states. Only after ending armed conflicts and ensuring the peaceful development of all countries will we be able to talk about economic progress and the resolution of social, humanitarian and other key problems. It is important to fight terrorism and extremism in actuality. It has been said more than once that this evil can only be overcome by a concerted effort of all states of the world. Russia continues to offer this to all interested partners.

It is necessary to add to the international agenda the issue of restoring the Middle Eastern countries’ lasting statehood, economy and social sphere. The mammoth scale of destruction demands drawing up a long-term comprehensive program, a kind of Marshall Plan, to revive the war- and conflict-ridden area. Russia is certainly willing to join actively in these team efforts…

“Russia advocates the harmonisation of regional economic formats based on the principles of transparency and respect for each other’s interests. That is how we arrange the work of the Eurasian Economic Union and conduct negotiations with our partners, particularly on coordination with the Silk Road Economic Belt project, which China is implementing. We expect it to promote an extensive Eurasian partnership, which promises to evolve into one of the formative centers of a vast Eurasian integration area. To implement this idea, 5+1 talks have begun already for an agreement on trade and economic cooperation between all participants in the process…”

Q&As – Putin: ‘Were There Terrorists In Iraq? There Were No Terrorists There Until The Country’s State Structures Were Destroyed’

Vladimir Putin: ”It was either [former President of Finland] Tarja, or [former President of Austria] Heinz, who said that the operations in Aleppo are only increasing the number of terrorists. But did the terrorist ranks start swelling only with Aleppo? Were there terrorists in Iraq? There were no terrorists there until the country’s state structures were destroyed. The same was true of Libya, where there were no terrorists at all. But as soon as this country’s statehood was destroyed, who came along to fill the vacuum? Terrorists. The same is happening in Syria.

“I understand the insinuations made about our action in Aleppo or elsewhere. But let’s remember that as soon as the conflict began in Syria, and it began long before we became involved, terrorists appeared there and began receiving arms supplies. I mentioned this in my opening remarks. Attempts were made to train these terrorists and set them against al-Assad, because there were no other options and these groups were the most effective. This continues today because these are the most effective fighting units and some think that it is possible to make use of them and then sort them out later. But this is an illusion. It won’t work, and this is the problem…

“Bells are tolling for those who have been killed in Aleppo. Bells should also be tolling for those now losing their lives in Mosul and its vicinity. The operation in Mosul is getting underway now. As far as I know, the terrorists have already shot more than 200 people in the hope of stopping the offensive on the town. Let’s not forget this. And in Afghanistan? Whole wedding parties of 120 people were wiped out with a single airstrike. A single strike! Have we forgotten this? And what about what’s happening in Yemen? Let the bells toll for all of these innocent victims. I agree with you here.

“We keep hearing Aleppo, Aleppo, Aleppo. But what is the issue here? Do we leave the nest of terrorists in place there, or do we squeeze them out, doing our best to minimize and avoid civilian casualties? If it is better to not go in at all, then the offensive against Mosul shouldn’t go ahead at all either. Let’s just leave everything as it is. Let’s leave Raqqa alone too. Our partners keep saying, “We need to take back Raqqa and eliminate the nest of terrorists there”. But there are civilians in Raqqa too. So, should we not fight the terrorists at all? And when they take hostages in towns, should we just leave them be? Look at Israel’s example. Israel never steps back but always fights to the end, and this is how it survives. There is no alternative. We need to fight. If we keep retreating, we will always lose…”

Putin: ‘First, They Create An Enemy In The Form Of Russia, And Then They Say That Trump Is Our Preferred Candidate’

Andrei Sushentsov: ”Andrei Sushentsov, MGIMO University, member of the Valdai Club.

The foreign media takes the view that Russia has a distinct favorite in the US presidential elections – Donald Trump. What role will the next American president really play for Russia and for bilateral relations? What conditions would US foreign policy need to meet for a normalization of relations with Russia?”

Vladimir Putin: ”On the question of favorites in the US presidential campaign, you said that the media have created this view. Yes, this is the case, and this is not by chance. In my observation, it is a rare occasion that the mass media forms a view purely by chance. I think that this idea, inserted into the public consciousness in the middle of the US presidential campaign, pursues the sole aim of supporting those defending the interests of Ms. Clinton, the Democratic Party candidate, in her fight against the Republican Party candidate, in this case, Donald Trump.

“How is this done? First, they create an enemy in the form of Russia, and then they say that Trump is our preferred candidate. This is complete nonsense and totally absurd. It’s only a tactic in the domestic political struggle, a way of manipulating public opinion before the elections take place. As I have said many times before, we do not know exactly what to expect from either of the candidates once they win.

“We do not know what Mr. Trump would do if he wins, and we do not know what Ms. Clinton would do, what would go ahead or not go ahead. Overall then, it does not really matter to us who wins. Of course, we can only welcome public words about a willingness to normalize relations between our two countries. In this sense, yes, we welcome such statements, no matter who makes them. That is all I can say, really.

As for Mr. Trump, he has chosen his method of reaching voters’ hearts. Yes, he behaves extravagantly, of course, we all see this. But I think there is some sense in his actions. I say this because in my view, he represents the interests of the sizeable part of American society that is tired of the elites that have been in power for decades now. He is simply representing these ordinary people’s interests.

“He portrays himself as an ordinary guy who criticizes those who have been in power for decades and does not like to see power handed down by inheritance, for example. We read the analysis too, including American analysis. Some of the experts there have written openly about this. He operates in this niche. The elections will soon show whether this is an effective strategy or not. As for me, I cannot but repeat what I have said already: we will work with whichever president the American people choose and who wants to work with us.”

Putin: ‘We Passed Information On The Tsarnayev Brothers On To Our American Partners… But Received No Response’

Question: ”… You mentioned recently the case of the Tsarnayev brothers. As far as I know, Russia passed on information but no action was taken. Does this mean that practical cooperation in security is now in a critical situation?”

Vladimir Putin: ”I spoke about this matter at a meeting with French journalists, if I recall correctly. Yes, we passed information on the Tsarnayev brothers on to our American partners. We wrote to them but received no response. After we wrote a second time we got a reply that they are US citizens and so it was none of our business and they would take care of everything themselves. I told the director of the FSB to archive the file. The response we received is still there, in the archives.

“Sadly, a few months later, the Boston marathon terrorist attack took place and people were killed. It is a great shame that this tragedy took place. If contacts and trust between us and our partners had been better this could have been avoided. The Americans came here immediately following the attack and we gave them the information in our possession. But it was too late. People had already lost their lives. This partly answers the last question too. We do not know if those who say they want to work with us really will or not, but they do say quite rightly that this is essential for all of us, especially in the fight against terrorism. In this sense, we welcome all who declare such intentions.

“As I have also said in the past, the Americans have provided us with real help, during the preparations for the Olympic Games in Sochi, for example, and we are grateful to them for this. Our cooperation was very efficient here, on site and at the level of our intelligence service heads. There have been other good examples of cooperation too. Overall, we have quite a good situation in this area with our European partners. We have open and professional contacts with the French intelligence services, for example, and exchange information. In general, the situation is not bad, but it could be a lot better.”

Putin: ‘As Far As The [Normandy] Format Goes And Whether It Is Useful Or Not, We Simply Have No Alternative’

Question: ”… Mr. Putin, after quite a long hiatus, there was a Normandy format meeting in Berlin just recently. The different parties diverged somewhat in their interpretation of the talks’ results. I would like to hear your assessment of these results and of the atmosphere at the talks. Also, do you think the Normandy format is effective in its present form, and do you think it might be more productive if, for example, the United States were to take part? Thank you.”

Vladimir Putin: “Could you clarify something? What do you mean by different interpretations of the meeting’s results? What are you talking about? Oddly enough, I have not heard of any different interpretations. What are they?’

Question: ”There was discussion about sending a policing mission to Donbass, and also emphasis on the roadmap that we saw in Russia, for example, in the media and in political debate. I think this was really a case of diverging interpretations of the results.”

Vladimir Putin: ”This is no secret. I can tell you how it was. I might leave something out, so as not to put anyone in a difficult position or interfere with the process itself.”As you know, the Minsk agreements, which I think the experts have all read, say in black and white: ‘Thirty days after the signing of the Minsk agreements Ukraine’s Rada [the unicameral parliament of Ukraine] must adopt a resolution outlining the geographical boundaries of areas where the law on the special status of these unrecognized republics would become effective immediately.’ Because the only thing needed for it to work was the description of those geographical boundaries.

“That had to be established, not by law, but by a parliamentary resolution, and the resolution was finally adopted, even if past the deadline. So one would think that this law was to take effect immediately. It was passed, I would like to remind you, by the Parliament of Ukraine. The lawmakers voted for it, and it was coordinated with the unrecognized republics, which is very important, and in this sense, in my view, makes it viable legislation and a key element of a political settlement.

“But after passing this resolution, Ukraine and its Parliament adopted an amendment, a paragraph to Article 9 or 10, which said the law would take effect only after municipal elections in these areas. That once again postponed the law’s enforcement. I repeat, in our opinion, that law is absolutely key to a political resolution to the crisis in southeastern Ukraine.Moreover, that was done without even consulting anyone, least of all the unrecognized republics.

“We discussed this very actively a year ago in Paris. I insisted that this be done then and done immediately, as it was part of the Minsk Agreements and is, in our view, a key component. But the Ukrainian president said that this was not possible and everything ended up in a dead end. In this situation, everything could have ended then and there a year ago in Paris, but Mr. Steinmeier, the German Foreign Minister, suddenly proposed a compromise.

“He suggested that we agree to have the law come into force on the day of the local elections in these regions, temporarily, and have it come into force permanently after the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights recognizes the elections as having taken place in accordance with OSCE rules. This was not at all what was set out in the Minsk Agreements, but in order to get us out of the deadlock we were in, I expressed my agreement and said we would settle the matter with Donetsk and Lugansk, which we did.

“But then in Berlin, the Ukrainian president suddenly also attempted to change this proposal, already the result of a compromise. He went even further, essentially renouncing the law’s implementation whatever the case. We thus found ourselves back in the same crisis we had in Paris a year before. But I want to note the Federal Chancellor’s role here. She found arguments to persuade everyone present that we could and should keep to the agreement we reached and said that it was not possible to change what we’d already agreed on a year later, or we would never reach an agreement. But we agreed to bundle the nuances and details of how it would be implemented together with the concept you spoke about, and which still has to be worked through.

“That is it, really. But in principle, a lot was accomplished in terms of ensuring security. We reached agreement on nearly every point. We made very little progress on humanitarian matters. These regions remain tightly blockaded and are in a very difficult situation. But the so-called civilized world prefers not to notice this. I do not want to get into debate on this matter now. As far as the [Normandy] format goes and whether it is useful or not, we simply have no alternative.

“Yes, the discussions proceed with difficulty, and this is not very effective, I agree, but we have no other option, and if we want to make progress, we have to continue working in this format. As for the question of getting any other actors involved, our position is that we are not opposed to the idea of others taking part, including our American partners. But we have reached an agreement with all participants in the process that we will work in parallel with our American colleagues. My aide and [U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria] Nuland have regular meetings, discuss these issues and look for compromise. This is not being done in secret though, of course. All participants in the Normandy format meetings are informed and we take into account our American partners’ position too, of course.”

Putin: ‘The US Withdrew From The Missile Defense Treaty, But We Did Not Withdraw From The Plutonium Agreement, We Suspended It’

Question: ”This question is for President Putin. I’m Angela Stent; I’m a professor at Georgetown University in Washington. Mr. President, Russia recently withdrew from an agreement with the United States to dispose of weapons-grade plutonium, but at the same time, the Russian Government said that it would consider re-joining the agreement if three conditions were met: firstly, that NATO troops should withdraw to the level that they were before 2000 in Europe; secondly, the Magnitsky Act should be repealed; and thirdly, that the sanctions imposed on Russia after the beginning of the Ukraine crisis should be lifted, and Russia should be paid compensation for them. So my question is: we will have a new President on January 20, I’m optimistic about that. Are we to understand, in the United States, that these three conditions would form the basis of an initial negotiating position on the Russian part with the American president, when she re-establishes high-level relations with the Kremlin? Thank you.”

Vladimir Putin: ”One can tell straight away that you are an academic and not a diplomat. If you ask the diplomats, they will tell you about the concept of ‘starting position’. As for our decision on the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement, we did not withdraw from it. The United States withdrew from the missile defense treaty, but we did not withdraw from the plutonium agreement, we suspended it. Why did we do this? What were this agreement’s provisions? Under its terms, both countries were to build facilities for disposing of the surplus weapons-grade plutonium that had accumulated in both Russia and the USA.

Not only did the USA not meet its obligations under the agreement, but said that it would not do so because of financial difficulties. As if Russia does not have financial difficulties of its own, but we built our facility and are disposing of this plutonium using industrial methods. Without any prior coordination with us, the United States made a unilateral announcement that they would not dilute this weapons-grade plutonium but would store it in some beds and so forth.

“This means that they retain what the experts call return potential, in other words, the plutonium could be returned and re-enriched at any moment. But we are eliminating our plutonium using industrial methods. We built our facility and spent money on it. Are we wealthier than the United States? There are many issues it has become difficult to discuss with the current administration because practically no obligations are met and no agreements are respected, including those on Syria. Perhaps we will be able to come back to this. We are ready, in any case, to talk with the new president and look for solutions to any, even the most difficult, issues.”

Putin: ‘Russians And Ukrainians Are Really One People’

Question: “In September 2014, at the Valdai Club, you described the relations between Ukraine and Russia with the following sentence: ‘Two countries, one people’. Today, how would you describe the relations between the two countries? Thank you very much.”

Vladimir Putin: ”I will not go into who is to blame for what now. I have always considered, and still do today, that Russians and Ukrainians are really one people. There are people who hold radical nationalist views both in Russia and in Ukraine. But overall, for the majority, we are one people, a people who share a common history and culture and are ethnically close. First we were divided, then we were set against each other, but we are not to blame for this. We must find our own way out of this situation. I am sure that common sense will prevail and that we will find a solution.”

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