On January 5 President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin gave an interview to the German newspaper Bild in Sochi.
Speaking about the wars and crisis that plagued the world 25 years after the end of the Cold War, Vladimir Putin said:
«We did everything wrong from the outset. We did not overcome Europe’s division: 25 years ago the Berlin Wall fell, but Europe’s division was not overcome, invisible walls simply moved to the East. This created the foundation for mutual reproaches, misunderstanding, and crises in the future…
After the Berlin Wall fell, there were talks that NATO would not expand to the East. As far as I remember, the then Secretary General of NATO, national of the Federal Republic Manfred Woerner said that. By the way, some German politicians of that time gave warnings and proposed their solutions, for example, Egon Bahr:… «If while uniting Germany we do not take decisive steps to overcome the division of Europe into hostile blocs, the developments can take such an unfavorable turn that the USSR will be doomed to international isolation». That was said on June 26, 1990.
Mr Bahr made concrete proposals. He spoke about the necessity to create a new alliance in the center of Europe. Europe should not go to NATO. The whole of Central Europe, either with East Germany or without it, should have formed a separate alliance with participation of both the Soviet Union and the United States. And then he says: «NATO as an organization, at least its military structures must not extend to include Central Europe». At that time, he already was the patriarch of European politics, he had his own vision of Europe’s future, and he was telling his Soviet colleagues: «If you do not agree with it, but on the contrary agree with NATO’s expansion, and the Soviet Union agrees with it, I will never come to Moscow again»…. He saw a deep meaning in that, he was convinced that it was necessary to change the format radically, move away from the times of the Cold War. But we did nothing.
This talk took place on February 27, 1990… So what has actually happened? What Mr Bahr had warned about – that’s what has happened. He warned that the military structure – the North Atlantic Alliance – must not expand to the East. That something common, uniting the whole of Europe must be created. Nothing like that has happened; just the opposite has happened what he had warned about: NATO started moving eastwards and it expanded.
We have heard a thousand times the mantra from our American and European politicians, who say: «Each country has the right to choose its own security arrangements». Yes, we know that. This is true. But it is also true that other countries have the right to make decisions to expand their own organization or not, act as they consider appropriate in terms of global security. And leading NATO members could have said: «We are happy that you want to join us, but we are not going to expand our organization, we see the future of Europe in a different way».
In the last 20–25 years, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union when the second center of gravity in the world disappeared, there was a desire to fully enjoy one's sole presence at the pinnacle of world fame, power and prosperity. There was absolutely no desire to turn either to international law or to the United Nations Charter. Wherever they became an obstacle, the UN was immediately declared outdated.
Apart from NATO’s expansion eastwards, the anti-ballistic missile system has become an issue in terms of security. All this is being developed in Europe under the pretext of addressing the Iranian nuclear threat.
In 2009, current President of the United States Barack Obama said that if Iran’s nuclear threat no longer existed there would be no incentive for establishing the ABM system; this incentive would disappear. However, the agreement with Iran has been signed. And now the lifting of sanctions is being considered, everything is under the IAEA control; first shipments of uranium are already being transported to the Russian territory for processing, but the ABM system is being further developed. Bilateral agreements have been signed with Turkey, Romania, Poland, and Spain. Naval forces that should operate as part of missile defense are deployed in Spain. A positioning area has already been created in Romania, another one will be created in Poland by 2018; a radar is being installed in Turkey.
We strongly objected to developments taking place, say, in Iraq, Libya or some other countries. We said: «Don’t do this, don’t go there, and don’t make mistakes». Nobody listened to us! On the contrary, they thought we took an anti-Western position, a hostile stance towards the West. And now, when you have hundreds of thousands, already one million of refugees, do you think our position was anti-Western or pro-Western?
We [on our part] have failed to assert our national interests, while we should have done that from the outset. Then the whole world could have been more balanced».
When asked about the state of relationship between Russia and Germany, President commented:
«Despite all the attempts (you and your colleagues have been making) to upset our relations using mass media and anti-Russia rhetoric, I believe that you have failed to do this to the extent that you wanted to. In Germany, the media are under a strong foreign influence, first and foremost from the other side of the Atlantic.
As for the Russian-German relations, indeed, they reached an excellent level in 2005, and would have developed successfully further. The trade turnover between our two countries grew to over $80 billion.
In Germany, a huge number of jobs were created thanks to Russian-German cooperation. We tried to prevent negative developments in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, together.
We made major steps in furthering our energy cooperation. A lot of German entrepreneurs opened businesses in Russia, and thousands of enterprises were established. Exchanges between our citizens expanded, and humanitarian contacts developed. The Petersburg Dialogue public forum was also established at that time.
As I have said, our trade turnover used to reach $83–85 billion, and in the first months of 2015 it fell by half. I believe as of the end of the year it will stand at about $40 billion, at 50 percent of what it was. Nevertheless, we maintain relations, and the Federal Chancellor and I meet regularly at various events. I think, I met her seven times, and had 20 telephone conversations with her in 2015. We still hold reciprocal Years of the Russian Language and Literature in Germany and Years of the German Language and Literature in Russia. This year is to be the year of youth exchanges. So the relations are still developing, thank God, and I hope they will develop further. We will overcome the difficulties we are facing today».
«If we want the relations between Russia and our friends and neighbors in Europe and around the world to develop in a positive and constructive manner, at least one condition must be observed: we need to respect each other, each other’s interests and follow the same rules instead of constantly changing them to suit someone’s interests.
You asked me if I was a friend or not. The relations between states are a little different from those between individuals. I am no friend, bride or groom; I am the President of the Russian Federation. That is 146 million people! These people have their own interests, and I must protect those interests. We are ready to do this in a non-confrontational manner, to look for compromise but, of course, based on international law, which must be understood uniformly by all», Vladimir Putin continued.