On January 5 President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin gave an interview to the German newspaper Bild in Sochi.
In the second part of his interview, Vladimir Putin was asked about the perspectives of restoration of the G8 format and about President Obama’s comments on Russia’s role in the world as a strictly regional power.
President replied: «Every individual, all the more so the President of the United States, is entitled to his or her own opinion on anything, on partners and on other countries. That is his own opinion, as I also know his opinion that the American nation, the United States is unique. I cannot agree with either of those opinions.
Let me clarify a few things about Russia. First, we do not claim the role of a superpower. This role is very costly and it is meaningless. Our economy is fifth or sixth in the world in terms of volume. We occupy, roughly, the sixth place in the world in terms of purchasing power parity.
If we say that Russia is a regional power, we should first determine what region we are referring to… I think that speculations about other countries, an attempt to speak disrespectfully about other countries is an attempt to prove one’s exceptionalism by contrast. In my view, that is a misguided position».
On the G8 and NATO issues Vladimir Putin commented: «I think Russia never became a full-fledged G8 member, since there were always separate negotiations between foreign ministers of the other seven countries.
I believe that Russia’s presence was useful, since it provided an alternative view on some issues under discussion. We examine pretty much the same issues within the G20, APEC in the East and within BRICS. We were ready to host the G8 summit in 2014. It was not us who did not go somewhere; other countries did not come to Russia. If our counterparts decide to come for a visit, they will be most welcome, but we have not booked any tickets yet…
It was not Russia that cut off cooperation through the G8 or the Russia-NATO Council. We are willing to interact with everyone, once there is a matter for common discussion… [A] relationship can be happy only when the feeling is mutual. If we are not welcome as partners, that is fine with us then.
…Turkey is a NATO member. However, the problems that have emerged have nothing to do with Turkey’s NATO membership; nobody has attacked Turkey. Instead of trying to provide us with an explanation for the war crime they committed, that is, for downing our fighter jet that was targeting terrorists, the Turkish government rushed to NATO headquarters seeking protection, which looks quite odd and, in my view, humiliating for Turkey.
I repeat, NATO has to protect its members from attack, but nobody has attacked Turkey. If Turkey has vested interests elsewhere in the world, in the adjacent countries, does it mean that NATO must protect and secure these interests? Does it mean that Germany, as a NATO member, must help Turkey to expand into neighboring territories?
I hope that such incidents will not cause large-scale hostilities. Of course, we all realize that Russia, once under threat, would defend its security interests by all available means at its disposal, should such threats against Russia arise».
Speaking about Syrian conflict, Vladimir Putin said:
«…[P]hony evidence about our pilots reportedly striking civilian targets keeps circulating. If we tag the «live pipelines» that consist of thousands of petrol and oil tankers as civilian targets, than, indeed, one might believe that our pilots are bombing these targets, but everyone is bombing them, including the Americans, the French and everyone else.
…President al-Assad has made many mistakes in the course of the Syrian conflict. However, don’t we all realise full well that this conflict would never have escalated to such a degree if it had not been supported from abroad through supplying money, weapons and fighters? Tragically, it is civilians who suffer in such conflicts.
I can tell you precisely what we do not want to happen: we do not want the Libyan or Iraqi scenario to be repeated in Syria. I have to give due credit to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and I told him this myself, because had he not taken on the responsibility, demonstrated fortitude and brought the country under control, then we might have witnessed the Libyan scenario in Egypt. In my view, no effort should be spared in strengthening legitimate governments in the region’s countries. That also applies to Syria. Emerging state institutions in Iraq and in Libya must be revived and strengthened. Situations in Somalia and other countries must be stabilised. State authority in Afghanistan must be reinforced. However, it does not mean that everything should be left as is. Indeed, this new stability would underpin political reforms.
As far as Syria is concerned, I think that we should work towards a constitutional reform. It is a complicated process. Then, early presidential and parliamentary elections should be held, based on the new Constitution. It is the Syrian people themselves who must decide who and how should run their country. This is the only way to achieve stability and security, to create conditions for economic growth and prosperity, so that people can live in their own homes, in their homeland, rather than flee to Europe.
…we support… [a]rmed opposition against al-Assad that is fighting ISIS. We coordinate our joint operations with them and support their offensives by airstrikes in various sections of the frontline. This is hundreds, thousands of armed people fighting ISIS. We support both the al-Assad’s army and the armed opposition. Some of them have publicly declared this, others prefer to remain silent, but the work is on-going».
Commenting on the state of affairs between Russia and Saudi Arabia in light of recent protests in Iran, Vladimir Putin said:
«It hampers the efforts to settle the Syrian crisis and the fight against terrorism, as well as the process of halting the inflow if refugees to Europe, that much is certain.
We have very good relations with Iran and our partnership with Saudi Arabia is stable.
We regret this has happened, especially given that the cleric had not been fighting against Saudi Arabia with lethal force. Yet it is true that an embassy attack is a totally unacceptable occurrence in the modern world. As far as I know, the Iranian authorities have arrested several perpetrators of the assault. If our participation in any form is needed, we are ready to do everything possible to resolve the conflict as soon as possible».