Sott Exclusive: Full unedited text of Vladimir Putin’s interview with Charlie Rose: What CBS left outPosted on November 18, 2015 by arnierosner
Sott Exclusive: Full unedited text of Vladimir Putin’s interview with Charlie Rose: What CBS left outHarrison Koehli
Tue, 29 Sep 2015 09:14 UTC
© Presidential Press and Information Office
The day before his much-anticipated address to the UN General Assembly on Monday, CBS broadcast Charlie Rose’s interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin for its season premiere of 60 Minutes. Understandably, the interview was cut and edited to fit in the 20-minute slot available in the program. But now that the full transcript has been made available on the Kremlin website, it’s fascinating to see just what was cut. We’re including the full transcript below, with comments identifying which parts were not included in the final broadcast, or as special online clips.
From single sentences to entire exchanges, some of the exclusions are noteworthy. For example, practically the whole of Putin’s commentary on the Minsk agreements was not aired. Nor were Putin’s pointed comments on Libya and Syria, his observation that the U.S.’s actions in those countries was a blatant violation of international law, and his suggestion that “somebody wants to use either certain units of ISIS or ISIS in general in order to overthrow al-Assad and only then think about how to get rid of ISIS.” Other exchanges, such as Putin’s views on sanctions and gay rights, were broadcast online, but not in the final program.
You can view what CBS chose to broadcast on their website, and read the relevant transcript of their translation, here.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Since this interview will be aired prior to my speech, I do not think it reasonable to go into much detail about everything I am going to speak about, but, broadly, I will certainly mention some facts from the history of the United Nations. Now I can already tell you that the decision to establish the United Nations was taken in our country at the Yalta Conference. It was in the Soviet Union that this decision was made. The Soviet Union, and Russia as the successor state to the Soviet Union, is a founding member state of the United Nations and a permanent member of its Security Council.CHARLIE ROSE: I want to thank you for inviting us to your home on what I would have described as a lovely Russian Sunday afternoon. You call it Old Wives’ summer.
We will do our interview, it will be broadcast on Sunday, and the next day you will speak to the United Nations in a much-anticipated address. It will be the first time you have been there in a number of years. What will you say to the UN, to America, to the world?
Of course, I will have to say a few words about the present day, about the evolving international situation, about the fact that the United Nations remains the sole universal international organisation designed to maintain global peace. And in this sense it has no alternative today. It is also apparent that it should adapt to the ever-changing world, which we discuss all the time: how it should evolve and at what rate, which components should undergo qualitative changes. Of course, I will have to or rather should use this international platform to explain Russia’s vision of today’s international relations, as well as the future of this organisation and the global community.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I am pretty certain that virtually everyone speaking from the United Nations platform is going to talk about the fight, about the need to fight terrorism, and I cannot avoid this issue, either. This is quite understandable because it is a serious common threat to all of us; it is a common challenge to all of us. Today, terrorism threatens a great number of states, a great number of people – hundreds of thousands, millions of people suffer from its criminal activity. And we all face the task of joining our efforts in the fight against this common evil.CHARLIE ROSE: We are expecting you to speak about the threat of the Islamic State and your presence in Syria that is related to that. What is the purpose of your presence in Syria and how does that relate to the challenge of ISIS?
Concerning our, as you put it, presence in Syria, as of today it has taken the form of weapons supplies to the Syrian government, personnel training and humanitarian aid to the Syrian people. We act based on the United Nations Charter, i.e. the fundamental principles of modern international law, according to which this or that type of aid, including military assistance, can and must be provided exclusively to legitimate government of one country or another, upon its consent or request, or upon the decision of the United Nations Security Council. In this particular case, we act based on the request from the Syrian government to provide military and technical assistance, which we deliver under entirely legal international contracts.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: There is only one regular army there. That is the army of Syrian President al-Assad. And he is confronted with what some of our international partners interpret as an opposition. In reality, al-Assad’s army is fighting against terrorist organisations. You should know better than me about the hearings that have just taken place in the United States Senate, where the military and Pentagon representatives, if I am not mistaken, reported to the senators about what the United States had done to train the combat part of the opposition forces. The initial aim was to train between 5,000 and 6,000 fighters, and then 12,000 more. It turns out that only 60 of these fighters have been properly trained, and as few as 4 or 5 people actually carry weapons, while the rest of them have deserted with the American weapons to join ISIS. That is the first point.CHARLIE ROSE: The Secretary of State John Kerry said that the United States welcomed your assistance in the fight against the Islamic State. Others have taken note of the fact that these are combat planes and manpad systems that are being used against the conventional army, not extremists.
Secondly, in my opinion, provision of military support to illegal structures runs counter to the principles of modern international law and the United Nations Charter. We have been providing assistance to legitimate government entities only.
In this connection, we have proposed cooperation to the countries in the region, we are trying to establish some kind of coordination framework. I personally informed the President of Turkey, the King of Jordan, as well as Saudi Arabia of that, we informed the United States too, and Mr Kerry, whom you have mentioned, had an in-depth conversation with our Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on this matter; besides, our militaries stay in touch and discuss this issue. We would welcome a common platform for collective action against the terrorists.
Comment: None of the above made it into the final cut of the CBS broadcast.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: That’s right, that’s how it is. We provide, as I have said twice during our interview and can repeat again, we provide assistance to legitimate Syrian authorities. Moreover, I strongly believe that by acting otherwise, acting to destroy the legitimate bodies of power we would create a situation that we are witnessing today in other countries of the region or in other regions of the world, for instance, in Libya, where all state institutions have completely disintegrated.CHARLIE ROSE: Are you ready to join forces with the United States against ISIS and is it why you are in Syria? Others believe that it might be part of your goal, that you are trying to save President al-Assad’s administration because they have been losing ground and the war has not been going well for them, and you are there to rescue them.
Unfortunately, we are witnessing a similar situation in Iraq. There is no other way to settle the Syrian conflict other than by strengthening the existing legitimate government agencies, support them in their fight against terrorism and, of course, at the same time encourage them to start a positive dialogue with the “healthy” part of the opposition and launch political transformations.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I would like to advise or recommend them to forward this suggestion not to al-Assad himself, but rather to the Syrian people. It is only up to the Syrian people living in Syria to determine who, how and based on what principles should rule their country, and any external advice of such kind would be absolutely inappropriate, harmful and against international law.CHARLIE ROSE: As you know, some coalition partners want al-Assad to go before they can support the government.
Comment: This last clause, in red bolding, was cut from CBS’s version.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: And do you think that those who support the armed opposition and, mainly, terrorist organisations, just in order to overthrow al-Assad without thinking of what awaits the country after the complete destruction of state institutions are doing the right thing? We have already witnessed that, I have already mentioned Libya. That was not so long ago. The United States actively contributed to the destruction of these state institutions. Whether they were good or bad is a different question. But they were destroyed, and the United States suffered grave losses after that including the death of its ambassador. Do you understand what this leads to? That is why we provide assistance to the legal government agencies precisely, but – and I would like to stress it again – we do it hoping that Syria will launch political transformations necessary for the Syrian people.CHARLIE ROSE: We have already discussed this earlier, but do you think that President al-Assad, who you support… Do you support what he is doing in Syria and what is happening to those Syrians, to those millions of refugees, to hundreds of thousands of people who have been killed and many – by his own force?
Comment: CBS also cut out discussion of Libya.
Time and again, with perseverance worthy of a better cause, you are talking about the Syrian army fighting against its people. But take a look at those who control 60 percent of Syrian territory. Where is that civilised opposition? 60 percent of Syria is controlled either by ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra or other terrorist organisations, organisations that have been recognised as terrorist organisations by the United States, as well as by other countries and the UN. It is them and not anyone else who have control over 60 percent of Syrian territory.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: It has become unique because it is going global. They have set a goal, which is to establish a caliphate on the territory stretching from Portugal to Pakistan. They already lay claims to the sacred Islamic sites like Mecca and Medina. Their actions and their activities reach far beyond the boundaries of the territories under their control.CHARLIE ROSE: You are worried about what might happen after al-Assad. You are worried about anarchy; you look at the threat of ISIS. Are they different? Are they unique as a terrorist organisation?
As for the refugees, Syria is not their only country of origin. Who is fleeing Libya? Who is fleeing the countries of Central Africa where Islamists are in charge today? Who is fleeing Afghanistan and Iraq? Do the refugees come from Syria only? And why do you think that the Syrian refugees flee only as a result of President al-Assad’s actions to protect his country? Why don’t you think that the refugees flee from the atrocities of terrorists, from ISIS, who decapitate people, burn them alive, drown them alive and destroy cultural monuments? People flee from them too; they flee mainly from them. And from the war – this is clear. But there would be no war if these terrorist groups were not supplied with arms and money from the outside. It seems to me that somebody wants to use either certain units of ISIS or ISIS in general in order to overthrow al-Assad and only then think about how to get rid of ISIS. This task is difficult and, in my opinion, practically impossible.
Comment: The above question and answer were, predictably, cut out in their entirety. Same with the following three questions and answers.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Indeed, few actors take serious steps to combat this threat. Few actors take serious effective measures. We learned about the effectiveness of the actions of our American partners during the Pentagon report to the US Senate. To tell the truth, their effectiveness is low. You know, I am not going to speak ironically here, or pick or point at anyone. We propose cooperation, we propose to join efforts.CHARLIE ROSE: Do you fear that they may come to Russia? Do you fear that if it does not stop now they may come to Russia from Europe, or even to the United States, and that is why you have to step in because no one else is doing what’s necessary to lead the charge against ISIS?
Are we afraid or not? We have nothing to be afraid of. We are in our country and we are in control of the situation. But we have undergone a very difficult path of combating terrorism, international terrorism in the North Caucasus. That is point number one.
Point number two is that we know for certain that today there are at least 2,000 – and maybe even more than 2,000 – militants in Syria who are from Russia or other former Soviet republics and, of course, there is the threat of their return to Russia. And this is why it is better to help al-Assad do away with them there than to wait until they come back here.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: We are already acting and we have always acted this way. We have cooperated with many countries and we continue to cooperate, including with the United States. We constantly send to our colleagues through special services’ channels the information necessary for the American special forces in order to make our contribution to ensuring security and safety, including safety of American citizens, both in the United States and beyond. But I think that this level of coordination is insufficient today; we need to work more closely with each other.CHARLIE ROSE: Yes, but you say that you stepped in because you did not think that the job was being done well and you listen to what is going on in the American Senate, you heard the results and you said that Russia must act.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I have already said, we should help President al-Assad’s army. And there is no one else at all who is fighting ISIS on the ground, except for President al-Assad’s army. So, I want you, your audience to finally realise that no one except al-Assad’s army is fighting against ISIS or other terrorist organisations in Syria, no one else is fighting them on Syrian territory. Minor airstrikes, including those by United States aircraft, do not resolve the issue in essence; in fact, they do not resolve it at all. The work should be conducted on the spot after these strikes and it should all be strictly coordinated. We need to understand what strikes are needed, where we need to strike and who will advance on the ground after these strikes. In Syria, there is no other force [which can do that] except for al-Assad’s army.CHARLIE ROSE: In your opinion, what is the strategy that you are recommending, other than supporting the al-Assad regime?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Russia will not take part in any field operations on the territory of Syria or in other states; at least, we do not plan it for now. But we are thinking of how to intensify our work both with President al-Assad and our partners in other countries.CHARLIE ROSE: Would Russia deploy its combat troops in Syria if it is necessary to defeat ISIS?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: It means that our armed forces will not take part in hostilities directly and they will not fight. We will support al-Assad’s army…CHARLIE ROSE: What does it mean?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I mean war, combat operations on the territory, the infantry and motorised units.CHARLIE ROSE: Do you mean airstrikes?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: In secret services’ parlance, I can say that such an assessment is a blatant act by al-Assad’s enemies. It is anti-Syrian propaganda, there is nothing in common between al-Assad and ISIS, they fight against each other. And I repeat once again that President al-Assad and his army are the only force that actually fights ISIS.CHARLIE ROSE: What else will be required? As we come back to the problem of many people considering that al-Assad is helping ISIS, that his terrible attitude towards the Syrian people and the use of barrel bombs and other actions are helping ISIS, and if he is removed, the transition period would be better at some point for the purposes of fighting ISIS.
Comment: The second half of the above answer was cut (from after “anti-Syrian propaganda”). The following four exchanges were also cut.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: We think that the issues of a political nature should be solved in any country, including in Syria, primarily by its people – in this case by the Syrian people themselves. But we are ready to provide assistance both to the Syrian authorities and the healthy opposition for them to find some points of contact and agree on the political future of their country. It is for this purpose that we have organised a series of meetings between the representatives of the opposition and al-Assad’s government in Moscow. We took part in the Geneva Conference on this issue. We are ready to further act in this direction, urging sides, the official authorities and the opposition leaders, to agree with each other exclusively through peaceful means.CHARLIE ROSE: But there were reports earlier saying that you were getting ready to provide support to them, and that what you wanted to see was a negotiated political transition.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: We are not stepping into the vacuum of American leadership, we are trying to prevent the creation of a power vacuum in Syria in general because as soon as the government agencies in a state, in a country, are destroyed, a power vacuum sets in, and that vacuum is quickly filled with terrorists. This was the case in Libya and Iraq; this was the case in some other countries. The same is underway in Somalia, the same happened in Afghanistan. Challenging American leadership is not at stake.CHARLIE ROSE: The Washington Post wrote today: “Into the vacuum of American leadership has stepped Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has dispatched troops and equipment to Syria in an effort to force the world to accept his solution to the war, which is the creation of a new coalition to fight the Islamic State that includes the Assad government”. It is interesting that they say you have stepped into a certain vacuum of American leadership. This is what The Washington Post writes.
Comment: No surprise the above was cut!
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I am not saying that there is no strong government there. I mean that if there was no government at all, there would be anarchy and a vacuum, and the vacuum and the anarchy would soon evolve into terrorism.CHARLIE ROSE: Well, a vacuum is an issue. It seems that you are a little irritated by one point: you are talking about a strong centralised government being Russia’s DNA and you have a huge fear that there is no strong government in Syria and in other countries, that there is some sort of anarchy.
For instance, in Iraq, there was a famous person, Saddam Hussein, who was either good or bad. It was at a certain stage (you might have forgotten, have you?) that the United States actively collaborated with Saddam when he was at war with Iran: weapons were supplied, diplomatic and political support was provided, and so on. Then the US fell out with him for some reason and decided to do away with him. But when Saddam Hussein was eliminated, the Iraqi statehood and thousands of people from the former Baath party were also eliminated. Thousands of Iraqi servicemen, who were part of the state’s Sunni elite, found themselves thrown out into the street. No one gave a thought about them, and today they end up in the ISIS army. That is what we stand against.
We are not against a country exercising leadership of any kind anywhere, we are against thoughtless actions that lead to such negative situations that are difficult to rectify.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: As I have already said, I think that all countries of the region should join their efforts in the fight against a common threat – terrorism in general and ISIS in particular. It concerns Iran as well, it concerns Saudi Arabia (although the two countries do not get along very well, ISIS threatens both of them), it concerns Jordan, it concerns Turkey (in spite of certain problems regarding the Kurdish issue), and, in my opinion, everybody is interested in resolving the situation. Our task is to join these efforts to fight against a common enemy.CHARLIE ROSE: As you know, Iran’s representative General Soleimani has recently visited Moscow. What role will he as well as the Kurdish forces play in Syria? And what needs to be done in this respect?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: No, we have already mentioned why we increasingly support al-Assad’s government and think about the prospects of the situation in the region.CHARLIE ROSE: This wording is very broad, among other things, it can mean new efforts by Russia to take up the leadership role in the Middle East and it can mean that it represents your new strategy. Is it really a new strategy?
I have already said it, you asked about it yourself and I replied. There are more than 2,000 militants in Syria from the former Soviet Union. So instead of waiting for them to return back home, we should help President al-Assad fight them there, in Syria. This is the main incentive that impels us to help President al-Assad.
In general, we, of course, do not want the situation in the region to somaliarize, we do not want any new Somalias there because this is all in close vicinity of our borders; we want to develop normal relationships with these countries. We have traditionally, and I want to stress it, traditionally been on very friendly terms with the Middle East. We expect it to stay this way in the future.
Comment: The second half of this last response was cut.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: This is not an end in itself. I am proud of Russia and I am sure that the vast majority of Russian citizens have great love and respect for their Motherland. We have much to be proud of: Russian culture and Russian history. We have every reason to believe in the future of our country. But we have no obsession that Russia must be a superpower in the international arena. The only thing we do is protect our vital interests.CHARLIE ROSE: You are proud of Russia and it means that you want Russia to play a more significant role in the world. This is just one of the examples.
Comment: The bolded parts above were cut. Same with the next response.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I hope so (laughing), otherwise what are these weapons for? We proceed from the assumption that nuclear weapons and other weapons are the means to protect our sovereignty and legitimate interests, not the means to behave aggressively or to fulfil some non-existent imperial ambitions.CHARLIE ROSE: But you are a major power because of the nuclear weapons you possess. You are a force to be reckoned with.
Comment: The following 6 questions and answers (up to the question about Putin’s thoughts on Obama) were not included in the final cut.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Meetings of this kind are arranged in advance. I know that during such events every second, let alone minutes, of President Obama’s day are scheduled, there are many delegations from all over the world, so…CHARLIE ROSE: When in New York, will you request a meeting with President Obama?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Well, it is up to him. We are always open for contacts of any kind: at the highest level, at the level of ministries and agencies, at the level of special services, if necessary. But I would be happy if President Obama finds a few minutes for a meeting and then, of course, I would appreciate such a meeting. If for some reason it would not be possible for him, never mind, we will have an opportunity to talk at the G20, or at other events.CHARLIE ROSE: You think he will not have a spare minute for the President of Russia?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: You know, the thing is that these are difficult issues; they can be finalised only at the top level between the presidents, but before that preparations are needed with preliminary consultations between foreign ministers, defence ministries, and special services. This means a lot of work and if this work is ready to be completed, then it makes sense to meet and complete it. If our colleagues have not approached the final stage, President Obama and I can meet, shake hands and discuss current issues, we – and I personally – are always ready for such contacts.CHARLIE ROSE: You know, if you’d like to see the President, you can say: “I have a plan for Syria, let’s work together. Let’s see what we can do. Not only let’s work together on Syria, let’s see what we can do on other things.”
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Yes, I have done so, I have called President Obama, and President Obama called me on various issues. This is part of our regular contacts, there is nothing unusual or extraordinary about it. Let me repeat once again: any personal meetings are usually prepared by our staff. I tell you for the third time that we are ready, but it is not just for us to decide. If the Americans want to meet, we will meet.CHARLIE ROSE: But we are talking about leadership and if you are going there to make a big speech you want the President of the United States to fully be on board as much as he can. Once you pick up the phone and call him and say… Same as you did after our conversation in St Petersburg, you called the President. You said, “Let’s make sure we meet and discuss some issues. The issues that are too critical and the two of us can do better than one of us.”
VLADIMIR PUTIN: For how long have you been a journalist?CHARLIE ROSE: Your need to prepare is none because you deal with these issues every day. You need no preparation to see the President of the United States, nor does he. This is a diplomatic nicety you are suggesting. But I hear you; you are prepared to meet him.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: It is difficult for me to advise you on what you are ready or not ready for. Why do you think that you can advise me on what I am ready or not ready for, as this is not my first term as President? But this is not the most important thing. What is most important is that Russia – the President of Russia, its Government and all my colleagues – we are ready for these contacts at the highest level, at the level of governments, ministries, agencies. We are ready to go as far as our American partners. Incidentally, the UN platform was created precisely for this, to seek compromise, to communicate with one another. So it will definitely be nice if we make use of this platform.CHARLIE ROSE: For more years than I want to remember.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I do not think I am entitled to assess the President of the United States. This is up to the American people. We have a good personal relationship with President Obama, our relations are quite frank and business-like. And this is quite enough to do our job.CHARLIE ROSE: What do you think of President Obama? What is your evaluation of him?
Comment: The bolded parts above, and in the following three answers, were cut.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Why? I do not think so at all. The point is that in any country, including the United States, maybe in the United States even more often than in any other country, foreign policy is used for internal political struggle. An election campaign will soon start in the United States. They always play either Russian card or any other, political opponents bring accusations against the current head of state, and here there are a lot of lines of attack, including accusations of incompetence, weakness, of anything else. I do not think so, and I will not meddle in America’s internal political squabbles.CHARLIE ROSE: Do you think his activities in foreign affairs reflect a weakness?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I think that we all listen to each other when it does not contradict our own ideas of what we should and should not do. But, in any case, there is a dialogue and we hear each other.CHARLIE ROSE: Let me ask you this question: Do you think he listens to you?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: (Laughing) Ask him, he is your President! How can I know what he thinks? I repeat we have peer-to-peer interpersonal relationships, we respect each other in any case and we have business contacts at quite a good working level. And what do the American President, the French President, the German Chancellor, the Japanese Prime Minister or the Chinese Premier of the State Council or the Chinese President think, how do I know? We judge not by what seems to us, but by what people do.CHARLIE ROSE: You said Russia is not a superpower. Do you think he considers Russia an equal? Considers you an equal? Which is the way you want to be treated?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: It used to be my job. Now I have a different job and for quite a while already.CHARLIE ROSE: Of course. You enjoy the work, you enjoy representing Russia, and I know you have been an intelligence officer. Intelligence officer knows how to read other people; that’s part of the job, right?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: You know every stage of your life has an impact on you. Whatever we do, all the knowledge, the experience, they stay with us, we carry them on, use them in one way or another. In this sense, yes, you are right.CHARLIE ROSE: Someone in Russia told me, “There is no such thing as a former KGB man. Once a KGB man, always a KGB man.”
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Well, if the CIA told you so, then it must be true. They are experts on that. (Laughing)CHARLIE ROSE: Once, somebody from the CIA told me that the training you have is important, that you learn to be liked as well. Because you have to charm people, you have to seduce them.
Comment: The following 4 questions and answers were cut.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: We think about it all the time. One of our objectives today is very important for many people, for millions of people on our planet – it is joining efforts in the fight against terrorism and other similar challenges: countering drug-trafficking and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, fighting famine, preserving the environment and biodiversity, taking efforts to make the world more predictable, more stable. And, finally, Russia…CHARLIE ROSE: Think out loud for me though, because this is important. How can the United States and Russia cooperate in the interest of a better world? Think out loud.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Everywhere, in all parts of the world. You mentioned yourself that Russia and the United States are the biggest nuclear powers, this leaves us with an extra special responsibility. By the way, we manage to deal with it and work together in certain fields, particularly in resolving the issue of the Iranian nuclear programme. We worked together and we achieved positive results, on the whole.CHARLIE ROSE: Stable where?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: The thing is, however strange it may seem, that the interests of the United States and of the Russian Federation do coincide sometimes. And in this case – I just told you that we have a special responsibility for the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – our interests certainly coincide. That is why, together with the United States, we worked hard and consistently on resolving this problem. Russia was guided not only by these reasons but also by the fact that Iran is our neighbour, our traditional partner, and we wanted to bring the situation back on track. We believed that this settlement will help to improve the security situation in the Middle East. In this respect, our assessments of what happened on Iran’s nuclear programme almost fully coincide with the assessments of our American colleagues.CHARLIE ROSE: How did it work? President Obama has often thanked you for the assistance that you gave in reaching the final accord. What did you do? What did your negotiators contribute, your Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov?
CONTINUED...CHARLIE ROSE: As you know, the Republicans are likely to win the elections. As for Iran’s nuclear deal, there is a big debate. What would you tell them?