Part 1 -- FULL TRANSCRIPT
We see a similar situation regrettably in Iraq and there's no other solution whatsoever to the Syrian crisis than the strengthening the existing legal government structures andrendering them help in fighting terrorism.
During the next 90 minutes, we talk of many things about politics and life. Accompanying me on this trip to Moscow were my "60 Minutes" colleagues: executive producer Jeff Fager, producer Andy Court and associate producer Sarah Fitzpatrick.
The "60 Minutes" interview aired last night on the 48th season premiere of "60 Minutes". Earlier today both President Obama and President Putin spoke at the United Nations. President Obama was first.
Our conversation with "60 Minutes" will be recorded and broadcast on Sunday.The next day you'll speak to the United Nations with a much anticipated address, the first time you've been there in a number of years. What will you say to the U.N., to America, to the world?
I'll recall the history of the United Nations. And what I can say is that the decision to create this organization was made here in our country. In fact at the Yalta Conference, the decision was made in the Soviet Union, Russia the Soviet Union. And Russia as the legal successor of the USSR is one of the founding nations of the United Nations and a permanent security council member.
Sure I'll have to say a few words about how the current situation and about how international relations are shaping up today. The United Nations remains the only universal international organization which is charged with maintaining international peace and security. In that sense there's absolutely no alternative to it. Clearly it has to adapt to a changing world and we've all been constantly debating how it should change at what pace and what should be changed exactly.
And of course I'll have to -- not just that I'll have to --but I'll definitely avail myself of the opportunity to speak from this international rostrum to give the Russian vision of the future of this organization and the international community.
As of today, it's taken the form of supplying weapons to the Syrian government, training personnel and providing humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people. Today terrorism is a threat for many states in the world. A large number of people suffer from their criminal activities.Hundreds and thousands, millions of people suffer from terrorism. And we're all tasked with joining efforts in order too overcome this common evil.
In regards to our, as you said, presence in Syria today it's expressed in the form of supplying weapons to the Syrian government, training the personnel, rendering humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people. We proceed from the U.N. Charter which means from the fundamental principles of international law under which any assistance, including military, can and should be rendered exclusively to a legitimate government of a country with their consent or at their request or upon the decision of the U.N.Security Council.
In this case we are dealing with a request from the Syrian government to render them military and technical assistance which we're doing within the framework of lawful international contract.
But in fact really in real life the army of Bashar al-Assad is dealing with terrorist organizations. But in fact, really, in real life the army of Basharal-Assad is dealing with terrorist organizations. Surely you know better than I about the hearings which have just taken place in the Senate if I'm not mistaken where the military, the representatives from the Pentagon reported to the senators about what have been done by the United States in order to train the combat units of the opposition forces.
They had first had the goal to train 5,000 or 6,000 troops, then 12,000. Then it turned out that only sixty [men] were trained, and only four or five men were fighting with their arms in hands, and the rest just turned coat, they went over to ISIS with American weapons. That's the first point.
Secondly, I believe that providing aid to illegitimate organizations is not in line with international law and the charter of the United Nations. We support only legitimate government organizations.
In this regard, we propose to coordinate with the countries in the region to create a certain coordinated framework. I personally informed the President of Turkey, the king of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and also informed the United States and Mr. Kerry, whom you just mentioned, had a substantive talk with our foreign minister Lavrov. And our military people have been in contact and we would be glad if we could find a common platform for joint action against the terrorists.
And furthermore, it's my deep conviction that any actions to the contrary, in order to destroy the legitimate government, will create a situation which you can witness now in the other countries of the region or in other regions of the world for instance in Libya where all the state institutions are disintegrated.
We see a similar situation regrettably in Iraq and there's no other solution whatsoever to the Syrian crisis than strengthening the existing legal government structures and rendering them help in fighting terrorism but at the same time urging them to engage in positive dialogue with the rational part of the opposition and with conducting political reforms.
We've already been through that. I've already mentioned Libya.Just now it was quite recently the United States actively helped to destroy the state institutions whether they were good or bad. That's a separate issue. But now they're destroyed and now the United States has suffered great losses -- the death of their ambassador for instance. You see what it all leads us to. That's why we support the legitimate state structures.
But I want to repeat this once again in the hope that the needed political reforms will be taken and introduced in Syria. You've said repeatedly that Assad is fighting against his own people. But look at those who control 60 percent of the territory in Syria. Where is the civilized opposition? 60 percent of the territory is controlled either by ISIS or by others such as al Nusra and other terrorist organizations, they're recognized as terrorist organizations by the United States, by other states and by the United Nations. It is them and no one else that controls 60 percent of the Syrian territories.
We constantly send to our colleagues through our mutual intelligence the information that's needed by the intelligence divisions of the U.S. to maintain security for U.S.citizens both in the U.S. and abroad. But I believe that today such a level of coordination is not enough. We need to work more closely together.
What's the strategy that you are recommending other than simply supporting the Assad regime?
There must be work on the ground after the bombing. It must be coordinated. We need to understand which attacks and where they must be launched and who will come after these strikes are made on the territory. In Syria, there is no other force beside the army of Bashar al-Assad.
There's nothing in common between Assad and ISIL. They have nothing in common. They're fighting each other.And let me repeat Assad and his army is the only force which is indeed fighting ISIL.
That's why we've organized the series of meetings between the representatives of the opposition and the representatives of Assad's government. We participated in the Geneva conference and we're ready to act in this direction in the future pushing both sides, the official authorities and the opposition to negotiate through peaceful means.
That was the case in Libya and that was the case in Iraq. That was the case in some other countries -- in Somalia. And this was the case in Afghanistan as well. For us, there's no question of any fight with the American leadership at all.
Well, take Iraq for example. There was a well-known figure, Saddam Hussein. Whether he was good or bad, you've probably forgotten that. At some stage the U.S. was cooperating very actively with Saddam when he was fighting Iran. You helped him with arms. The diplomatic support was accorded. Political cover was provided, et cetera.
Then for some reason you had a falling out and the U.S. decided to eliminate Saddam. But by eliminating Saddam Hussein the U.S.eliminated the Iraqi government and thousands of people from the Ba'ath Party. Thousands of Iraqi servicemen which were a part of the Sunni elite of the state were thrown out on the streets. Nobody thought about them. Now they're filling the ranks of ISIL. That's what we're fighting against. We're not against some country showing its leadership somewhere.We're against thoughtless actions that result in such negative situations that are hard to correct.
This refers to Jordan, Turkey -- in spite of the fact that there are some issues there with regards to the Kurds. But the settlement of the situation as I believe is of interest for all. Our task is to unite these efforts to fight the common enemy.
I've answered you about more than 2,000 fighters are in the territory of Syria from the former Soviet Republic. There's a threat that they'll return to us. So instead of waiting for their return we should help Assad fight them in the Syrian territory.So this is the most important motivation which pushes us to provide assistance to Assad. And in general we want the situation in the region to stabilize.
So that there will be no new Somalia cases there because it's close to our borders. We want to develop normal relations with these countries. We've traditionally had good relations with the Middle Eastern countries and we hope that this will continue in the future.
But we don't have any obsession with being a super power in the international arena. We are involved in only one thing, defending our fundamental interests.
We've proceeded from the premise that nuclear weapons or other weapons are the means to defend our sovereignty and legitimate interests. It's not the means for aggressive behavior or for implementing some non-existent imperialist ambition.
But that's not what's most important. What's most important is that Russia, the President of Russia and all my colleagues are ready to engage in these contacts at the highest level, at the government level, at the level of the ministries.
We're ready to go as far as our American colleagues are ready to go. So -- and by the way, the U.N. platform was created to seek compromise, to engage in negotiations. Definitely, if we use this platform, that will be good.
In the U.S. the Presidential campaign is coming up soon so they're playing either the Russian card or some other. All sorts of accusations are made against the current head of state and political opponents. There are many lines of attack including accusations of weakness, incompetence or something else. I don't think that's the case and I don't intend to get involved in a domestic American skirmish.
Let me repeat. We have a relationship on an equal footing both in terms of interpersonal relations and our relations as people are equal. We're respectful of each other at least. And our professional contacts are at a good working level.
How can I know what the President of the United States, of France, the Chancellor of Germany, the President of Japan or the chairman of the State Council of China are thinking?
We don't look at what we think they do but I look at their actions.
That's part of the job, yes?
All this knowledge we acquire, all the experience will always remain with us and we carry it further and will use it somehow. Well, in a sense yes, they are right.
How can the United States and Russia cooperate in the interest of a better world? Think out loud.
One of the areas of our cooperation which is extremely important today and for many people -- for millions of people on the planet is our common joining of forces and our common efforts in countering terror. The other phenomena of this kind -- combating drug traffic.
Now as what you yourself said, you mentioned that Russia and the United States are the greatest nuclear powers. That places additional responsibility on our shoulders. We manage to work together. Along certain lines, we get along especially when it comes to Iran's nuclear program.
We work together, after all. And in general we have attained quite positive results.
And in this case, when I just told you that we have a particular responsibility incumbent upon us for the non-proliferation of WMDs in this area, our interests do precisely coincide. That's why together with the United States we've been engaged in consistent intensive work of the resolution of this issue.
But Russia was guided not only by those considerations but also by the fact that Iran is our neighbor. It's our traditional partner. And that's why we wanted the situation around Iran to be normalized.
We believe that after normalization and a resolution of this problem, the security situation in the Middle East will strengthen. In that regard, our evaluation of Iran's nuclear program pretty much coincides with America's.
I'm confident that the agreements correspond to the interests of international security and strengthens the situation in the region. It puts definite serious barriers in the way of the WMD proliferation because the IAEA will fully and comprehensively monitor the situation.
And that normalizes the situation in the Middle East in general because that helps us to construct normal business-like partners and political relations with all the countries in the region.
Why are you so popular?
Not to put blame on somebody, but to prevent anything like this from happening again in the future.
We must remember about this and we pay a great deal of respect to veterans, including U.S. veterans and they were at the victory day parade in our country on May 9 of this year. We remembered the sacrifices made by all the countries such as Great Britain and China. We remember this.
And I believe that is our common positive memory about the joint fight against Nazism. And this will continue to be a good platform to overcome those difficulties that we're facing today.
They say that political opponents and journalists have been killed and imprisoned in Russia. They say your power is unchallenged and they say that power and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
What do you say to those people who worry about the climate, the atmosphere in Russia?
Everyone must observe the laws. This is the most important thing which we must bear in mind. No one must forget that.
As for those tragic events such as the death of people including journalists, unfortunately they do occur in all countries of the world. But if they happen in our country we do the utmost to find the criminals and to punish them.
And we do this in all directions but the most important thing is that we will continue to improve our political system so that people can feel, every citizen can feel, that they do influence the country and the society so that the authorities would feel responsible with regard to those people who trust them during election campaigns.
How long did it take the democratic process to develop in the United States since the very beginning of the creation of the United States?
Do you believe that everything is perfect now from the point of view of democracy?
If it were perfect, there would be no problem in Ferguson, right? There would be no other problems of a similar nature. There would be no abuse by the police.
But our task is to see all these problems and to react properly in due time. This is the same case in Russia -- a lot of problems.
It's a quite rigid presidential republic.
Each country has its own special features, its own traditions which are reflected in today and will be reflected in the future. We also have such traditions in Russia but we're not talking about some strong figure although, of course, such a figure is needed in the leadership but we need to find an explanation about who this strong man is.
Is it a dictator or is it just a leader who acts within his duties by the law and for the sake of the interest of the major part of the population?
If he's acting consistently and in a principled way this is a totally different situation.
So I believe that Russia does need such people -- the second type I've mentioned. A second class -- Russia needs that much more --
You know we have a saying. Call me a pot if you want just don't put me in the oven. It's not important what you are called by your well-wishers,friends or your political opponents.
What's important is what you yourself think about what you must do for the interest of the country which has entrusted you with such a position, with such a post as the head of the Russian state.