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You Are Here: Home - HABARI ZA KIMATAIFA , HABARI ZA LEO - Putin: Using Al-Qaeda in Syria like sending Gitmo inmates to fight, PussyRiot discussed


RT:Russia' position has been steadfast all the way along the line. Here you've said there should be no foreign intervention and it should be the Syrian people who do the deciding and it should be done through diplomacy. However, that's a great idea, but day in day out innocent lives are being lost on both sides. Is it time for something more than talking? Should Russia be reassessing its position maybe now?
Putin: How come Russia is the only one who’s expected to revise its stance? Don’t you think our counterparts in negotiations ought to revise theirs as well? Because if we look back at the events in the past few years, we’ll see that quite a few of our counterparts’ initiatives have not played out the way they were intended to.
Take the examples of the numerous countries ridden by escalating internal conflict. The US and its allies went into Afghanistan, and now they’re all thinking about how to get out of there. If there’s anything on the table, it’s the issue of assisting them in withdrawing their troops and hardware from Afghanistan through our transit routes.
Now, are you sure that the situation there will be stable for decades to come? So far, no one is confident about it.
And look at what’s going on in Arab countries. There have been notable developments in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia,Yemen, etc. Would you say that order and prosperity have been totally ensured for these nations? And what’s going on in Iraq?
In Libya, there are armed clashes still raging among the country’s various tribes. I won’t even mention the way the country had its regime changed: this is a separate topic. What concerns us, and I want to emphasize this once again, is the current hostilities in Syria. But at the same time, we are just as concerned about the possible consequences of certain decisions, should they be taken.
In our opinion, the most important task today is, ending the violence. We must urge all the warring parties, including the government and the so-called rebels, the armed opposition, to sit down at the negotiating table and decide on a future that would guarantee security for all stakeholders in Syria. Only then should they get down to any practical measures regarding the country’s future governance system. We realize that this country needs a change, but this doesn’t mean that change should come with bloodshed.

We should stop trying to impose unacceptable, dead-end solutions to Syrian crisis

RT: OK, well, given the facts regarding Syria that you see on the table now, what is the next step? What do you realistically think is going to happen next?
Putin: We told our partners we would like to sit down together at the negotiating table in Geneva. And when we did, together we charted a roadmap for further action that would help bring peace to Syria and channel developments down a more constructive path. We received almost unanimous support and shared the talks’ results with the Syrian government. But then the rebels actually refused to recognize those decisions; and many of the negotiating parties have also quietly backed down.
I believe that the first thing to do is to stop shipping arms into the warzone, which is still going on. We should stop trying to impose unacceptable solutions on either side, because it is a dead-end. That’s what we should do. It is that simple.
Luckily, we generally enjoy friendly relations with the Arab world, but we would like to stay away from Islamic sectarian conflict, or interfere in a showdown involving the Sunnis, the Shia, the Alawis and so on.  We treat everyone with equal respect. We also get on well with Saudi Arabia and other countries; I have cultivated a warm personal relationship with the custodian of two Islamic shrines. The only underlying motive behind our stance is the desire to create a favorable environment for the situation to develop positively in years to come.
RT: What are your thoughts about the United Nations and the way the United Nations has reacted particularly in Syria. There's been criticism that it's failed to deliver a unified front if you like and has become more of a figurehead organization. Do you share that view?
Putin: Quite the contrary, I would say. My take on the issue is the absolute opposite of what you have just said. If the United Nations and the Security Council had indeed turned into a mere rubberstamping tool for any one of the member states, it would have ceased to exist, just like the League of Nations did. But the reality is that the Security Council and the UN are meant to be a tool for compromise. Seeking to achieve it is a long and complex process, but only hard work can yield us fruit.

Using Al-Qaeda to fight in Syria perilous, one may as well give guns to Gitmo inmates

RT: Understood. Mr. President, another question I'd like to ask you – a number of Western and Arab nations have been covertly … with supporting the FSA, the Free Syrian Army – indeed, some of them are doing it openly now. Of course the catch here is that the FSA is suspected of hiring known Al-Qaeda fighters amongst their ranks. So the twist in this tale is that a lot of those countries are actually sponsoring terrorism, if you like, in Syria, countries that have suffered from terrible terrorism themselves. Is that a fair assessment?
Putin: You know, when someone aspires to attain an end they see as optimal, any means will do.  As a rule, they will try and do that by hook or by crook – and hardly ever think of the consequences. That was the case during the war inAfghanistan, when the Soviet Union invaded in 1979. At that time, our present partners supported a rebel movement there and basically gave rise to Al Qaeda, which later backfired on the United States itself.
Today some want to use militants from Al Qaeda or some other organizations with equally radical views to accomplish their goals in Syria. This policy is dangerous and very short-sighted. In that case, one should unlock Guantanamo, arm all of its inmates and bring them to Syria to do the fighting – it's practically the same kind of people. But what we should bear in mind is that one day these people will get back at their former captors. On the other hand, these same people should bear in mind that they will eventually end up in a new prison, very much like the one off the Cuban shore.
I would like to emphasize that this policy is very short-sighted and is fraught with dire consequences.

Too early to say if Arab Spring is a blessing or a curse

RT: I'd like to broaden that a little bit now, a little bit wider from Syria. You touched upon Syria. Syria is in the middle of a civil war, we're seeing conflicts in Bahrain and in Saudi Arabia. Ok, things are a bit calmer in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, you mentioned it just now. But standing back from it overall, all the troubles that we've seen in the Middle East, all the turmoil there – has it been at all for the good or for the bad, where does it put that region now?
Putin: You know, we can discuss this into the small hours and still run out of time. For me, it’s a clear that these events have a historic logic. The leaders of these countries have obviously overlooked the need for change and missed ongoing trends at home and abroad, so they failed to produce the reforms which would have saved the day. All these events simply logically stem from this background. Whether this is a blessing or a curse with many negative implications, is now too early to say. In any case, the lack of a civilized approach, the high level of violence has so far stood in the way of any sustainable political structures which would help solve economic and social problems in societies hit by those events. This is what causes a lot of concern for the future. Because the people in these countries, who have had enough of their previous regimes, clearly expect the new governments to begin with tackling their social and economic problems in a competent way. But with no political stability, these problems cannot be solved.

Russia, US reliable partners and allies for each other

RT: Let's turn now to the United States, the upcoming election there, which we are all looking forward to very much. Of course now the re-set button with Russia was firmly pushed by Barack Obama over the last 4 years, but its saw its ups and downs, and there's still that missile defense shield that's a headache for Russia in the East of Europe. If Obama does win a second term, what's going to define the next chapter of Russia and America's relations and is it chapter you can do business with?
Putin: I believe that over the last four years Presidents Obama and Medvedev have made a lot of progress in strengthening Russia-US relations. We have signed the new START treaty. Backed by the US, Russia has become a full-fledged member of the World Trade Organization. There have been more reasons to be optimistic about our bilateral relations: our strengthened cooperation in combating terrorism and organized crime, in the non-proliferation of weapons of mass-destruction and others. In other words, we have accumulated quite a lot of positive experience.
But the issue you mentioned – the US missile defense system – is surely one of the key issues on today’s agenda because it involves Russia’s vital interests. Scholars and experts understand that a unilateral solution will not enhance global stability. In essence, the intention is to upset the strategic balance, which is a very dangerous thing to do, as any involved party will always strive to maintain its defensive capabilities, and the entire thing could simply trigger off an arms race. Is it possible to find a solution to the problem, if president Obama is re-elected for a second term? In principle, yes, it is. But this isn’t just about president Obama. For all I know, his desire to work out a solution is quite sincere.
I met him recently on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico where we had a chance to talk. And though we talked mostly about Syria, I had the chance to feel the mood of my counterpart. My feeling is that he is a sincere man and that he sincerely wants to implement positive change. But can he do it, will they let him do it? I mean that there is also the military lobby, and the Department of State, which is quite conservative. By the way it is fairly similar to Russia’s Foreign Ministry. They are run by a number of professional clans who have been working there for decades. The thing is that in order to solve the missile defense issue, we both need to accept as an axiom that ‘yes, we are reliable partners and allies for each other’. Let’s imagine for a second we have the solution – that means that from now on we jointly assess missile threats and control this defense system together. This is a highly sensitive area of national defense. I am not sure that our partners are ready for this kind of cooperation.
RT: Is there anything that Russia can do to try and meet in the middle, to give a better ground?
Putin: We did what we could. We said, let’s do it together. Our partners are so far refusing to go along. What else can we do? We can maintain dialogue. That’s exactly what we will be doing, but naturally, as our American partners proceed with developing their own missile defense we shall have to think of how we can defend ourselves and preserve the strategic balance. By the way, America’s European allies (who also happen to be Russia’s partners) have nothing to do with it. I believe that as a European national, you should understand it. This is a purely American missile defense system, and a strategic one at that, with its European elements pushed to the periphery. You see, Europe, just like Russia, is not allowed to take part in either assessing missile threats or controlling the system. Our original proposal was to develop it as a three-party solution, but our partners have not agreed to it.

Romney effectively aiming US missile shield at Russia already

RT: Ok. So, we think you can work with Barack Obama if he gets in. What about if Mitt Romney gets in? Look, I've got some quotes here from just a month or two ago. This is the man that if he makes it to the White House said, "Russia is without question our number one geopolitical foe. They fight every cause for the world's worst" and he went on to say "Russia is not a friendly character on the world stage." Could you work with him, sir?
Putin: Yes, we can. We'll work with whichever president is elected by the American people. But our effort will only be as efficient as our partners will want it to be.
As for Mr. Romney’s position, we understand that this is to a certain extent motivated by election campaign rhetoric, but I also think that he was obviously wrong, because such behavior on the international arena is the same as using nationalism and segregation as tools of US domestic policy. Its effect on the international arena is the same, when a politician, a person who aspires to lead a nation, especially a great country like the U.S., declares someone to be an enemy a priori. And by the way, this brings something else to mind.
When we talk about the missile defense system, our American partners keep telling us, “This is not directed against you.” But what happens if Mr. Romney, who believes us to be America’s number one foe, is elected as president of the United States? In that case, the missile defence system will definitely be directed against Russia as it is technologically configured exactly for this purpose.
And you also have to think about its strategic character, it’s built not for a year or even a decade, and the chances that a man with Romney’s views could come to power are quite high. So what are we supposed to do to ensure our security?

Magnitsky death used by some to make an enemy of Russia

RT: I’d like to talk about the latest developments in the Magnitsky case for a moment now, both the US and Britain, Britain most recently are working on this list of Russian officials, Russian citizens that they say are responsible for his death. He was a high ranking finance lawyer who died in a Russian jail, I’ll just explain for our viewers. Why is there still such a perception abroad that this wasn’t dealt with here in Russia, that the people responsible hadn’t been dealt with properly. Why does this keep rumbling on?
Putin: You see… there are people who need an enemy, they are looking for an opponent to fight against. Do you know how many people die while in prison in those countries which have condemned Russia? The numbers are huge! Look at the U.S. that came up with the so-called Magnitsky list. As you know, there is no death penalty in Russia while the U.S. still keeps it on the books. Anyone, including women can be executed. At the same time, all civilized societies know that judicial errors can occur in capital punishment cases, even when people plead guilty. It turns out later on that the convict did not commit the crime.
But that’s one thing. More importantly, I think only God has the right to take life away. But I don’t want to go too much into it right now – there’s a lot of philosophy in it. But with that in mind, we could have come up with our own black list, and more than one, of people who use the death penalty in other countries. But we choose not to do it.
As for Mr. Magnitsky, it is certainly a great tragedy that he died in prison. And there certainly must be a thorough investigation. If someone is guilty, they must be punished. But what I want to emphasize is that there is absolutely no political context to this case. It is a tragedy, but it only has to do with crime and legal procedure, not politics. No more than that.
Still, someone’s looking to spoil relations with Russia. They have banned some Russian officials that are allegedly involved in the death of Mr. Magnitsky from entering their country. Of course, I do regret his death and offer my condolences to his family.
But what should Russia do in such cases? Take appropriate steps and similarly list officials of the country that introduces such measures against Russia. Like that…
RT:And to make it perfectly clear, this case won’t be re-examined by Russia?
Putin: Which case? What needs to be re-tried? We must only find out whether someone’s guilty of his death or not. And if someone’s guilty and responsible for the death in some way, that person should be held accountable. That’s it. Again, there is no politics behind it. It’s the job of the law enforcement professionals to look into it.
And of course, the Russian authorities are going to do that. The Prosecutor’s Office is working on it now.

I try to stay as far away from PussyRiot case as possible

RT: Ok and now I’d like to talk about the trial and jailing of Pussy Riot, that punk group band. There’s been much criticism that the sentence handed down was too strong, too much and that the whole case was too big a deal off and that it actually back fired and has brought more people to their cause with the publicity. With hind sight , always a beautiful thing, but with hindsight do you think the case could have been handled differently?
Putin: You’ve been working in Russia for a while now and maybe know some Russian. Could you please translate the name of the band into Russian?
RT: Pussy Riot the punk band,I don’t know what you would call them in Russian Sir, but may be you could tell me!
Putin: Can you translate the first word into Russian? Or maybe it would sound too obscene? Yes, I think you wouldn’t do it because it sounds too obscene, even in English.
RT: I actually thought it was referring to a cat, but I’m getting your point here. Do you think the case was handled wrongly in any way, could some lesson have been learned?
Putin: I know you understand it perfectly well, you don’t need to pretend you don’t get it. It’s just because these people made everyone say their band’s name too many times. It’s obscene – but forget it.
Here’s what I would like to say. I have always felt that punishment should be proportionate to the offence. I am not in a position now and would not like, anyway, to comment on the decision of a Russian court, but I would rather talk about the moral side of the story.
First, in case you never heard of it, a couple of years ago one of the band’s members put up three effigies in one of Moscow’s big supermarkets, with a sign saying that Jews, gays and migrant workers should be driven out of Moscow. I think the authorities should have looked into their activities back then. After that, they staged an orgy in a public place. Of course, people are allowed to do whatever they want to do, as long as it’s legal, but this kind of conduct in a public place should not go unnoticed by the authorities. Then they uploaded the video of that orgy on the internet. You know some fans of group sex say it’s better than one-on-one because, like in any team, you don’t need to hit the ball all the time.
Again, it’s okay if you do what you like privately, but I wouldn’t be that certain about uploading your acts on the internet. It could be the subject of legal assessment, too.
Then they turned up at Yelokhovo Cathedral, here in Moscow, causing unholy mayhem, and went to another cathedral and caused mayhem there, too.
You know, Russians still have painful memories of the early years of Soviet rule, when thousands of Orthodox, Muslim, as well as clergy of other religions were persecuted. Soviet authorities brutally repressed the clergy. Many churches were destroyed. The attacks had a devastating effect on all our traditional religions. And so in general I think the state has to protect the feelings of believers.
I will not comment on whether the verdict is well-grounded and the sentence proportionate to the offence. These girls must have lawyers who defend their interests in court. They have the right to file an appeal and demand a new hearing. But it’s up to them, it’s just a legal issue.
RT: Is it realistic at all they will get some sort of early release?
Putin: I don’t know whether their lawyers have filed an appeal or not. I don’t follow the case that closely. If they appeal, a higher court is empowered to take any decision. To be honest, I try to stay as far away from the case as possible. I know the details but I do not want to get into it.
RT: There’s concern here and abroad that Russia has been suffering a clamp down on the opposition since you returned as President. There’s tighter defamation law, upping the fines for defamation, internet censorship laws brought into protect children. All these introduced under your watch. What’s the balance do you think between a healthy opposition and maintaining law and order? what’s your view?
Putin: So is it true then that other countries don’t have laws that ban child pornography, including online?
RT: Indeed they do.
Putin: So they do? Well, we didn’t, until recently. And if we began to protect our society and our children from these offences…


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