Vladimir Putin gave an interview to the journalists of the French newspaper Le Figaro. The interview was recorded 29 May in Paris during the visit of the head of the Russian state to France.
Question (as translated): Good afternoon! Thank you very much for agreeing to answer the questions of Le Figaro. I also thank you for accepting us here in this class of the cultural center of Russia. Thank you very much also for agreeing to give us an interview.
You came here to open an exhibition that is devoted to the 300 anniversary since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and France. Franco-Russian relations knew ups and downs. How do you assess this relationship today?
Putin: Indeed, President Makron invited me to participate in the opening of the exhibition. But I must say at once that the relations between Russia and France have been developing much longer and have much deeper roots, we have already mentioned this several times with the President.
In the 11th century, the youngest daughter of one of our great princes Yaroslav the Wise Anna came here, who became the wife of the French King Henry I. Her name was Anna Russkaya, the queen of France. Her son Philip I became the founder of two European dynasties: Valois and Bourbon, the latter still rule in Spain.
Therefore, we have much deeper roots, although for the last 300 years, relations have developed most intensively, it is true. I very much hope that today's event, exhibition and our talks with President Macron will help give these relations a new impetus.
Question: Mr. President, what for you is a figure, the image of Peter I, who arrived in Versailles in 1717 to commemorate diplomatic relations?
Putin: I already spoke today to my French colleague, our French friends, Peter I is, first and foremost, a reformer, he is the person who not only introduced all the best and advanced; Of course, he was a patriot of his country, he fought for Russia's worthy place in world affairs, but mainly he transformed his own country, making it more modern, mobile, looking to the future. He did a lot, if not to say everything.
He was engaged in science, education, culture, engaged in military affairs and state construction. After himself, he left a colossal legacy, to which Russia has enjoyed practically until now. I'm not talking about the fact that he founded my hometown Petersburg, which for a long time was the capital of the Russian state.
Question: You said you had a meeting with Macron recently. Were there any expectations from the first meeting? You said that you need to overcome the stage of distrust. Did you manage to overcome it?
As for the main issue, the issue of sanctions, can you say that you have reached some sort of understanding?
Putin: At any meeting, at any contacts, at any events of this level, especially if this is the first meeting, the first contacts, there are always expectations. If these expectations are not there, then it is pointless to hold meetings of this kind.
Of course, there were expectations and this time. They were related to what I wanted to get closer, to learn from the first hand the position of the incoming President of the French Republic on key issues on the international agenda, on the development of bilateral relations.
Of course, the newly elected President of France, who has taken office, has his own view on things, on bilateral relations, on international politics.
In general, this is a very pragmatic view, as it seems to me. We have absolutely precisely the points for convergence of our positions, for joint work on key areas.
Question: The use of Minsk agreements on Ukraine, as it seems to us, is in a deadlock today. Have you managed to achieve progress with President Macron towards the resolution of this conflict?
Putin: Progress on resolving any conflicts, including the conflict in the southeast of Ukraine, can primarily be achieved primarily by the conflicting parties.
The conflict in the southeast of Ukraine is a conflict internal, Ukrainian conflict first of all. It occurred after an unconstitutional, power-seizing power in Kiev in 2014 year. This is the source of all problems.
The most important thing to do is to find the strength to negotiate with all the conflicting parties, and, above all, I am convinced of this, the ball, as they say, on the side of the official Kiev authorities, they must, first of all, take care of Fulfill these Minsk Agreements.
Question: What will make progress in this direction possible? Can Russia take the initiative to finally secure a truce?
Putin: So we always come up with this initiative. We believe the main thing that needs to be done is to divert the armed forces from the line of contact. This is where you need to start. Two points were taken, in the third point it does not succeed in doing this.
And today's Ukrainian authorities all the time refer to the fact that they shoot. But while the troops are not diverted, heavy equipment is not diverted, so they will shoot. We must take away heavy equipment. This is the first.
Second, what needs to be done: in the political sphere, in the end, it is necessary to introduce the law adopted by the Ukrainian parliament on the special status of these territories. After all, the law is passed, but has not yet come into effect.
The law on amnesty was adopted, the President did not sign it. The Minsk Agreements state that it is necessary to conduct social and economic rehabilitation of these territories of unrecognized republics. Instead of doing this, on the contrary, they introduce a blockade, that's the problem.
And they imposed a blockade of the radicals, blocking the railway tracks. The President of Ukraine first said that it condemns and will put things in order, tried to do it, he did not succeed.
Instead of continuing his efforts, he took and officially himself joined this blockade, issued a decree on the blockade. How can we speak about some development of the situation for the better in such conditions? Unfortunately, we do not see this yet.
Question: Let's slightly forget about the east of Europe, to talk about the Middle East, and first of all about Syria. After your military intervention in September of 2015, to date, in your opinion, what basic solutions exist for this country to come out of many years of war?
Putin: First of all, I would like to note the constructive approach of Turkey and Iran, which together with us achieved a ceasefire, and, of course, the Syrian government. This could not be done, of course, without the so-called Syrian armed opposition. This was the first very important, serious step on the road to peace.
And the second, no less important step is the agreement on the creation of so-called de-escalation zones. Now we are talking about four zones. It seems to us to be extremely important on the road to peace, if I may say so, because it is impossible to talk about the political process without stopping bloodshed.
Now, in my opinion, we all have another task: technically and, if you will, even technologically complete the process of creating these zones of de-escalation, you need to agree on the boundaries of these zones, how the institutions of power will operate there, how communication will be organized These zones of de-escalation with the outside world.
By the way, President McNeon spoke about this part of it, when he talked about humanitarian convoys. In general, he is right, I think, the President of France, and here is also one of the points of contact, here we can work together with our French colleagues.
After this takes place - the formalization of de-escalation zones, I very much hope that at least some elements of interaction between the government and those people who will control the situation in these zones of de-escalation will begin.
I really would not like - it is very important that I now say - that these zones were some kind of prototype of the future territorial division of Syria; On the contrary, I count on the fact that these zones of de-escalation, if peace is established there, the people who will be there and control the situation will interact with the official Syrian authorities.
And so it can happen, there should be a situation of at least some elementary interaction and cooperation. And the next step is a purely political process of political reconciliation, if possible, the elaboration of constitutional rules, the constitution and the conduct of elections.
Question: Indeed, there are differences on the Syrian issue between Russia and other parties, especially the fate of Bashar Assad, whom Western countries are accused of using chemical weapons against their own population. Mr. President, do you suppose a political future for Syria without Bashar Assad?
Putin: In general, I do not consider myself entitled to determine the political future of the country with or without Assad, this is a matter solely for the Syrian people. No one has the right to assign to himself any prerogatives that belong exclusively to the people of a particular country. This is the first thing I would like to mention.
Do you have an additional question?
Question: Yes. You say that you do not make a decision, that is, does not it mean that without him a future is possible?
Putin: I repeat, this should be determined only by the Syrian people. You have now said about the accusations of the government of Assad in the use of chemical weapons.
After this event related to chemical weapons happened, we immediately invited our American partners and all who it seems expedient to inspect the airfield from which the aircraft allegedly used chemical weapons.
If this chemical weapon was used by the official military structures of President Assad, there would inevitably be traces left on this airfield, modern means of control would be accurately fixed, it is inevitable. And there would be left in the planes, and there would be left at the airport. But in fact all refused to conduct this check.
We proposed to conduct an inspection and on the site where the chemical weapon was allegedly struck. But they also refused to conduct a check, citing the fact that it is dangerous. How is it dangerous if the blow was allegedly inflicted on some civilians and on a healthy part of the armed opposition?
In my opinion, this was done only for one purpose: to explain why it is necessary to apply additional measures to Asad, including military ones. That's all.
There is no evidence of Assad's use of chemical weapons. In our deep conviction, this is just a provocation: Assad did not use this weapon.
Question: You remember that President Makron spoke about the so-called red line regarding the use of chemical weapons. Do you agree with this?
Putin: I agree. Moreover, I believe that the issue should be broader, and President McRean agreed. Whoever applies chemical weapons against these individuals, against these structures, the international community must build a common policy, and the answer must be one that makes the use of such weapons impossible by anyone.
Question: After the election of Donald Trump in the US, many expressed their views on the relative new phase of Russian-American relations. These relations, it seems, did not mark a new start. Now I quote: "There is a Russian threat," it was said at the last NATO summit last week. Are you frustrated by this attitude on the part of the US?
Putin: No. We did not expect anything, nothing special. The President of the United States conducts a traditional American policy. Of course, we heard during the election campaign the intentions of the already elected and incoming President of the United States, Mr. Trump, about his desire to normalize Russian-American relations. He talked about what is worse now, we remember it well.
But we also understand and see that in fact, the internal political situation in the United States is such that people who lost the election do not want to put up with it and, unfortunately, use the anti-Russian map in a most active way in an internal political struggle under far-fetched pretexts.
Therefore, we are in no hurry, we are ready to wait, but we very much hope and hope that the normalization of Russian-American relations will sometime happen.
As for the increase ...
Question: In an ideal world, what would you expect from the United States in order to improve relations between the US and Russia?
Putin: There is no ideal world, and the subjunctive mood also does not exist in politics.
I want to answer the second part of your question about 2 percent or more increase in military spending. Say, the United States, it is well known, today spend on the military sphere, on defense more than the budget of all countries combined.
Therefore, I fully understand the President of the United States when he wants to shift some of this burden to his NATO allies. This is a very pragmatic and understandable approach.
But what interested me? At the NATO summit they said that NATO wants to establish good relations with Russia. And then why increase military spending? Against whom did they come to fight?
There are some internal contradictions here, but in fact it's not our business, let NATO understand who and what to pay for, we are not very worried. We provide our defenses - we do it reliably, with a prospect for the future, we are sure of ourselves.
Question: But if we talk about NATO, there are also your neighbors, who in turn want to ensure their security thanks to NATO. Is this a sign of mistrust for you, something that causes a scandalous attitude?
Putin: For us, this is a sign that our partners, excuse me, in both Europe and the US are pursuing a short-sighted policy, they do not look forward - there is no such habit, this habit has already disappeared among our Western partners.
When the Soviet Union ceased to exist, then Western politicians told us that it was not recorded on paper, but it was absolutely utterly said that NATO would not expand to the east.
And some German politicians of that time suggested in general to create a new security system in Europe with participation of the United States, by the way speaking, and Russia. If this were done, then there would not have been the problems that we have faced in recent years, namely, the expansion of NATO eastward to our borders, the advancement of military infrastructure to our borders; there would not be, perhaps, a way out of the United States unilaterally from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and this Treaty was the cornerstone of today's and future security; there could be, perhaps, the construction of missile defense elements in Europe - in Poland and Romania, which certainly poses a threat to our strategic nuclear forces and violates the strategic balance, which in itself is extremely dangerous for international security.
Maybe it would not have been all this, but it happened, you can not turn it back, you can not unscrew the film in history, it's not a feature film. We must proceed from what is. If we proceed from what is, we need to think about what we want in the future. I think that we all want security, peace, prosperity and cooperation.
So, there is no need to push anything, do not need to invent mythical Russian threats, some hybrid wars and so on. Themselves napridumyvali, and then they frighten themselves and on this basis also formulate the prospects for politics. No such policy has any prospects - there is only one perspective: cooperation in all areas, including security issues.
What is the main security problem today? Terrorism. In Europe they blow up, explode in Paris, blow up in Russia, blow up in Belgium, the war is in the Middle East - that's what we need to think about, and we are all discussing what threats Russia is creating.
Question: Just on the issue of terrorism, on the issue of Islamism. You say that you can do more. What exactly needs to be done, what can Russia do? And why can not we combine our efforts with Europe to achieve our goals?
Putin: Ask Europe - we want. I said this, while speaking at the UN General Assembly's 70 anniversary from the rostrum of the UN, and called then to unite the efforts of all countries in the fight against terror. But this is a very complex process.
See, after the terrorist attack in Paris, a terrible, bloody event, President Hollande came to us then, and we agreed on some joint actions. The aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle approached the banks of Syria. Then Francois went to Washington, and everything, Charles de Gaulle turned around and left somewhere in the direction of the Suez Canal. And the real cooperation between us and France stopped, not having begun.
France is involved in operations there, but within the framework of an international coalition led by the United States. Understand who is the elder, who is not the elder, who has a word, who claims what. We are ready, we are open for cooperation.
It was very difficult to negotiate with the Americans in this direction. By the way, recently we noticed a certain shift, there are practical results.
I talked with President Trump on the phone, he generally supported the idea of creating zones of de-escalation. We are now thinking about how to ensure the interests of all the countries of the region in southern Syria, bearing in mind the concern of all countries that have problems in this region, namely, Jordan, Israel and Syria itself, and, of course, we are ready to listen to The opinion of the United States, our European partners. But we need to conduct a concrete dialogue, and not talk about some mutual claims and threats, we need to practice practical work.
Question: You say that behind them is the decision, for them the action, right?
Putin: That's right, so it is.
Question: To talk about the US. Suspicions that Russia interfered in the election campaign in the United States caused a real political storm in Washington. In France, similar suspicions also sounded. First of all, in the light of what is happening in the United States, how will you react?
Putin: I have already spoken about this many times. Today one of your colleagues also formulated a question on this topic. He did this very carefully at a press conference, said that "they say that they are allegedly Russian hackers." "They say" - who speaks, on the basis of what? "Allegedly Russian hackers", and maybe not Russian.
Mr. Trump himself once said, and spoke perfectly, in my opinion, correctly: "And maybe it's from another country: maybe someone lying on the bed, something thought up, and maybe someone, Then I inserted a USB flash drive somewhere with the name of a Russian citizen, "or something else. After all, anything in this virtual world can be heaped on. Russia never does this, we do not need it. We do not have any sense to do this. What is the point?
I already talked with one US President, and with another, and with the third - the presidents come and go, but politics does not change. Do you know why? Because the power of bureaucracy is very strong. A man has been elected, he comes with some ideas, people with cases come to him, well-dressed and in dark suits, like me, but not with a red tie, but with black or with a dark blue, and begin to explain how necessary Do, and everything changes at once. It comes from one administration to another.
Something to change is quite a complicated matter, I say this without any irony. This is not because someone does not want to, but because it is difficult. Here Obama is an advanced man, a man of liberal views, a democrat, who, before his election, promised to close Guantanamo. Did? No. And why? Did he not want to? I really wanted to, I'm sure I wanted to, but it did not work. He sincerely sought this. It does not work, it's not that simple.
But this is not the most important question, although it is important, it is hard to imagine: people in shackles have been walking there for decades without trial and effect. You imagine, France would have done so or Russia - with giblets would have been devoured a long time. No, in the United States this is possible and is still continuing - by the way, to the question of democracy.
I'm not currently leading this example - I brought it because it's not so simple. But all the same, I have a certain amount of reserved optimism, it seems to me that we can and should negotiate on key issues.
Question: To date, you say that such a political storm in Washington rests on an absolute fiction.
Putin: It does not rely on fiction, it relies on the desire of those who lost the elections in the United States, at least somehow to improve their affairs at the expense of anti-Russian attacks, due to Russia's accusation of interference.
People who lost the election do not want to admit that they really lost them, that the one who won was closer to the people, he understood better what people, simple voters want. I do not want to admit this.
I want to explain myself to others and prove to others that they have nothing to do with it, that their policy was right, they did everything well, but someone from their side deceived and burned them. But this is not so, they just lost and must admit it.
Then, when this happens, I think it will be easier for us to work. But the fact that this is done with the help of anti-Russian tools is very bad, it brings dissonance into international affairs.
Let them argue among themselves, argue and prove who is cooler, who is better, who is smarter, who is more reliable and who formulates the policy for the country better, - why should third countries be involved here? This is very distressing. But also it will pass: everything passes - and it will pass.
Question: Mr. President, we come to the end of our interview, and first of all I would like to ask a question about the 2018 year. This is the year of elections in Russia, presidential elections, legislative elections.
Can you tell us whether you intend to nominate your candidacy, or, perhaps, the opposition will be able to nominate your candidacy in the event of this campaign in a democratic way? How do you see the development of this situation, do you want the campaign to go unconditionally, exclusively in a democratic environment? I'm talking about 2018 year.
Putin: You know, we have all the latest election campaigns in strict accordance with the Russian Constitution, in strict accordance. And I will do everything to ensure that 2018 election campaigns are held in the same way - I repeat again, in strict accordance with the law and the Constitution.
All people who have the right to do so, all people who undergo the relevant procedures prescribed by law, can and will certainly participate, if they so wish, in elections of all levels: to legislative assemblies, to parliament, and presidential Elections. As for the candidates, it's still too early to talk about it.
Question: Many thanks. I hope we'll see each other soon. Thank you very much for this conversation for Le Figaro.