Pavel Zarubin: Mr President, you have a very busy day today, but as a journalist I have to ask you about the latest developments around Nagorno-Karabakh.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: It is a tragedy, and we are extremely concerned, because the people of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh are no strangers to us. Suffice it to say that some 2 million Azerbaijanis and over 2 million Armenians live in Russia, as far as we know. A large number of Russian citizens have close friends and even family members in both republics.
It is indeed a huge tragedy. People are dying; there have been many casualties on both sides. We hope that the conflict will stop very soon. Even if it is not settled definitively, and it seems that this is a long way off, in any case, we are calling for a ceasefire, and I want to say this once again. This must be done as soon as possible.
This is it, in general.
As you know, Armenia is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, and so we have certain obligations towards it under the treaty. It is deeply regrettable that the hostilities continue, but they are not taking place in the Armenian territory. As for meeting our obligations under this treaty, Russia has always honoured and will continue to honour its commitments. You should know that I maintain regular contact with the Prime Minister of Armenia, and the Armenian leadership has not voiced any questions about the fulfilment of Russia’s allied commitments.
Pavel Zarubin: We are witnessing yet another acute internal political situation in the recent history of Kyrgyzstan. What do you think on this score?
Vladimir Putin: Well, what can I say? That country held parliamentary elections just recently. By the way, the vote has been recognised as valid and democratic, not only by international observers, but also by representatives of the OSCE. But what happened there after that, of course, we have every reason to be concerned about it.
We do hope that things will work out peacefully. We hope that a normal democratic political process will be restored. And, once again, this should happen as soon as possible.
We keep in touch with all the participants, with all the parties to this conflict, and I would like to hope that after the political situation in Kyrgyzstan returns to normal, we will continue to implement all our plans with that country. I mean that Kyrgyzstan is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union, and we have a lot of joint work planned.
We provide Kyrgyzstan with significant assistance such as loans, as well as help with its integration in the Eurasian Economic Union. There are issues such as customs, phytosanitary control, and things like that. We allocate considerable resources to ensure that Kyrgyzstan becomes a full-fledged member of this association.
I repeat once again, we hope that all the internal political processes we are witnessing there today will end well and quickly and without any losses.
Pavel Zarubin: A few questions about the events of the past few weeks. Ten days ago, you proposed resuming cyber security cooperation with the United States. Has there been any response?
Vladimir Putin: No. Unfortunately, just like with several other Russian initiatives, there was no answer. I consider it a very important matter; at the same time, there are ongoing complaints about Russia’s hyperactivity, alleged hyperactivity, in the information sphere, interference in US elections, and other allegations, which are completely unfounded.
Pavel Zarubin: The entire world is watching the final stage of the US presidential race. Much has happened there, including things we could never imagine happening before but the one constant in recent years is that your name is mentioned all the time.
Moreover, during the latest debates, which have provoked a public outcry, presidential candidate Biden called candidate Trump “Putin’s puppy.”
Since they keep talking about you, I would like to ask a question which you probably will not want to answer. Nevertheless, here it is: Whose position in this race, Trump’s or Biden’s, appeals to you more?
Vladimir Putin: I would like to say openly that the positions of presidential candidates in any country, including a great power such as the United States, must be assessed by the voters. In this particular case, by the people of the United States.
We are the onlookers; we do not interfere in the process. What can I say about the exchange of tough statements and even direct accusations? It is proof of the standard of the political culture – or the lack thereof.
However, as I have already said, we do not interfere. Everything that is happening in the United States is the result of the country’s internal political processes and problems.
By the way, when anyone tries to humiliate or insult the incumbent head of state, in this case in the context you have mentioned, this actually enhances our prestige, because they are talking about our incredible influence and power. In a way, it could be said that they are playing into our hands, as the saying goes. But anyway, as I have already pointed out, this is none of our business. Let them settle scores with each other as they deem possible in the current context.
Speaking of preferences, what can I say? We know that the incumbent President Trump has repeatedly expressed interest in the improvement of Russian-American relations. And we certainly appreciate that very much. From the very beginning, when he said so during the first iteration of the fight for the White House, we certainly heard him.
But we must look objectively at what has been happening in recent years. Yes, indeed, we have achieved a lot on a bilateral basis. I must say this. Without having to list all the positive steps we have taken to build Russian-American relations, I can say that we have taken quite a few. But the intentions that President Trump spoke about earlier have not been fully realised.
I believe that this is largely due to a certain bipartisan consensus on the need to contain Russia, to curb our country’s development. Moreover, as they say, this is a comprehensive position, which means containment on all tracks. This is my first point. And this, as we understand it, essentially limits the current administration.
Furthermore, the greatest number of various kinds of restrictions and sanctions were introduced during the Trump presidency. Decisions on imposing new sanctions or expanding previous ones were made 46 times. The incumbent's administration withdrew from the INF treaty. That was a very drastic step. After 2002, when the Bush administration withdrew from the ABM treaty, that was the second major step. And I believe it is a big danger to international stability and security.
Now the US has announced the beginning of the procedure for withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty. We have good reason to be concerned about that, too. A number of our joint projects, modest, but viable, have not been implemented – the business council project, expert council, and so on.
Nevertheless, again, bilateral trade has grown during the Trump presidency. And it has grown noticeably, despite all the restrictions, even despite the pandemic. The pandemic might have introduced some adjustments, but in general, there is an upward trend in mutual trade. And this is good, because there are jobs behind it, business activity and so on.
Our joint work to stabilise the world energy market has been unfolding quite well, because the United States is definitely interested in maintaining a certain stability, in supporting its oil-producing companies, and so on. And we managed to achieve a really good cooperative result. So you know, there are upsides and downsides, of course.
As for the Democratic candidate, what can I say? We can hear rather sharp anti-Russian rhetoric as well. Regrettably, we have become used to this. But some things are worth mentioning. First, the Democratic Party is traditionally closer to the so-called liberal values, closer to Social Democratic ideas, if compared to Europe. And it was from the Social Democratic environment that the Communist Party evolved.
After all, I was a member of the Soviet Communist Party for nearly 20 years, or more precisely 18 years. I was a rank-and-file member, but it can be said that I believed in the party’s ideas. I still like many of these left-wing values. Equality and fraternity. What is bad about them? In fact, they are akin to Christian values. Yes, they are difficult to implement, but they are very attractive, nevertheless. In other words, this can be seen as an ideological basis for developing contacts with the Democratic representative.
It is a fact that African Americans constitute a stable electorate, one of the electorates of the Democratic Party. It is a well-known fact, and there is nothing new about this. The Soviet Union also supported the African Americans’ movement for their legitimate rights. Back in the 1930s, Communist International leaders wrote that both black and white workers had a common enemy – imperialism and capitalism. They also wrote that these people could become the most effective group in the future revolutionary battle.
So, this is something that can be seen, to a degree, as common values, if not a unifying agent for us. I am not afraid to say so. This is true.
Do you remember – well, you are a young man, but people of my generation remember a time when huge portraits of Angela Davis, a member of the US Communist Party and an ardent fighter for the rights of African Americans, were on view around the Soviet Union.
Therefore, we believe that this is something we can talk about and that can be used as the basis for mutual understanding but this is far by no means all there is. For example, candidate Biden has said openly that he was ready to extend the New START or to sign a new strategic offensive reductions treaty. This is a very serious element of our potential collaboration in the future.
Therefore, I would like to repeat what I have said more than once before. We will work with any future president of the United State, the one whom the American people give their vote of confidence.
Pavel Zarubin: It's your birthday today. Why do you usually avoid this topic on the public level? I mean, over the years, well, maybe it coincided once or twice that we saw you at foreign summits on your birthday; last year, you went to the taiga, that much I know. But no one else usually knows anything about your birthday. Why is that?
Vladimir Putin: I don't even know how to answer this. It is my birthday we are talking about, not a national holiday. I just think it would not be too modest of me to exaggerate the significance of this day, so to speak. I would say everyone should spend their birthday like this – with their friends, with their loved ones, regardless of their official position.