"There is no other solution to the Syrian crisis than strengthening
the effective government structures and rendering them help in
September 28, 2015
Charlie Rose: So you would like to join the United States in the
fight against ISIS? That's part of why you're there. Others think
that while that may be part of your goal, you're trying to save the
Assad administration because they've been losing ground and the war
has not been going well for them. And you're there to rescue them.
President Putin: Well, you're right. We support the legitimate
government of Syria. And it's my deep belief 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, for instance in Libya where all the
state institutions are disintegrated. We see a similar situation in
Iraq. And there is no other solution to the Syrian crisis than
strengthening the effective government structures and rendering them
help in fighting terrorism. But, at the same time, urging them to
engage in positive dialogue with the rational opposition and conduct
Charlie Rose: As you know some of the coalition partners want to
see President Assad go first before they will support.
President Putin: I'd like to recommend to them the following.
They should send this message to the Syrian people. It's only the
Syrian people who are entitled to decide who should govern their
country and how.
Charlie Rose: President Assad, you support him. Do you support
what he is doing in Syria and what is happening to those Syrian
people, those many millions of refugees and the hundreds of
thousands of people that have been killed, many by his own force?
President Putin: Well, tell me, what do you think about those who
support the opposition and mainly the terrorist organizations only
in order to oust Assad without thinking about what will happen to
the country after all the government institutions have been
demolished? Today, you have repeatedly said that Assad is fighting
against his own population. But look at those who are in control of
60 percent of the territory in Syria. It's controlled by either ISIS
or by others--
Charlie Rose: Al-Nusra?
President Putin: --such as al-Nusra and other terrorist
organizations. They are recognized as terrorist organizations by the
United States, by other states and by the United Nations.
Charlie Rose: Are you prepared to put Russian combat troops on
the ground in Syria if it's necessary to defeat ISIS?
President Putin: Russia will not participate in any troop
operations in the territory of Syria or in any other states. Well,
at least we don't plan on it right now. But we are considering
intensifying our work with both President Assad and with our
partners in other countries.
Charlie Rose: I come back to the problem that many people look
at. And they believe that Assad helps ISIS. That his reprehensible
conduct against the Syrian people using barrel bombs and worse is a
recruiting tool for ISIS and that if he was removed, transitioned,
at some point, it would be better in the fight against ISIS,
al-Nusra and others.
President Putin: Well, speaking in a professional language of
intelligence services I can tell you that this kind of assessment is
an "active measure" by enemies of Assad. It is anti-Syrian
Charlie Rose: Much is being read into this including this, that
this is a new effort for Russia to take a leadership role in the
Middle East and that it represents a new strategy by you. Is it?
President Putin: Not really. No. More than 2,000 fighters from
Russia and Ex-Soviet Republics are in the territory of Syria. There
is a threat of their return to us. So instead of waiting for their
return, we are better off helping Assad fight them on Syrian
territory. So this is the most important thing which encourages us
and pushes us to provide assistance to Assad. And, in general, we
want the situation in the region to stabilize.
Charlie Rose: But your pride in Russia means that you would like
to see Russia play a bigger role in the world and this is just one
President Putin: Well, it's not the goal in itself. I'm proud of
Russia, that's true. And we have something to be proud of, but we do
not have any obsession with being a superpower in the international
Charlie Rose: But you are in part a major power because of the
nuclear weapons you have. You are a force to be reckoned with.
President Putin: I hope so. I definitely hope so. Otherwise why
do we have nuclear weapons at all?
Recent tension between the United States and Russia began after
Ukraine's president Yanukovych was overthrown and fled to Russia.
Putin responded by annexing Crimea, leading the U.S. and Western
allies to impose tough economic sanctions against Russia.
President Putin: Ukraine is a separate and major issue for us. It
is our closest neighbor. We've always said that this is our sister
country. It's not only a Slavic people. We have common history,
common culture, common religion, and many things in common. What I
believe is absolutely unacceptable is the resolution of internal
political issues in the former USSR Republics, through "color
revolutions," through coup d'états, through unconstitutional removal
of power. That is totally unacceptable. Our partners in the United
States have supported those who ousted Yanukovych.
Charlie Rose: You believe that the United States had something to
do with the ousting of Yanukovych, and he had to flee to Russia.
President Putin: I know that for sure.
Charlie Rose: How do you know that for sure?
President Putin: I know those people who live in Ukraine. We have
thousands of contacts with them. We know who and where, when, who
exactly met with someone and worked with those who ousted Yanukovych,
how they were supported, how much they were paid, how they were
trained, where, in which countries, and who those instructors were.
We know everything.
For the record, the U.S. government has denied any involvement in
the removal of the Ukrainian leader.
Charlie Rose: You respect the sovereignty of Ukraine?
President Putin: Sure. But we want countries to respect the
sovereignty of other countries and Ukraine in particular. Respect
for sovereignty means to not allow unconstitutional action and coup
d'états, the removal of legitimate power.
Charlie Rose: How will the renewal of legitimate power take place
in your judgment? How will that come about? And what role will
President Putin: Russia has not taken part and is not going to
take part in any actions aimed at removing the legitimate
Charlie Rose: You have a military presence on the border of
Ukraine. And some even argue that there have been Russian troops in
President Putin: Well, you do have a military presence in Europe?
Charlie Rose: Yes.
President Putin: American tactical nuclear weapons are in Europe.
Let's not forget that. What does this mean? Does it mean that you've
occupied Germany or that you've transformed the occupation forces
into NATO forces? And if we have our military forces on our
territory, on the border with some state, you believe this is a
Charlie Rose: You're much talked about in America. There's much
conversation. More so than any--
President Putin: Maybe they have nothing else to do in America
but to talk about me.
Charlie Rose: No, no, or maybe they're curious people. Or maybe
you're an interesting character. Maybe that's what it is. They know
of a former KGB agent who came back and got into politics in St.
Petersburg and became deputy mayor and then came to Moscow. And the
interesting thing is they see these images of you bare-chested on a
horse. And they say, "There is a man who carefully cultivates his
image of strength."
President Putin: You know, I'm convinced that a person in my
position must provide a positive example to people. And those areas
where he can do this, he must do this.
Charlie Rose: You enjoy the work, you enjoy representing Russia
and you know-- you've been an intelligence officer. Intelligence
officers know how to read other people. That's part of the job, yes?
President Putin: It used to be. Used to be. Now I have a
different job and that's been for quite a long time.
Charlie Rose: Somebody in Russia told me there is no such thing
as a former KGB man. Once a KGB man, always a KGB man.
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