(får ikke publisere dette i vestlig presse)
Thomas Roth, en tysker som er bosatt i Russland, gjennomført et intervju på russisk, og deretter oversatt det til tysk.
Thomas Roth: Herr statsminister, etter opptrapping i Georgia, internasjonalt publikum og presse sees Russland i isolasjon mot resten av verden og til begynnelsen av en krig i Georgia. Hvorfor har du plassert landet i denne isolasjon?
Vladimir Putin: Hvem tror du, som begynte krigen i Georgia?
Roth: Som jeg ser det, var konflikten begrunnet med Georgian angrep på Tskhinvali i Sør Ossetia.
Putin: Jeg takker for dette svaret. Det er riktig, det var det faktisk. Vi vil håndtere problemet mer detaljert noe senere. Nå vil jeg understreke at vi ikke ba om denne situasjonen. Og når det gjelder omdømmet til Russland, er jeg overbevist om at omdømmet til ethvert land er i stand til å følge en selvstendig utenrikspolitikk som skulle beskytte livet til sine borgere, vi vil bare forsterke vårt omdømme.
Og omvendt. Vårt omdømme i andre land, som gjør seg selv en regel for å forstyrre i politikken i andre land ved å utvide seg utover sine egne nasjonale interesser, deres rykte ville avta. Dette sier alt.
Roth: Du har ennå ikke svart på spørsmålet hvorfor du har risikert isolasjon av landet fra resten av verden.
Putin: Jeg trodde jeg svarte på spørsmålet. Men hvis det krever ekstra forklaringer, vil jeg gi det.
Jeg er av den oppfatning at et land, i dette tilfellet Russland, som ville forsvare verdigheten til sine borgere, hvis liv det fungerer å beskytte, og fungerer i henhold til internasjonal lov-forpliktelser i sammenheng med den fredsbevarende styrker, det følger at slike et land ikke ville komme inn i isolasjon. Med hensyn til Europa og USA – så hersker de ikke over resten av verden.
Og omvendt. Jeg vil gjerne understreke igjen: Hvis noen land mener at de er berettiget i sine egne personlige og nasjonale interesser ved å overse den utenrikspolitiske interesser til andre stater, vil omdømmet til slike land i verden gradvis avta. Hvis de europeiske landenes utenrikspolitiske interesser sammenfaller med USA’s, kommer de ikke, etter min mening, til å lykkes.
Og nå til våre internasjonale lov-forpliktelser. I henhold til internasjonale avtaler ble det gitt de russiske fredsbevarende styrkene å ta den fredelige befolkningen i Sør Ossetia under sin beskyttelse.
La oss minnes i denne forbindelse, året 1995 i Bosnia.
Det er velkjent at europeiske fredsbevarende styrkene i Bosnia, som besto av Nederlands militære medlemmer, ikke stoppet en av de angripende sider og dermed førte til ødeleggelsen av et helt lokalsamfunn. Hundrevis ble drept.
Denne tragedien i Srebrenica i Bosnia er svært godt kjent i Europa. Bør vi ha handlet på samme vis? Bør vi ha ignorert den aggresjon og dermed gjøre det mulig for georgiske militære avdelinger å ødelegge menneskeliv i Tskhinvali?
Roth: Herr statsminister, kritikere sier at målet ditt i Sør Ossetia var ikke å beskytte folk, men å prøve å ytterligere desimere og undertrykke Georgia og å fjerne den georgiske presidenten fra kontoret. Hvorfor? For å hindre Georgia fra å bli med i NATO. Er det slik?
Putin: Det er ikke slik. Det er en fordreining av fakta, dette er en løgn. Hvis dette var vårt mål – da ville vi trolig har startet denne konflikten. Men du selv har innrømmet at det var Georgia som startet denne konflikten.
Nå, la meg gjenoppfriske fakta i nyere historie. Etter ulovlig vedtak om anerkjennelse av uavhengighet for Kosovo, forventet alle at Russland ville anerkjenne uavhengighet og suverenitet i Sør Ossetia og Abkhasia. Og vi hadde en moralsk rett til å gjøre det. Men vi gjorde ikke det. Vi handlet mer enn varsomt, og vi «svelget» Kosovos ulovlige handling.
Men hva får vi i retur for vår selvbeherskelse? En opptrapping av konflikten, angrepet på våre fredsstyrker, raid på og ødeleggelse av den sivile befolkningen i Sør-Ossetia! Dette er fakta som er svært godt kjent og har vært publisert i hele Europa.
Den Franske Utenriksminster var i Nord-Ossetia, der han møtte flyktninger fra de Georgianske aggressorene. Selv øye-vitner rapportert at georgiske militære avdelinger kjørte over kvinner og barn med stridsvogner. De kjørte inn i sivile hjem og kirker og brente dem levende. Og georgiske soldater sprengning i Tskhinvali, når de hadde besatt tilfluktsteder der kvinner og barn gjemte seg, kastet de granater inn i skjulestedene. Hva er dette, hvis ikke folkemord?
Georgisk lederskap, som iscenesatte denne katastrofen, har undergravd den territorielle integriteten til Georgia av sine handlinger. Slike ledere har ikke rett til å styre et land, uavhengig av sin størrelse. Hvis de var anstendige mennesker ville de frasi seg stats ansvaret umiddelbart.
Roth: Men herr statsminister, dette er altså ikke din beslutning, men det er en georgisk beslutning.
Putin: Selvsagt. Men vi vet at det finnes ulike tidligere tilfeller;
Les resten av intervjuet på engelsk under ….
We remember how the American troops marched into Iraq and what they wished to do with Saddam Hussein because he destroyed some villages of the Shiites. In contrast to this, in just the first hours of Georgia’s invasion, ten villages in S.Ossetia were destroyed, wiped off the face of the earth.
Roth: Does this give you the right to remain not only in the conflict zone but to march beyond that into a sovereign country and to bombard this sovereign country? That I sit here before you now I owe to sheer luck. For a bomb from your airplane exploded one hundred meters from me in Gori in a residential area. Isn’t it a clear violation of international law that you in fact now occupy a sovereign nation? Where do you get this right?
Putin: We responded within the parameters of international law. The assault on the posts of our peacekeeping forces in S.Ossetia which resulted in the murder of our peacemakers and the killing of our citizens, we have considered without a doubt to be an assault upon Russia.
In the first hours of the fighting, the Georgian armed forces immediately killed several dozen of the soldiers of our internationally-recognized Russian peacekeeping forces. In our southern position, as there were positions of the peacekeeping forces both in the south and in the north, Georgian tanks encircled the lightly armed Russian peacekeeping forces and opened direct fire on them.
When our peacekeeping forces tried to take heavy munitions from the hanger, they were shelled by the Grad rocket stations. Ten Russian soldiers who were still in the hangers were killed on the spot – burned alive.
Roth: Mr Prime Minister…
Putin: I am not finished yet. Then, the Georgian Air Forces attacked various points in S.Ossetia – not in the Tskhinvilli region, but in the center of S.Ossetia itself. We were forced to fire beyond the combat & security zone owing to these air attacks. These were the places where the Georgian troops were controlled from and the operation centers from which our peacekeeping forces & citizens were attacked from.
Roth: But I have told you that residential areas were bombarded by Russia. I experienced this, otherwise I would not have told you. Can it be that perhaps you do not have all the information?
Putin: Perhaps I do not have all the information. Errors during military operation are also possible. Only recently, in Afghanistan, US air forces supposedly engaged in an attack on a Taliban contingent, but destroyed instead, hundreds of civilians who were killed in one strike. This is a first example of military errors.
But the second example is even more convincing. The matter is, that the fire and control posts, the control of the Air Force and the radar stations on the Georgian side, were stationed in residential areas with the aim to restrict the possibility of Russia defending its people in S.Ossetia – using the civilian population – and you – as hostages.
Roth: Well, that is an assumption. Mr Prime Minister, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Bernard Kouchner, has expressed grave concerns that the next center of conflict will be in Ukraine. He mentioned in particular, the Crimean peninsula and the city of Sevastopol as the next center of Russian aggression. Is the Crimea the next target for Russia? The seat of the Black Sea fleet?
Putin: He said, ‘the next center of Russian aggression?’ But this is not the case in the Georgian conflict. We were the victims of aggression.
Our American partners trained the Georgian armed forces, provided substantial funds, and sent a vast number of instructors who mobilized the army there. Instead of searching for solutions to inter-ethnic disputes, they simply pushed one of the parties to the conflict – the Georgian side – to aggressive actions. And we are accused of being the aggressors? What a powerful propaganda machine the West has!
Now you ask, ‘What is Russia’s next target?’ In the current conflict we had no ‘target’ to begin with. Therefore it is misleading to speak of a ‘next target.’ Should we have swung our penknives at them? What is the proportional use of force when tanks and heavy artillery are used against us? Should we have fired with a slingshot? They had to expect to get their teeth knocked out.
Roth: So you exclude targeting the Crimea?
Putin: Allow me to answer and you will be satisfied. The Crimea is not disputed territory. There is no ethnic conflict there in contrast to the conflict between S.Ossetia and Georgia. Russia recognized the current borders of today’s Ukraine a long time ago. We basically concluded all the negotiations regarding the borders. Only demarcation issues are now being discussed. But these are purely technical issues.
The question about ‘targets’ for Russia only serves as provocation. There within the Crimea, complicated processes are in view: Crimean Tatars, Ukrainian people, Russian people, a Slovak population. But this is an internal problem of Ukraine itself.
With Ukraine we have a contract regarding the docking of our fleet in Sevastopol until 2017. We will be guided by this present Treaty.
Roth: Mr Prime Minister, another Minister of Foreign Affairs expressed his concerns, in this case, the British Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr David Miliband. He warned of a new – I use this word as his quotation – ‘cold war’ – between Russia and the West. He warned of an ‘arms race’ beginning. Are we now on the border of a new ‘Ice Age?’ What is your assessment of this situation?
Putin: There is a Russian saying: ‘Stop the thief! The one who screams the loudest, he is the thief!’
Roth: The thief, then, would be, the British minister of foreign affairs…
Putin: This is what you say. Excellent! It is a pleasure to converse with you. Remember, you said that.
Russia seeks no provocation, no tension, with whoever it may be. We want good neighborly partnership relations. If you allow, I will say what I think about this.
Look, there was the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. And there were the Soviet forces in the German Democratic Republic. And we must honestly admit, they were the occupying forces which were left in Germany after the Second World War.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, these occupation forces went away. The threat of the Soviet Union is gone. However, NATO and the US forces in Europe are still there. What for? I will tell you what for.
It is to establish order and discipline in their own US-NATO camp – to hold them within ‘bloc discipline’ they need an outside threat. And because Iran is not entirely suitable for this role, there is a strong movement, initiated by the US, to revive the enemy in Russia. But in Europe, no one is scared.
Roth: On Monday the European Union in Brussels meets. It will talk about sanctions against Russia. Do you or do you not care since you say that the European peoples’ voice will not be represented?
Putin: If I would say we do not care, that we are indifferent, this would not be true. Of course we care. Of course we will watch very carefully what takes place there. We only hope that common sense will prevail.
And we hope that an objective and not a politicized appraisal of the S.Ossetian events will be given. We hope that the actions of the Russian peacekeeping forces will be supported. Whereas actions of the Georgian side which performed the criminal actions, we hope will be denounced.
Roth: In this context I would like to ask this next question. How do you solve this dilemma: On the one hand Russia is keen on cooperating with the EU. You cannot act differently given the economic interchange between you and Europe. On the other hand, Russia wants to play by its own rules. How can you satisfy these two issues at once?
Putin: We are not going to play by any special rules. We want all to world to act in accordance with the same rules referred to as ‘international law.’ We don’t want, however, these notions to be manipulated by anyone. In one region of the world, they will obey these rules, in another region, something else rules, only to satisfy someone’s self interests. We want unified rules that check the interests of all participants.
Roth: Do you mean that the EU plays with different rules in different regions of the world which do not correspond to international law?
Putin: Absolutely, how otherwise? How did they recognize Kosovo? They ignored the territorial national integrity attached to Serbia completely, and the UN Security Council Resolution 1244 which they together discharged and supported. There they could do it. But one wasn’t allowed to proceed in such a way in S.Ossetia and in Abkhazia. Why not?
Roth: Does this mean that Russia is the only one who can define international law? That all others manipulate the situation – does that make it right for Russia to define and dictate international law? Do I understand you correctly?
Putin: You have misunderstood me. Do you recognize the independence of Kosovo? Yes or no?
Roth: Me personally? I am a journalist and it is my job to report.
Putin: I mean Western countries. In fact, all have accepted the unlawful independence of Kosovo. But if you recognized it there, then you must recognize it here – the independence of S.Ossetia and Abkhazia. There is absolutely no difference. No difference at all. This is an invented difference by the West.
There it was an ethnic conflict – and here it is an ethnic conflict. There, it was crime on both sides. And here, probably we can find it. Probably we can find it if we ‘dig.’ There the decision has been taken that these two people cannot live together in one state – and here they do not want to live together in the same state. There is no difference at all and everybody realizes this. This is all twaddle for the West’s unlawful decisions to cover.
This is the law of the jungle and Russia cannot agree to this. Mr Roth, you have been living in Russia for a long time and you speak perfect Russian, nearly accent free. That you have understood me I am not surprised. I am very pleased. Now I would like our European colleagues who will meet on September 1 to talk about this problem, to understand all of this.
Was the UN Resolution 1244 adopted? Yes, it was adopted. Was the territorial integrity of Serbia explicitly mentioned? Yes, explicitly. It was then, in their recognition of the independence of Kosovo, that Resolution 1244 was thrown into the trash. They simply forgot it in spite of our many protests.
They tried to re-interpret it. Turn it inside-out. It was impossible to wiggle out of it — so they simply forgot it. Why? They had orders from the White House and all have obeyed.
If European nations continue with this policy of obeying orders from the White House, then we will just go straight to the source of their policies and of all European affairs, and negotiate with Washington!
Thomas Roth: Given the crisis which is currently present in your relations with the US and the EU, what contribution can you support to cool off this crisis?
Vladimir Putin: First of all, it appears that to a great extent this crisis was provoked by our American friends in order to enhance their election campaign. This is the use of administrative resources in its most deplorable form — in order to ensure the advantage of one candidate. In this case, the advantage of the current ruling party.
Roth: But this is not a fact.
Putin: Perhaps. However, we know that there were many American military advisors in Georgia. This is very bad to arm one side in order to solve the ethnic problems in a military way. At first glance, it is much easier than to lead long term negotiations and to search for compromises. But at the same time, it is a very dangerous way, a way that the US so often chooses, and the order of events has proved this.
American instructors – all of the personnel teaching on using military techniques — where should have they been engaged? At training grounds and training centers. But where were they? In combat areas!
This suggests that the US administration was fully aware of the preparing military action – and moreover, probably participated in this military action. Because without the order of the senior management, American citizens had no right to be present in the conflict area.
Only the local residents, observers of the OSCE, and the Russian peacekeepers were allowed to stay in the security zone. We have, however, found evidence of US citizens in the security zone that belong neither to the first, second, or third category. Why were they there? That is the question! If they will not tell us, and did allow this, then I suspect that it has been done on purpose — to organize a small victorious war.
And should it fail in their planning? Then they compose an enemy image out of Russia, and on this basis, mobilize the voters around one of the presidential candidates. Of course, the candidate they are promoting is of the present ruling party – because only the ruling party has such resources.
Roth: The last question I would like to ask you is a question that I am very interested in myself.
Don’t you think that you personally are in the trap of your authoritarian state? In the existing system, you receive information from your secret services and from other sources which include the highest economic environment — even the mass media in Russia. These, no doubt, are all afraid of telling you anything different from what you are willing to hear.
Is it not then the case that your existing authoritarian system obstructs a broad view for you to see the processes that happen today in Europe, the US, and in other countries?
Putin: Dear Mr Roth, you have characterized our political system as ‘authoritative’ and therefore a political system to be censured. But please, in this context, let us consider the conflict which we are presently discussing.
Don’t you know what has been happening in Georgia in recent years? The mysterious death of Saakashvili’s opponent, Zurab Zhvania, the prime minister? The reprisals against the opposition? The violent dispersion of the opposition demonstration in November last year? The rigging of national elections practically in the conditions of a state of emergency? Then this criminal action in S.Ossetia resulting in many civilian deaths.
And yet for all of this, does the West still tout Georgia as a ‘democratic country’ with which a dialogue must be held and which is to be taken into NATO and perhaps in the EU? The regime in Georgia is a far cry from what the West wants the world to believe.
Yet if another country protects its interests, simply its citizens’ right to life — who have been attacked — 80 of our people were immediately killed by the Georgian attack, 2000 civilians are dead in the end — and what, we are accused of being ‘authoritarian?’
And if we protect the lives of our citizens, we will have Kolbasa [Russian sausage since Russia relies on European food imports] taken away from us? Do we have a choice between Kolbasa and life? We choose life, Mr Roth.
Roth: But in your own country..
Putin: Please – let me to talk about freedom of the press since you brought it up. How have these events been represented in the US media, one of the so-called beacons of democracy?
I was in Beijing when all these events happened. There began the massive bombardment of Tskinvhalli, there were already ground operations of the Georgian troops, many victims, and no one had reported anything about these incidents!
Hardly had we pushed back the aggressor, knocked his teeth out, he hardly had his American weapons dropped in haste and fled – all at once the Western press remembered all about international law & called Russia, the aggressor. All began to wail! Why this selectivity?
Roth: Does not Russia need to care for its own economic interests rather than alienate its European partners?
Putin: Alright, let’s talk about ’sausage’ -the economy. We want normal relations with our European partners. We are a very reliable partner. We have always fulfilled our obligations.
When we built a pipeline system in Germany in the early 60’s, our partners across the Atlantic advised the Germans not to approve this project. You should be aware of this. But then, the leadership of Germany made the right decision and this system was built together. Nowadays, this is one of the reliable sources of energy supply for the German economy.
Let us look at the global economic situation. What are our exports to Europe and also the US? More than 80% of the resources — oil, gas, timber, metals, and fertilizers. That is all that the world economy and also European industry demand. These are all things that can very well be sold on the world markets should there be sanctions against us.
Concerning your imports to us, Russia is a large and reliable market. Does someone want to stop selling to us any longer? Well, then, we will buy these products elsewhere. Who profits from it? Not our partners in Europe. Those across the Atlantic?
We are a victim of aggression and the West’s distorted propaganda. We want an objective analysis of the situation which we are not getting. We only hope that common sense and justice will prevail.