The following are Vladimir Putin's responses to questions from political analysts attending the plenary session of the Valdai International Discussion Club's annual meeting. During the Q&As, Putin stated that the United States unleashed an "unprovoked anti-Russia campaign." Answering a former State Department official who berated him for his negativity, Putin fired back : "You have hysteria out there; we have discontent; you are tearing down our flags, closing our diplomatic missions. What is so good about it?"
In Putin's assessment in some areas thing were worse than during the Cold War, when the West exhibited greater "respect" towards the Soviet Union. "I can hardly imagine Soviet flags being torn down from Soviet diplomatic missions when the Soviet Union was around."
However, answering to a question about U.S. President Donald Trump, Putin said that Trump deserved respect and that he is being mistreated in his own country. Putin stated: "Trump was elected by the American people. And for this reason alone he should be treated with respect even if you disagree with a position of his. He is being disrespected in the country. This is a deplorable, negative aspect of the American political system. You can argue but you cannot show disrespect. Not just for him personally but for the people who have voted for him. This is the first thing."
After this answer, the Russian intellectual and the event moderator Fyodor Lukyanov cited former German chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder's (a director in numerous Russian consortia and Chairman of Nordstream) praise of Putin as a "pure democrat." Putin accepted the compliment: "Yes, what [Schroeder] said is quite right."
During the meeting, Putin also tackled the Ukrainian crisis. The Russian president said that the Ukrainian side in not complying with the Minsk agreements, and all those involved in the negotiation process are fully aware of it. Nevertheless, the West which unleashed the situation in the Ukraine by backing the coup against the legally elected Yanukovych government still accuses Russia, and refuses to lift sanctions on Moscow.
Towards the end of the plenary session, Lukyanov asked Putin if he will run for the Russian 2018 presidential elections. Lukyanov said: "The world needs you!" Putin evaded the question, but used a hoary joke to signal his intentions. An oligarch, who has lost his fortune tells his wife that he will have to sell the Mercedes and buy a Lada, and move out from the prestigious residential area Rublyovka to a standard apartment. "Will you still love me?" asks the oligarch, and the wife answers: 'I will love you very much – and I will miss you greatly,' implying that she will leave him. So, referring to the 2018 elections, Putin commented: "I do not think they will miss me for very long."
Russian President Vladimir Putin at the annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Lukyanov: A Woman Can Become Russia's Next President? Putin: 'Why Not?'
Mikhail Remizov: "Mikhail Remizov, Institute of National Strategy.
"I have a brief but broad-ranging question. It concerns the agenda of the next presidential term.
"Today, the discussion is usually focused on the lineup of contenders, but it seems to me that it is more important to hear, above all, how you, Mr. President, see the mission, the historic task of the person who will be elected our country's president next year. What are our national super-tasks for this period, for 2018–2024?"
Vladimir Putin: "You know, I have repeatedly spoken about this. Unfortunately, there is nothing new in your question, but I will say this again. We should make Russia very flexible and highly competitive.
"Flexible – in terms of forms and methods of governance, flexible in terms of developing an economy that is geared toward the future, in terms of introducing advanced technology and assessing these opportunities and using them.
"Needless to say, we should strengthen our defense capability and improve our political system so that it is like a living organism and develops in keeping with the world as a whole.
"When we talk about technology – the person on my left, the founder of a major global company, spoke about big data. You see, we are not even aware of what this is all about. Perhaps you know, many people know about a recent case in the United States when a company all of a sudden started sending a 14-year old girl offers to buy items for pregnant women, which outraged her parents. They wrote a complaint to the company and the company apologized. Then it turned out that the girl was pregnant. She did not know about that and her parents did not know either. It turned out that based on a large number of data, a change in the girl's interests, preferences, questions and queries the machine came to the conclusion that it was dealing with a pregnant woman and issued an order to another machine to offer her goods for pregnant women.
"First and foremost, this is some kind of control over humans administered by technology. There are both positive and negative aspects here and we need to consider this. We will need to think about all this in our country and use it for the benefit of our people. This is our super-task.
"Fyodor Lukyanov: By the way, do you think a woman can become our next President?
Vladimir Putin: "Anything is possible here. Why not? (Laughter.)"
Putin: 'I Can Hardly Imagine Soviet Flags Being Torn Down From Soviet Diplomatic Missions When The Soviet Union Was Around'
Hans-Friedrich von Ploetz [German Diplomat]: "Mr. President, the Russian media are very generous in interviewing participants here, but I was struck by the pessimism about our relations. And I tried to remind them that during the Cold War we had bigger differences than we have today, and our younger generations in particular, but also the business community, are unhappy with the present situation. So would you give maybe me and also your media a little bit of encouragement and say, 'It may not look as good as it should be, but there are perspectives and I am working on it'?"
Vladimir Putin: "You know, indeed, you are right; we had more differences and disagreements in Soviet times. However, do you know what else was in even greater supply? Respect.
"I can hardly imagine Soviet flags being torn down from Soviet diplomatic missions when the Soviet Union was around. However, you did this. That is not the only sign of disrespect. It shows itself not in such demonstrative actions, but in some substantive matters as well. We have already talked about this today, so we probably should not go over it again.
"We used to be more respectful of each other's interests. Clearly, respect must be backed up by economic and military power. This is clear. We ourselves are largely to blame for putting ourselves in such a position. In the humiliating situation, as in the 1990s, when we allowed you to access our nuclear facilities expecting you to reciprocate. However, you did not, and expecting you to was probably stupid on the part of those who did so back in the new Russia.
"Nonetheless, I would like to end my remarks on a positive note. I believe that much in resolving the issues of interest to you and us depends on working together. This should help us stay focused on the thought that our prospects are good.
"We just talked about Syria. To reiterate – I do not think I can disclose the details – but we have a dialogue at the working level, at the level of special services, the Defense Ministry, and the Foreign Ministry, almost on a weekly basis. We do achieve some results, which means we are capable of it.
"I think that this approach should be applied to other areas of our interaction as well."
Putin: Russia Can Be A Mediator In The N. Korean Crisis
Georgy Toloraya (Source: Brics2015.ru)
Georgy Toloraya [Russian Diplomat]: "Mr. President, I cannot but draw your attention to the acute international problem, which is the Korean Peninsula issue that you mentioned. Many years ago, I happened to accompany you to meetings with Kim Jong-Il. Back then, it seemed we could persuade the Koreans to be less recalcitrant. However, when a country is threatened with destruction, it is difficult to expect people to be flexible. The sanctions, which we joined, are of little help here. On the contrary, they tend to make people even angrier.
"What do you think Russia can do to resolve this situation? How can we work with the Americans on this matter?"
Vladimir Putin: "As you are aware, the situation is dangerous. Talking about a preventive disarming strike (we have heard such hints or even direct threats) is dangerous. I have said so many times.
"Who knows where and what the North Koreans have stashed away, and whether they will be able to destroy everything at once with one strike. I doubt it. I am almost sure that this is impossible. Although theoretically, this is possible. But this is extremely dangerous.
"Even if we assume that they are being tested to find out what they have hidden and where, not everything will be found. So, there is only one way, which is to reach an agreement and to treat that country with respect. I mentioned this in my remarks.
"What role can Russia play? It can act as an intermediary in this case. We proposed a number of joint tripartite projects involving Russia, North Korea and South Korea. They include building a railway, pipeline transport and so on. We need to work. We need to get rid of belligerent rhetoric, to realize the danger associated with this situation, and to move beyond our ambitions. It is imperative to stop arguing. In fact, it is as simple as that.
"Something I already mentioned here. We did agree at some point that Korea would stop its nuclear weapons' programs. No, our American partners thought that was not enough, and, a few weeks later, I believe, after the agreement, imposed more sanctions, saying that Korea can do better. Maybe it can, but it did not take on such obligations. It also immediately withdrew from all the agreements and resumed everything it was doing before. We must exercise restraint in all these actions. We did reach an agreement back then, and, I think, we can do so now as well."
Putin: If Anyone Believes That Preventing The Russian Team From Participating In The Olympic Games In South Korea Would Influence The Course Of Russia's 2018 Election Campaign, They Are Deeply Mistaken
Fyodor Lukyanov: "Mr. President, the Olympic Games in South Korea are coming soon. Do you think they may be threatened by something?"
Vladimir Putin: "I hope that the Olympic Games will come off."
Fyodor Lukyanov: "Are we going to participate? Or is it going to be under the Olympic flag again?"
Vladimir Putin: "With regard to the Olympic Games, what do we see and what do I pay attention to? We can see that the Olympic Committee is under strong pressure. We have no complaints regarding the International Olympic Committee. Very decent people, people of action work there, but they are dependent on advertisers, television channels, sponsors, and so forth.
"In turn, these sponsors get unambiguous signals from certain American authorities. It is not that we think so – we know it for a fact. There are two options: one is to force Russia to participate under a neutral flag, and the other is to keep us from participating in the Olympics altogether. Either way, it is humiliating for our country.
"If anyone believes that acting this way would influence the course of the election campaign in the Russian Federation next spring, they are deeply mistaken. The effect will be quite the opposite, while the Olympic movement will suffer serious damage."
Putin On China-Russia Relations: 'We Always Reach Consensus On Every Issue'
Feng Shaolai: "Mr. President… You have worked closely with foreign leaders, including Mr. Xi Jinping. What do you think about his most recent speech at the 19th Congress, which he delivered two days ago?
"Since you have been in contact with him for quite a long time, can you share your impressions of him as a person? And, of course, I have a question regarding the specific progress and specific challenges, as well as new conditions for the continued development of cooperation between Russia and China…"
Vladimir Putin: "As you may know, during our meetings we publicly call each other friends. This speaks to the level of the relationship that has evolved between us on a human level.
"However, in addition to that, we uphold the interests of our states. As diplomats say, they are often very close or identical. An amazing situation has evolved and, God willing, it will continue for as long as possible: we always reach consensus on every issue, even seemingly controversial ones; we always come to terms, look for compromise solutions and find them.
"Ultimately, these agreements benefit both states because we move forward, do not become fixated, do not stop, do not drive the situation into an impasse, but resolve contentious issues and move on, and new opportunities arise. This is a very positive practice.
"As for the ongoing party congress in China, we are also closely following it, and I note the unusual openness of this party congress. I believe there is an unprecedented number of journalists and members of the international community there. There is no doubt that everything that the President of China has said, his speech and the ongoing discussions show that China is focused on the future.
"We are seeing both difficulties and prospects. As noted earlier, China has wonderful economic prospects: 6.8-percent GDP growth, I believe, in the first three quarters of this year. This may be a little less than before, but it makes no difference. I believe that the ongoing changes on the labor market and in the economy as such are behind this growth. On the whole, China, on a par with India that is also demonstrating very good economic growth today, is certainly a global economic 'trader.'
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"We have the highest country-to-country trade with China and enormous joint plans, including some in very significant, serious spheres, like outer space, high technology and energy. All of this is laying the groundwork for developing our future interstate relations."
Putin: 'As For Unpredictability, [Trump] Is Not The Only One To Blame. It Also Has To Do With The Intense Opposition In The Country'
Andrey Sushentsov (Source: Valdaiclub.com)
Andrey Sushentsov: "Andrey Sushentsov, MGIMO University, Valdai Club.
"Mr. President, speaking here last October, you responded to questions regarding the prospects for presidential candidate Donald Trump and you used an interesting formula to the effect that you were ready to work with any US president and that you did not know what kind of president Mr. Trump would be if he won. The impression is that Trump is breaking all records in unpredictability. And it seems that cooperation with Hillary Clinton perhaps would have been more comprehensible. What is your take on this situation?"
Vladimir Putin: "As you know, our people say, 'You have to make the sign of the cross if you're seeing things' It only seems that way. We do not know how things could have turned out in reality either, do we?
"With regard to the incumbent president, as I said a year ago – and I can repeat this now – we will do our job. And I am saying now: we are working with the president that the American people have elected. As for unpredictability, he is not the only one to blame. It also has to do with the intense opposition in the country.
"After all, he is being prevented from carrying out any of his election platforms and plans. In health care, in other spheres. The moment he makes a decision on migrants, a court immediately blocks it. This is happening all the time. So to say that he is the only source of this unpredictability – no, this depends on the entire U.S. political system. Nevertheless, we will work with the partners that we have.
"The United States is a great power, the world's largest economic and military power. Granted, unfortunately, our bilateral trade is negligible, almost nothing: $20 billion. All the same, the impact of the U.S. is global, very significant. It is one of our most important partners, no doubt. We will continue working despite all difficulties. That is, of course, if they also want this. If they do not, we will not."
Putin: 'The Current Ukrainian Leadership Is Sabotaging Every Paragraph Of [The Minsk] Agreements'
Fyodor Lukyanov: [The Research Director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute Asle] Toje, do you think the world would be blooming with other colors if Hillary Clinton were in office?
Asle Toje: 'I have to concur with the Russian President on that. That is contrafactual, and I really do not have an opinion on that. But Mr President, I was told that you like tough questions. We have visited North Korea, we have been to the Middle East, what about Ukraine? From the European point of view, the ball is firmly in the court of Russia.
"It has turned into a semi-frozen conflict; the sanctions that were meant to be dynamic have become semi-permanent. What does Russia intend to do about this and where do you see this situation standing in three years' time? And, if I may add, since we are so lucky to have on the panel a state leader who has more experience than most, President Karzai, could you weigh in on this and tell us a little bit about, perhaps, what should be done and what should not be done in resolving the conflict in Ukraine."
Vladimir Putin: "We will give you a tip. Mr. Karzai knows how to do it: they have been fighting there for 30 years now, but the means are good there.
"With regard to Ukraine, you said that, according to Europeans, the ball is in Russia's court. Well, we think the ball is in Europe's court, because due to the completely unconstructive – I am choosing my words so as not to appear rude – position of the former members of the European Commission, the situation went as far as a coup. Do you know what they did?
"The issue was only about Ukraine signing an association agreement, an economic agreement with the European Union. Then President Yanukovych said, 'I have a problem with the text, I am going to reschedule its signing. Let us work on the text some more.' He did not even refuse to sign it. Then there were riots backed by the United States – both financially, politically and in the media – and all of Europe.
"They supported the unconstitutional seizure of power, a bloody one at that, with casualties, and took things as far as a war in southeastern Ukraine. Crimea declared its independence and its reunification with Russia, and now you think that we are to blame for that? Was it us who brought about the anti-constitutional coup? The current situation is the result of the unconstitutional armed seizure of power in Ukraine, and Europe is to blame, because it backed it.
"What could have been easier than to say back then: 'You staged a coup, and after all, we are the guarantors.' As guarantors, the foreign ministers of Poland, France and Germany signed a document, an agreement between President Yanukovych and the opposition. Three days later, it was trampled upon, and where were the guarantors? Ask them where these guarantors were? Why did they not say, 'Please, put things as they were. Get Yanukovych back in office and hold constitutional democratic elections.' They had every chance of winning, 100 percent, no doubt. No, they had to do it through an armed coup instead. Well, we were confronted with this fact, accepted it and signed the Minsk agreements.
"However, the current Ukrainian leadership is sabotaging every paragraph of these agreements, and everyone can see it perfectly well. Those who are involved in the negotiation process are fully aware of it, I assure you. Not a single step has been made towards implementing the Minsk agreements. Still everyone is saying, 'Sanctions will not be lifted until Russia complies with the Minsk agreements.'
"Everyone has long since realized that the current leadership of Ukraine is not in a position to comply with them. Now that the situation in that country has hit rock bottom both in terms of the economy and domestic policy, and the police are using gas against protesters, expecting the President of Ukraine to take at least a small step towards implementing the Minsk agreements is an exercise in futility. I am not sure how he can accomplish this. But there is no alternative to it, unfortunately. Therefore, we will keep the Normandy format in place as long as our colleagues like, and we will strive to implement these Minsk agreements that you mentioned.
"Quite recently, we effectively supported an initiative to send UN peacekeepers there. Not even peacekeepers, but armed UN units to protect the OSCE staff. We have always been told and asked to arm the OSCE personnel operating on the demarcation line. We immediately agreed to it. But then the OSCE refused to do so.
"I am sure you are aware of it, and many in the audience who deal with these matters professionally should also be aware of this. The OSCE said, 'No, we cannot do that, we have no such expertise, no weapons, we have never used weapons in our operations. Also, we are actually afraid that the weapons could turn us into a target for one side in the conflict or the other.' Well, a no is a no.
"President Poroshenko came up with an idea to create proper conditions for protecting the OSCE staff with the help of UN armed units. We agreed and almost initiated this process, to avoid being accused of sabotaging things. No, they thought it was not enough. Now they want to interpret it liberally.
"You see, what we are afraid of – I will tell you, if we can say that we are afraid of anything at all. If they fail to adopt the amnesty law prior to resolving political issues and providing these territories with a special status in accordance with the law adopted by the Rada and extended for another year recently, then closing the border between Russia and the breakaway republics will lead to a situation similar to Srebrenica. There will be a bloodbath. We cannot let this happen.
"Therefore, blaming everything on Russia and saying that the ball is in our court, and we should do something about it, just does not cut it. Let us work on it together. Go and use your influence with the current government in Kiev, so that they take at least some steps towards normalizing the situation. We will work hand in hand and do our best to normalize the situation. We need a democratic and friendly Ukraine.
"Look, when some empires disintegrated or some territories changed hands in the wake of a war, this is one situation. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia voluntarily gave all these territories away. We voluntarily agreed that all former Soviet republics would become independent states. We never even thought about taking anything from anyone or dividing things, do not forget this – we did it of our own accord. And we do not want to now, either. We want to have a neighboring country that is friendly to us.
"Were you really thinking that you and Ukraine would sign an association agreement, open up all Ukrainian markets and borders, and Ukraine, as a member of the free trade zone, would become a gateway to our market? We said right away, 'Guys, you cannot do this, stop.' No one even wanted to listen to us. They told us, 'We do not interfere with your dealings with China. You do not interfere with our dealings with Canada, so stay away from our dealings with Ukraine.' That is what they told us, verbatim. What kind of a conversation is that? No one even wanted to hear that we have some special relations with Ukraine, and some branches of the economy are tied up with that country.
"So, let us return to a constructive and substantive dialogue, as diplomats say. We are ready, and we will be pleased to do so, the sooner the better, since we do not need any conflicts on our borders."
Putin: 'We Like Ukraine And I Really Regard The Ukrainian People As A Brotherly Nation If Not Just One Nation, Part Of The Russian Nation'
Asle Toje: "President Putin, where do you see this conflict standing three years from now?"
Vladimir Putin: "I strongly hope that we will make progress. I say this with absolute sincerity. It is not enough only to appeal to Russia; it is also necessary to influence Kiev's position. Now they have made a decision on the language, essentially prohibiting the use of ethnic minority languages in school. Hungary and Romania raised objections. Poland also made some comments in this regard. However, the European Union as a whole is silent. Why are they not condemning this? There is silence.
"Now they have erected a monument to Petlyura. He was a man with Nazi views, an anti-Semite who killed Jews during the war. Except for the Zionist Jewish Congress, everyone else is silent. Are you afraid of hurting your clients in Kiev, is that it? This is not being done by the Ukrainian people; this is being done at the prompting of the relevant ruling authorities. But why are you keeping silent? Until it is understood that this problem cannot be resolved without influencing the other side, nothing will happen.
"I hope that this realization will eventually come. I can see our partners' interest, primarily our European partners' interest in resolving this conflict. I can see real interest. Angela Merkel is doing a great deal, putting the time in, becoming deeply involved in these matters. Both the former president of France and President Macron are also paying attention. They are really working on this. However, it is necessary to work not just technically and technologically but politically. It is essential to exert some influence on the Kiev authorities, get them to do at least something. Ultimately, Ukraine itself has a stake in normalizing our relations.
"Now they went and imposed sanctions on us, as the EU did. We responded in kind. The president asks me, 'Why did you do this?' I say, 'Listen, you introduced sanctions against us.' This is just amazing! 'Well, these sanctions are nothing to you, but you are really hurting us.' Now, did you not think that there would be a response when you were doing this? I am at a loss for words!
"However, the realization that this situation is untenable and should be resolved – I believe that it is becoming obvious and most importantly, it is becoming obvious to the overwhelming majority of Ukrainian citizens. We like Ukraine and I really regard the Ukrainian people as a brotherly nation if not just one nation, part of the Russian nation.
"Even though Russian nationalists do not like this and Ukrainian nationalists do not like this either, this is my position, my point of view. Sooner or later, it will happen – reunification, not on an interstate level but in terms of restoring our relations. The sooner, the better, we will do our utmost towards this end."
Putin On NATO Drills: 'We Are Not Worried About This. Let Them Do Their Exercises. Everything Is Under Control'
Vyacheslav Nikonov (Source: Russkiymir.ru)
Vyacheslav Nikonov [Russian politician and grandson of Stalin's foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov]: "Good evening, Mr. President.
"You have said with good reason that now the situation is simpler than in the years of the Cold War. I agree, but not everything is simpler. During the Cold War, there were certainly no West-organized coups in Ukraine and no US and NATO military presence in Eastern European countries – Poland and the Baltic states.
"In the past few months, this military presence has been obviously mounting in blatant violation of the Russia-NATO Founding Act. To what extent do you think this poses a strategic threat to the Russian Federation, and what may be the response?"
Vladimir Putin: "We are analyzing and closely following this. We know and understand every step. You know, you have just given me a good opportunity to say that we will do this and that, we will respond in this way. We are not worried about this. Let them do their exercises. Everything is under control. (Laughter.)"
Putin: 'I Believe It Is Necessary To Restore Ties [With Ukraine]. Actually, Russia Needs This, Too'
Russian State Duma Deputy Konstantin Zatulin (Source: Russkiymir.ru)
Konstantin Zatulin [Russian State Duma Deputy]: "Mr. President, we all know that in the past few years domestic conflicts in the European Union have been very acute because of the migrant influx. After the start of events in eastern Ukraine, Russia without a fuss accepted over a million refugees – 1.2 million to be exact – who fled from the war and persecution.
"The majority of these people do not want to return. It is difficult to judge them for this. They want to call Russia home. Will you support additional amendments so that we in Russia could absorb and help them adapt faster?"
Vladimir Putin: "Yes, the Government and relevant authorities have received such instructions. This should be done carefully, considering our possibilities, the social consequences, and the readiness or lack thereof of the social infrastructure. But I think this is fair. We must support these people, and those who want to remain in Russia should have the opportunity to do so.
"We are working on this now. However, a million, even a bit more in different estimates, is already here. Poland announced recently that it already has a million Ukrainians. And there are quite a few in other countries. This is, of course, unfortunate for Ukraine. De-industrialisation is going on, large industrial enterprises are shut down, the Russian market is lost, and nobody wants the goods.
"The metallurgical industry is still operating there, but machine building, aviation and space are, of course, in a deplorable condition. These are high-tech, promising areas. But I hope this will also pass sometime. I am hoping this will happen, among other things, as a result of cooperation between Russia and Ukraine. I believe it is necessary to restore ties. Actually, Russia needs this, too."
Putin: Russia's Biggest Mistake Was That It Trusted The West Too Much
Sabine Fischer: "Sabine Fischer, Science and Politics Foundation, Berlin.
"Mr. President, you were very critical about the West's policy regarding its relations with Russia. Indeed, many aspects that you have touched upon call for an in-depth critical discussion. At the same time, we know that in any relationship – whether between countries or between people – both sides make mistakes. So I have a question. What political mistakes, in your opinion, has Russia made in its relations with the West over the past 15 years and what needs to be done, what conclusions need to be drawn for the future of these relations?"
Vladimir Putin: "Our most serious mistake in relations with the West is that we trusted you too much. And your mistake is that you took that trust as weakness and abused it. It is therefore necessary to put this behind us, turn the page and move on, building our relations on the basis of mutual respect and treating each other as equal partners of equal value."
Putin: 'Mr. Trump Was Elected By The American People. And For This Reason Alone He Should Be Treated With Respect'
Huang Jing [a Lee Foundation Professor on US-China Relations and Director of Centre on Asia and Globalization (CAG) at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore]: "…This is my seventh time attending Valdai. Each time I learn a great deal, especially from your Western vision. I just cannot help asking you this question. We know that this world is undergoing unprecedentedly fast and irrevocable transition, and as such major powers matter and leadership matters. But unfortunately or fortunately, fortunately, first, is that all the major powers – Russia, the United States, China, India, Japan, Germany or Great Britain – almost every major power has a competent and a capable leader like yourself, except the number one power, the United States.
"We happen to have a president, unfortunately, that needs to be managed, although it remains to be seen if he is manageable or not. And you have been very successful in the senior, in terms of presidency. As a senior president, if you were asked to give advice to Mr. Donald Trump on how to be a good president, how make a positive contribution to this transition world, what would you say to him? Thank you."
Vladimir Putin: "I am sorry, but I consider the question inappropriate. Mr. Trump was elected by the American people. And for this reason alone he should be treated with respect even if you disagree with a position of his.
"He is being disrespected in the country. This is a deplorable, negative aspect of the American political system. You can argue but you cannot show disrespect. Not just for him personally but for the people who have voted for him. This is the first thing.
"Secondly, as I already said, I believe the President of the United States needs no advice because to be elected, even without extensive government experience, you have to have talent and go through this crucible. He did just that. And he won. He won fairly…"
Fyodor Lukyanov: "So, Gerhard Schroeder was right, after all, when he said that Putin is a pure democrat. I am unable to resist."
Vladimir Putin: "Yes, what he said is quite right."
Putin: 'A Vicious Anti-Russia Hysteria' Was Whipped Up In The U.S.
Toby Gati [former U.S. National Security Council and State Department official]: "Thank you, thank you, President Putin. We have heard from you on many occasions, and it is a wonderful opportunity, and I think you are the only world leader who has ever done this. And maybe perhaps it is an appropriate thing also that the last word is given to an American, actually, the only American who has spoken. Let me ask you a few things.
"You have complained and pushed back on U.S. presidents and on U.S. exception, its feeling that it is an exceptional nation, at many times, and at this session, you criticized every single U.S. president since the fall of the Soviet Union, without talking about any of the positives. And as someone who worked in one of the administrations, the Clinton Administration, I do not remember it that way. And I remember many things that were done, from WTO membership to increased contacts for students, doctors, experts, health, space, and I am kind of surprised that your assessment is more negative than it was last year and the year before.
"Now, I think many welcome this, and not only in Russia, but in the United States. I watch American TV, but I also watch Russian TV. But frankly, it does not leave much room for people who do not welcome this state of affairs, and it gives an opportunity for people to blame any problem on foreigners and, it is usually here on Americans.
"What we try to do at Valdai, and you know this, is talk about why people think what they think, and how do we overcome it. So does it bother you at all that you are reinforcing every negative stereotype about the US and making it harder, in my personal opinion, to overcome some of these. And perhaps it would be helpful to talk about some of the positive things. About President Trump: I did not vote for him, but I did not work for Hillary Clinton either.
"In America, we respect those who respect our institutions, not just individuals, and I think that is really important. And I do not know if my colleagues from America would agree, but we think the institution matters more than the person. So, let me conclude on a positive note, though. If you had to pick one or two areas where you would try your hardest to break through this negative mood, what would the areas be, and what would you try to say to the American people to make that possible?"
Vladimir Putin: "First of all, this is related to a critical attitude towards each other. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that, as you surely know, an unprecedented anti-Russia campaign has been launched in the United States – starting with the late stages of the Obama Administration, and it is not over yet.
"I do not understand why you are surprised by my critical attitude towards the activity of the previous US administration, as well as the present administration. The United States has unleashed an unprovoked anti-Russia campaign. Somebody lost the election to Mr. Trump, Russia was blamed for everything and a vicious anti-Russia hysteria – there is no other way I can describe this – was whipped up. Any issue, any failure is being attributed to Russia. Is that not so? Yes, this is exactly the case – on any issue. Look for the Russian trail, and, by the way, they immediately find one. This is my first point.
"The second is, we have met here today not to award medals and orders to each other; we are having a discussion and we are doing this sincerely and honestly. I also presented my position on many aspects of our relations that I consider negative. I did not create stereotypes; I spoke about facts.
"For example, the fact that chemical weapons have not been eliminated. Is this a stereotype or a fact? It is a fact. Instead of destroying chemical weapons, they have put this off until 2023. I spoke about destroying plutonium. Is this a stereotype or a fact? It is a fact. Instead of meeting their bilateral obligations, they changed them unilaterally and are not complying with them within the framework of the treaty; this is what I spoke about.
"However, this does not mean that our relations in the past did not… Yes, by the way, when I said that we gave our partners access to all nuclear facilities – what is this, some kind of an anti-American stereotype? Of course not – I spoke about our openness, but said that this openness was not duly appreciated.
"Because it is perfectly obvious – and I have to repeat this: as a former FSB director, I know for sure that there was massive support for separatism and radicalism in our North Caucasus. Do not tell me anything about that – I know it. Was there no bombing of Belgrade? Without UN Security Council approval? What is this, an anti-American stereotype? It is a fact. Did the armed forces not move into Iraq without approval from the UN Security Council? Is this a stereotype? It is a fact. The United States itself is creating such stereotypes.
"However, this does not mean that there was nothing good in our relations. There were good things, too, I agree with you – support in joining the WTO, that is true, and there were other positive developments. Even on an interpersonal level, we had very good discussions and contacts. For example, I will never forget Bill Clinton's support when I was taking my first steps as Prime Minister.
"Boris Yeltsin sent me to New Zealand to stand in for him and that was where I first met Mr. Clinton. We established a very good, positive, kind human relationship. In other words, we do have something positive to talk about, but I am talking only about what is standing in our way. Have we gathered here only to praise each other or what? The current situation leaves much to be desired, doesn't it? You have hysteria out there; we have discontent; you are tearing down our flags, closing our diplomatic missions. What is so good about it?
"All of this is the result of the problems that have accumulated. I explained where they came from. After all, we have met here not to praise and pamper each other but to identify problems, show where they come from and think about how to resolve them. Can they be resolved or not? I believe that they can. Let us work together to this end. We need your advice and recommendations. This is why we meet here at the Valdai Club.
"Thank you for your question."
Lukyanov To Putin On The 2018 Presidential Elections: 'The World Needs You!'; Putin: I Do Not Think You Will Miss Me Much
Fyodor Lukyanov (Source: Vestnikkavkaza.net)
Fyodor Lukyanov: "Mr. President, as you have noticed, this year at the Valdai Club we are not asking you the question that in the past was often asked at the Valdai Club. You know what I mean, don't you?"
Vladimir Putin: "No, I do not."
Fyodor Lukyanov: "It is about the election. Are you going to …?"
Vladimir Putin: "It is time for us to wrap up…"
Fyodor Lukyanov: "This is why we are not asking this question. However, I would like to say this in a roundabout way.
"Firstly, the Valdai Club finds it hard to imagine how we will be meeting if you take a different decision. We have become accustomed to this. You are like a talisman for us. This is hard."
Vladimir Putin: "Does this mean that you will not invite me? Or that you will immediately strike me off the food supply list like a demobilized soldier?"
Fyodor Lukyanov: "Fine. Agreed.
"Secondly, who would miss you far more than we would – fortunately or unfortunately, there is nothing we can do about that – would be the world public, especially the Western public. Because at present you are performing a very important function.
"When all is said and done, you are a pole – a pole of evil probably that consolidates and mobilizes. I simply cannot imagine how they would cope without you. So it seems to me that you should think very hard before making a decision. The world needs you!"
Vladimir Putin: "I looked at [Russian businessman] Petr Aven and remembered our oligarchs. In closing, I will tell you a wonderful story.
"An oligarch has gone bankrupt (not Aven; he is doing fine; we will talk about the development of Alfa Group yet, but such things happen) and is talking to his wife. This is an old joke – so old it has grown a beard – probably longer than your beard. So he tells her, 'You know, we will have to sell the Mercedes and buy a Lada.' 'Fine.' 'We will have to move from the Rublyovka house to our flat in Moscow.' 'Okay.' 'But will you still love me?' And she goes: 'I will love you very much – and I will miss you greatly.' So I do not think they will miss me for very long."
 Kremlin.ru, October 19, 2017.
See also MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7143, Putin's Speech At The Meeting Of The Valdai International Discussion Club: '[The West's] Policy Based On Self-Assurance, Egotism And Claims To Exceptionalism Will Not Bring Any Respect Or True Greatness' Part I, October 23, 2017.
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7145, Putin At The Valdai International Discussion Club Conclave Part II: If The U.S. Withdraws From The INF Treaty, 'Our Response Would Be Immediate, I Would Like To Repeat This Warning', October 24, 2017.
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7083, Russia Reacts To U.S. Authorities' Seizure Of Russian Diplomatic Facilities – Putin: 'It Is Difficult To Talk To People [Americans] Who Confuse Austria And Australia', September 8, 2017.
 The question seems to refer to Russian TV anchor Ksenia Sobchak's announcement that she will run for president.