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While the world has been distracted by the COVID-19 saga, the ongoing geopolitical maneuvering between Russia and the United States continues but in a much less obvious mode. A recent television appearance with Vladimir Putin sheds additional light on the relationship between the United States and Russia.
The televisions series 20 Questions with Vladimir Putin which is subtitled in English on the Tass website as well as on the Tass channel on YouTube gives us further insight into President Putin. This interview given in March 2020, looks at Russia’s place in the world and its relations with the United States:
Here is what he had to say about his strained relationship with Barak Obama and American exceptionalism:
“In any case, I had good relations with Bush…. it has nothing to do with “being at odds” (with Obama). It’s just that when a person says that…when he said that the US is an exceptional nation with special, exclusive rights in the world, I cannot agree. God created us all equal and gave us equal rights. So, I think it is absolutely ungrounded to say that some people should have exclusive rights to anything.“
When asked how he rated Russia’s current relationship with the United States on a scale of one to five, here is his response:
“I could give it a three. Between a two and a three. More like a three though. Look, we do cooperate on counter-terrorism. It was actually I who called Trump to thank the U.S. for giving us the information (that led to the arrests of two Russia terrorists who were detained on December 27, 2019, charged with attempted terrorist attacks in St. Petersburg)….That specific case was detected by the U.S. I would like to thank them a lot for sharing that information with us….But, in the last two years under Trump, trade turnover started to grow. In the area of security, a while ago we concluded an agreement with Obama, the New START Treaty was also signed when he was in office. However, it has not been extended….yet. So, this raises a question. The U.S. keeps imposing sanctions on Russia. Another question. Take Nord Stream 2, they imposed sanctions on it as well. The U.S. has always been against the development of our economic relations with Europe, even in the 1960s when we started the construction of, if you remember, the gas-for-pipes deal. Thank God now we produced large-diameter pipes ourselves…“
When asked why the United States opposed Nord Stream 2, here is Putin’s response:
“Now they oppose Nord Stream 2…Why did they do it, what for? They wanted to ensure transit through Ukraine. It’s rather strange, isn’t it? So, they are working Ukraine and have established external control over it but they want Ukraine to be sustained by our money as well. They don’t want to give Ukraine money themselves. They want Ukraine to receive something from us through transit fees. Okay, we agree, because we too will be interested in the growth in gas consumption in Europe in general and Ukraine in particular… However, the main motivation, the excuse for imposing sanctions against Nord Stream 2 was the need to ensure transit through Ukraine. But, we have signed a transit agreement with Ukraine (on December 30, 2019). What is needed now? They need to lift sanctions against Nord Stream. There are no grounds for imposing them. And, if the sanctions remain, it will mean that there is only one motive; to ensure competitive advantages for their LNG, for their liquified gas. The strongest player sets the rules. They are securing a market for their products exclusively in their own selfish interests and at the expense of European consumers.“
Putin then goes on to discuss his speech of February 10, 2007 at the Munich Security Conference at which he brought up the subject of the end of the unipolar, American-led world:
“I said that it is inadmissible that one country, the United States, extends its jurisdiction beyond its national borders. Today, say, the German leadership says exactly that, that it is inadmissible that the United States imposes secondary sanctions i.e. on companies that have no relation to the United States, trying to preventing them from pursuing their national interests.“
For context, here is an excerpt from Putin’s February 2007 speech:
“However, what is a unipolar world? However one might embellish this term, at the end of the day it refers to one type of situation, namely one centre of authority, one centre of force, one centre of decision-making.
It is world in which there is one master, one sovereign. And at the end of the day this is pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within.
And this certainly has nothing in common with democracy. Because, as you know, democracy is the power of the majority in light of the interests and opinions of the minority.
Incidentally, Russia – we – are constantly being taught about democracy. But for some reason those who teach us do not want to learn themselves.
I consider that the unipolar model is not only unacceptable but also impossible in today’s world. And this is not only because if there was individual leadership in today’s – and precisely in today’s – world, then the military, political and economic resources would not suffice. What is even more important is that the model itself is flawed because at its basis there is and can be no moral foundations for modern civilisation.
Along with this, what is happening in today’s world – and we just started to discuss this – is a tentative to introduce precisely this concept into international affairs, the concept of a unipolar world.
And with which results?
Unilateral and frequently illegitimate actions have not resolved any problems. Moreover, they have caused new human tragedies and created new centres of tension. Judge for yourselves: wars as well as local and regional conflicts have not diminished. Mr Teltschik mentioned this very gently. And no less people perish in these conflicts – even more are dying than before. Significantly more, significantly more!
Today we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force – military force – in international relations, force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts. As a result we do not have sufficient strength to find a comprehensive solution to any one of these conflicts. Finding a political settlement also becomes impossible.“
It is always interesting to listen to the “other side” of the Russia-America geopolitical divide since the Russian version of the story rarely makes it to the Western mainstream media.