Vladimir Putin’s annual news conference – December 23, 2016
Yevgeny Primakov: Yevgeny Primakov, Mezhdunarodnoye Obozrenie [Global Review], Rossiya 24, VGTRK.
Mr President, the world is going through a period of fundamental change. We saw the expression of popular will, when people vote against old political concepts and old elites. Britain voted to leave the European Union, although it remains to be seen how the Brexit issue will pan out. Many say that Trump won because people voted, among other things, against the old establishment, the people they have become sick and tired of.
Have you discussed these changes with colleagues? What will a new global landscape look like? Do you remember what you said at the General Assembly when the UN celebrated its 70th anniversary? You said, ‘Do you understand what you have done?’ Where are things headed? We are still locked in a confrontation. You have mentioned the exchange about who has the strongest army. At his farewell news conference, Barack Obama, who is still your colleague, said that 37 percent of Republicans sympathise with you and hearing this Ronald Reagan would have rolled over in his grave.
Vladimir Putin: Hearing what?
Yevgeny Primakov: That 37 percent of Republican voters sympathise with you.
Vladimir Putin: Really?
Yevgeny Primakov: Yes. And if Ronald Reagan had heard it, he would have turned in his grave.
By the way, we as voters very much appreciate your power and that you can reach as far as Ronald Reagan. Our western colleagues often tell us that you have the power to manipulate the world, designate presidents, and interfere in elections here and there. How does it feel to be the most powerful person on Earth? Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: I have commented on this issue on a number of occasions. If you want to hear it one more time, I can say it again. The current US Administration and leaders of the Democratic Party are trying to blame all their failures on outside factors. I have questions and some thoughts in this regard.
We know that not only did the Democratic Party lose the presidential election, but also the Senate, where the Republicans have the majority, and Congress, where the Republicans are also in control. Did we, or I also do that? We may have celebrated this on the “vestiges of a 17th century chapel,” but were we the ones who destroyed the chapel, as the saying goes? This is not the way things really are. All this goes to show that the current administration faces system-wide issues, as I have said at a Valdai Club meeting.
It seems to me there is a gap between the elite’s vision of what is good and bad and that of what in earlier times we would have called the broad popular masses. I do not take support for the Russian President among a large part of Republican voters as support for me personally, but rather see it in this case as an indication that a substantial part of the American people share similar views with us on the world’s organisation, what we ought to be doing, and the common threats and challenges we are facing. It is good that there are people who sympathise with our views on traditional values because this forms a good foundation on which to build relations between two such powerful countries as Russia and the United States, build them on the basis of our peoples’ mutual sympathy.
They would be better off not taking the names of their earlier statesmen in vain, of course. I’m not so sure who might be turning in their grave right now. It seems to me that Reagan would be happy to see his party’s people winning everywhere, and would welcome the victory of the newly elected President so adept at catching the public mood, and who took precisely this direction and pressed onwards to the very end, even when no one except us believed he could win. (Applause).
The outstanding Democrats in American history would probably be turning in their graves though. Roosevelt certainly would be because he was an exceptional statesman in American and world history, who knew how to unite the nation even during the Great Depression’s bleakest years, in the late 1930s, and during World War II. Today’s administration, however, is very clearly dividing the nation. The call for the electors not to vote for either candidate, in this case, not to vote for the President-elect, was quite simply a step towards dividing the nation. Two electors did decide not to vote for Trump, and four for Clinton, and here too they lost. They are losing on all fronts and looking for scapegoats on whom to lay the blame. I think that this is an affront to their own dignity. It is important to know how to lose gracefully.
But my real hope is for us to build business-like and constructive relations with the new President and with the future Democratic Party leaders as well, because this is in the interests of both countries and peoples.