Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin today gave his annual year-end webcast in a new format, not only inviting questions from citizens throughout Russia — over 1.5 million were submitted — but also conducting a discussion with prominent Russians and foreign guests who were present in the studio for the four-and-a-half hour event. Among those taking part were former Foreign Ministers Yevgeni Primakov and Igor Ivanov, opposition journalists Alexander Prokhanov of Zavtra (nationalist) and Alexei Venediktov of Echo of Moscow radio (liberal), as well as foreign analysts including Nikolai Zlobin of the World Security Institute (USA) and Alexander Rahr of the German Council on Foreign Relations.
In extensive replies to questions about the recent Russian State Duma elections, Putin exuded confidence that United Russia's 50% results express the Russian population's continued support. He said that if young people today were coming out to demonstrate, and could clearly express their views, then that must be the result of "Putin's regime," and "that's good" — something to be proud of. He proposed that round-the-clock video monitoring be instituted at all polling places to lessen the possibility of vote frand, expressly to counter "those who seek to delegitimize our elections," and he said that he personally would not want to stay in power for a single day without the support of the Russian people. Asked about a much-publicized ballot which a voter had annotated with an obscene insult against Putin, he pointed out that this scribble was made in London by a Russian citizen voting at the Russian Embassy there, adding, "We know who came to vote there, and why they don't return to Russia."
Obviously there were many more questions during this lengthy webcast, questions of importance for Russian internal and foreign policy, than can be reported in this space. Several of Putin's replies on foreign affairs, especially the murder of Muammar Qaddafi and Sen. John McCain's attacks on Putin himself, have been singled out for almost exclusive coverage in the international media. Therefore, we provide below not only those passages, but the broader statements on the global strategic situation, made by Putin today, including his desire for "alliance" with the United States under a different American policy outlook than there is now.
QADDAFI MURDER AND MCCAIN REMARKS.
Putin was asked about Sen. McCain's Twitter post, forecasting for Putin the fate of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi: "Is this an empty threat, or the West's real plan?" Putin replied: "What can I say? In general terms, this was not directed at me. It was directed at Russia. Some people want to push Russia off to the side, so that Russia will not interfere with their ruling the world. They are still afraid of our nuclear capability, and that's why Russia remains in their field of vision and attention, and is such an irritant. Furthermore, we have our own opinions. We conduct an independent foreign policy, and I hope we shall continue to do so. Of course that bothers some people, first of all. "Secondly, the West is not homogenous, and we have more friends than we do enemies. "Thirdly, Mr. McCain, as is well known, fought in Vietnam, I think he has a fair amount of civilian blood on his hands. He really likes it; probably he can't live without these horrible scenes, these disgusting scenes of how Qaddafi was dealth with, when it was shown on TV screens around the world, how he was beaten and bloodied. Is that democracy? And, who did that? Drones, including American ones, struck his column. And then by radio through special forces who shouldn't have been there, on the ground, the so-called oppositionists and guerrillas were activated, and they wiped him out without trial or investigation. Who's saying that he should have stayed? But the people should have been allowed to decide that through democratic procedures. Yes, it's difficult, yes, it takes time, but there's no other way. "Mr. McCain, as is well known, was taken prisoner in Vietnam, and held not just in prison, but in a hole, and he was there for several years. Anybody would go nuts. So there's nothing out of the ordinary there."
RUSSIA WANTS U.S. AS ALLY.
Asked by Zlobin if he feels that Russia is surrounded by enemies, Putin said: "I don't agree. Russia has many allies." He recalled his experience in lobbying for Russia to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, when representatives of other countries told him they were supporting Russia's bid "because Russia acts independent on the world scene." Such countries, Putin said, "are our potential allies, and they are not only in the post-Soviet area, because people are tired of the dictates of one country." He continued, "We would like to be allies with the United States, too. It's just that what I see now, and what I talked about in Munich [in 2007], is not the attitude of an ally. Sometimes it seems to me that America doesn't want allies, only vassals. But we want and will continue to build relations with the States, because I see that inside the United States itself, certain transformations are under way. American society, to a significant degree, doesn't want to play the role of international policeman any more."
MISSILES IN EUROPE.
Alexander Rahr followed up with questions about anti-missile defense in Europe and Russia-Europe relations generally, asking what mistakes had been made during the past 20 years. Putin again emphasized his view that there is a drive to disarm Russia: "The leading country of the Western world, the USA, views our nuclear missile capability with suspicion. I think anybody is making a huge mistake, if they think that first they have to strip us of that nuclear capability, and then consider us as a potential ally. You know, when the Soviet Union collapsed I thought that now there were really no restrictions on our really moving forward together. But these suspicions of the past continue to hinder our relations. Nonetheless, I believe it is inevitable. Integration in the European area is a demand of our lives, and I would say even more, that integration in the framework of common Christian values is an urgent need. And if we think about the fact that a single principle underlies the moral values of the traditional world religions, then this is the basis for overcoming the difficulties of an intercivilizational nature, as well."
Much more could be reported about how Putin then developed this idea, including remarks about Russia's pulling back from its "image as an empire," as well as on his comments about the global financial bubble, and discussions with Primakov and Ivanov, including on Far East development.