Putin In Exclusive ABC TV Interview Focuses On Counter-Terrorism
January 20, 2014 • 5:10AM

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave an extensive interview to a group of Russian and foreign journalists, including ABC TV's George Stephanopoulos. Fragments of the interview were aired this morning on ABC. The interview was marred by the sheer stupidity of the majority of questions, which focused on the Russian government's policy on homosexuality and pedophilia, allegations of corruption surrounding the Sochi Olympics construction, and Putin's sports preferences. Nevertheless, in response to the few serious questions, Putin made clear that a top priority for Russia is to maintain security around the Sochi Winter Olympics in the face of recent suicide bombings in Volgograd and continuing threats from jihadist groups financed from Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states. Putin told the group of reporters that there will be 40,000 police deployed around the Olympic sites and that there is extensive backup from the armed forces, including drones, air defense systems, and other elements of a ``ring of steel.''

When asked about allegations by a Swiss member of the International Olympics Commission of corruption, Putin went into a detailed and itemized account of the extensive infrastructure effort that has gone into developing the Black Sea region, through rail and other transportation infrastructure, new roads, power plants, gas pipelines, and housing. He broke down the total costs of the Olympic sites per se to $6.5 billion out of more than $50 billion spent overall on regional infrastructure investment that will have a permanent impact well past the Olympics.

In response to a question from a Chinese journalist, Putin went out of his way to emphasize the close relations between the two countries and the growing prospects of joint Russian-Chinese investment in building Russia's infrastructure.

ABC only broadcast short fragments from the extensive interview with Putin. The segment dealing with security was preceded by a news report by Brian Ross, reporting that the terrorist group behind the two recent suicide bombings in Volgograd issued a video on Saturday, with new threats of attacks across Russia during the time of the Winter Olympics. Ross reported that U.S. intelligence shares Russian concerns about the terror threats and noted that Russian police carried out a weekend raid on terrorist safehouses, killing at least seven people. Ross reported that the U.S. has developed a top-secret evacuation plan for American athletes and tourists. Former National Security Council counter-terrorism head Richard Clarke told ABC that he expected that any terrorist attacks would be directed at ``soft'' targets away from the Sochi site.