Putin On Eve of D-Day Pays Tribute to French Resistance and General Charles de Gualle
June 5, 2014 • 11:25AM

Yesterday evening, Russian President Vladimir Putin granted an interview to Europe-1 and TF-1 while in France for the June 6 D-Day commemoration ceremonies (reportedly, French President François Hollande is holding two separate dinners Thursday night, one for Obama and a later one for Putin "to keep them apart"). During the interview, Putin made the following points, according to a review of French coverage from Le Figaro and Le Monde.

Putin began the interview by paying tribute to the alliance of countries who freed Europe from the Nazi enslavement, including the fighters of the French Resistance, and cited this anti-Hitler alliance as the model for relations in the future:

"This will be an important event for Europe and the rest of the world. We will pay tribute to those who prevented Nazism from enslaving Europe, and I believe that Russia’s attendance is a momentous event. The thing is that Russia and the anti-Hitler coalition countries, including France, were allies in that struggle for freedom, and my country played a vital and maybe even the decisive role in defeating Nazism. But we’ll never forget the French Resistance fighters and the French soldiers who fought side by side with us on the Soviet-German front, which is also called the Eastern front. I believe that this should not only remind us about our history, but also help to promote our relations now and in the future."

Putin stressed that it was not Russia which triggered the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, but rather "our European friends and our friends from the United States [who] supported the anti-constitutional armed coup," and rejected the claim that there are Russian militants in Eastern Ukraine, demanding evidence to back up that accusation, citing the lies that were told about WMDs in Iraq:

"The entire world remembers the US Secretary of State demonstrating the evidence of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, waving around some test tube with washing powder in the UN Security Council. Eventually, the US troops invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein was hanged and later it turned out there had never been any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. You know, it’s one thing to say things and another to actually have evidence."

Putin emphasized that Russia had no other choice of action in the case of Crimea, and that following the West's support for an "anti-constitutional state coup in Ukraine," Russia could not be sure that Ukraine would not join a North Atlantic military bloc, stressing that if Ukraine were to join NATO, then "NATO’s infrastructure will move directly towards the Russian border, which cannot leave us indifferent." In response to those who accuse Russia of pursuing an aggressive military policy, Putin responded that, in fact, it is "the United States [which] is pursuing the most aggressive and toughest policy to defend their own interests..."

"There are basically no Russian troops abroad while US troops are everywhere. There are US military bases everywhere around the world and they are always involved in the fates of other countries even though they are thousands of kilometers away from US borders. So it is ironic that our US partners accuse us of breaching some of these rules."

Putin pointed out that Russia's defense budget is minimal compared to the defense budget of the United States, which "is larger than the combined military budgets of every country in the world – every country – combined. So who’s pursuing an aggressive policy?"

Putin stated Russia is not trying to establish an empire or even to sustain some kind of Russian nationalism, but rather defend its national interests, which include developing the territory of Russia within its own border and also pursuing "economic integration" with neighboring countries by means of the newly established Eurasian Union. Asked whether he thinks the world is on the verge of another Cold War, Putin responded: "I hope we are not on the verge of any war," and said that, while it appears Obama has chosen not to meet with him while in Europe, Putin would be ready for such a meeting.

Putin called for Kiev to be in a dialogue with the East, and said he might meet with the Ukrainian President in France in the context of the D-Day ceremonies. He noted that Ukrainian president-elect Poroshenko has the opportunity to immediately halt the Ukrainian Army's attacks against the Ukrainian people, and to start a constructive dialogue with Russia over the future of the region. Asked whether Russia respects Ukraine's sovereignty, he stated: "Yes, we recognise its sovereignty. Moreover, we’d like Ukraine to act as a sovereign state. Joining any military bloc or any other rigid integration alliance amounts to a partial loss of sovereignty."

Putin referenced the vision of a Europe of sovereign nations as presented by France's late great President Charles deGaulle, whom he praised for protecting France's sovereignty as opposed to those who would cede their sovereignty to a supranational body:

"I think of the Gaullist tradition and General Charles de Gaulle, who protected France’s sovereignty. I think this deserves respect."

He said "we fear the breaking up of Syria," and referenced the well-known al-Qaeda connections of the rebels, and stressed that Russia fears Syria will become "a second Afghanistan" which would become "a completely uncontrollable spawning ground for the terrorist threat, including for European countries." He noted that Russia wants to work with the United States and Europe to bring stability back to Syria, by working with a legitimate government, a clear reference to the elections this week that were a strong mandate for President Assad.

Throughout the interview, Putin presented a calm, confident demeanor and was never ruffled by the nasty tone and pathetic questions that were thrown at him. Asked about Hillary Clinton and her recent statements equating Putin with Hitler, Putin dismissed such nasty comments, noting that if Clinton were to be elected president, he was confident they could find a way of working together.