Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
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following news reports are summaries from original sources. They may also
include corrections of Arabic names and political terminology.
Comments are in parentheses.
Putin blames US for deterioration of relations with
Putin: U.S. spoiled our relationship and
should fix it
September 13, 2008, 16:55
Russia is not looking to annex South Ossetia and
Abkhazia and expand its territory. That's according to Prime Minister
Vladimir Putin, who gave the assurance in an interview with France's 'Le
Putin: Russia has always
delivered on its obligations, and it is also going to do that in the
future. First of all, I would like to say that the current situation
that has developed is not through Russia’s fault, but through the fault
of the current Georgian leadership that embarked on that bloody venture
in the attack against South Ossetia.
Once again, I say that the actions taken by the Russian army were
forced. That was in response to an armed provocation from the part of
the Georgian leadership, and the murder of our peacekeepers and local
residents in South Ossetia. We only went beyond the peacekeepers’
control zone because we were forced to suppress control points that were
used to organize hostilities against South Ossetia, and our peacekeepers
outside the peacekeeping area.
We had to destroy control points and radar stations that were used to
counteract our air forces, and had to suppress organized long-range
artillery positions that were used, among other targets, to fire at
refugees who were leaving Tskhinval.
After the Georgian army in its current form ceased to exist, following
strikes from the Russian army, our peacekeepers, reinforced by Russian
Army units, only remain in the security zone that has been outlined in
The Russian Federation has the largest territory in the world, and you
and I realize perfectly - and I am confident that so do the readers of
your newspaper - that Russia by no means needs any additional
territories at the expense of Georgia.
We think that the agreements achieved with the European Union are
extremely important. I think that French President Mr. Sarkozy, who is
currently head of the united Europe, played a great personal role in
We think that the agreements achieved with the “Europe Three” will be
observed by our European partners as well.
We also hope that observers from the OSCE, UN, and the European Union
will assume responsibility in the security zone where Russian
peacekeepers are now deployed. If this is done, then, of course, Russia
will fulfill all its obligations, and pull its peacekeepers, even out of
that security zone. However, there are obligations on the other parts,
not only on Russia’s. Our European partners also have
obligations. They have to assume the responsibility of maintaining
security in the area. We will welcome cooperation with our European
partners in that region.
There’s another question regarding the extra observers to be sent to
Georgia. Why do you deny those observers access to the territory of
Abkhazia and South Ossetia?
Putin: We don’t, but those are
sovereign states, the sovereignty and independence of which we have
recognized. For any foreign observers to appear on their territory, one
needs to talk to the governments of those countries first of all, not to
You have put a special emphasis on the role Mr. Sarkozy played in
achieving and executing the peace agreements. How would you characterize
your relationships with the President of France?
Putin: They are of a very
business-like and constructive nature. There has also been a more
personal touch to them recently, I think. We have very kind, trustful
relationships. He also does some wrestling, and we have agreed to have a
training session together one day.
Mr. Prime Minister, in your interview to CNN on August 28th, you said
there had been American soldiers standing behind Georgian troops. Have
you found any proof of that information, which was only a hypothesis at
the time of the interview?
Putin: I wasn’t talking about
American soldiers. I was talking about American citizens.
The fact that Georgia’s army had been armed by our American partners is
an established fact that nobody is going to dispute. The fact that
American instructors had tried to train Georgia’s army is also a truth
that nobody questions.
And I think even the former Georgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, a
citizen of France, Mrs. Zurabishvili has publicly announced that.
I said that, according to our intelligence, there had been American
citizens in the war zone. I said that they had been within the security
zone outlined by international agreements, and there were only three
categories of people authorized to be in that zone: locals,
peacekeepers, and OSCE observers.
We have documentary proof that indicates there were American citizens
within that zone who did not fit into any of those three categories. A
copy of the passport of one of those American citizens was shown to the
press by the Deputy Head of the General Staff.
Of course, we would like to know what that person and other United
States citizens were doing in that zone.
Therefore, answering your question, I can say that yes, those hypotheses
have found proof.
Mr. Prime Minister, relations between the USA and Russia have
deteriorated significantly over the last few days. What do you expect of
the new American administration?
Putin: I expect improvement in
those relationships. They spoiled them, so they should fix them.
You know, in Lincoln’s time, a political figure of the day, the then
Secretary of State, said that we always prefer relationships with Russia
to relationships with all other European states, at least because Russia
always wishes us well.
Of course, a lot has changed since then. Our relationships have been
determined by various factors in different periods. However, whenever
the world faced a global crisis, Russia and America have always emerged
That does mean something. It means that, during global crises, common
interests prevail over certain differences. This was the case in World
War One and World War Two. We in Russia never forget that, and we would
like our American partners to remember that too.
Mr. Prime Minister, attacks against freedom of speech and the murders of
several journalists in Russia have been the cause of special concern in
Europe, and France in particular. What measures are you going to take to
make sure this doesn’t happen again?
Putin: You know, I am more and
more surprised by questions pertaining to freedom of speech and the
press in Russia, especially after the events in South Ossetia and
An attentive observer couldn’t help but notice how silent the free press
was, of our Western partners, when some people were under the false
impression that Georgia’s aggression could end favourably for it. For
two days, when it was unclear how this all was going to end, everybody
was silent, and then they all rushed, as if on command, - and I think it
WAS on command - to accuse Russia of using inappropriate force. This
applies not only to the European press, but to the American as well.
As for our mass media, their number is growing. There are, I think, some
3,500 electronic mass media, and about 40 thousand periodicals. You see,
they are impossible to control, even if we had the desire to. I am not
even talking about the Internet, which is a free platform in itself.
I have already mentioned that, but you know, it would be funny if it
weren’t so sad. We have watched many times the Fox News interview, with
a 12-year-old girl, and her aunt, who had witnessed the attack of
Georgian forces against South Ossetia. They were invited to the Fox News
studio for a live show, but when they began talking about what they had
really seen, they were not allowed to talk. And after that, they are
trying to say there is no freedom of press in Russia, but there is such
freedom in the West. You know, it’s simply not interesting anymore.
As for criminal actions, or any atrocities against specific persons,
journalists included, they are all being investigated, and we will bring
those investigations to completion. There can be no doubt about that.
I understand your question. On the other hand, it is difficult to
imagine all mass media unanimously supporting one and the same version.
You have cited Fox News as an example, but there were other channels who
conveyed a different point of view to the masses.
Putin: They didn’t. During the
first day - over eight hours - everybody was silent, as if nothing was
happening. I can tell you why. Everybody was waiting for the results of
that aggression, thinking it might end favourably for those who had
started it. Afterwards, when the Russian army took effective action, the
entire propaganda machine was turned around: “disproportionate use of
force”, “delivering strikes at civilian objects”, “refugees”, “Russia’s
imperial ambitions”… They simply forgot the source of all that; they
forgot who had “authored” the situation by arming up and attacking South
Ossetia. Do you want to persuade me this was objective coverage of the
Mr. Prime Minister, may I ask you a more personal question? What is the
relationship between the new head of government and the new state
Putin: My relationship with
President Medvedev formed long ago. We have worked together for 17
years. He is a very honest person and he is well-trained professionally.
I am saying this with full responsibility, because he headed the
Presidential Administration when I was the President of Russia. He was
involved in the solving of many problems and in many issues of domestic
and international politics.
The Head of Government has an enormous scope of work that encompasses
issues of economics, society, health, and education. It also includes
prospective plans for economic development until the year 2020.
Mr. Medvedev and I knew in advance that one of the ways to mount attacks
against him would be to try to picture him as a man who is not
independent. We knew that perfectly well and discussed it over a year
ago. That’s exactly how it happened.
Let me assure you, though, that both I and President Medvedev are
morally prepared for this. This was not difficult to predict a year or
half a year ago.
All the speculation pertaining to this matter is unfounded. The head of
government has its own scope of competency, which is quite substantial.
The president, too, has his own capacities outlined by the Constitution.
The president is the key figure in Russia’s political system, and
President Medvedev does his job well.
That doesn’t prevent him from consulting with Parliament and members of
the Security Council of the Russian Federation. But, the final decisions
on the key issues of the country’s development and international affairs
are up to the President of the Russian Federation.
Thank you, Mister Prime Minister.
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