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Charlie Rose interviewed Russian President Vladimir Putin today at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Judy Woodruff talks to him about Russia’s role in the Ukraine conflict, Russian-American relations, and the enigma that is Vladimir Putin.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin today blamed NATO ambitions to expand and the United States for fanning the flames of conflict in Ukraine. He did that at an international economic conference held in St. Petersburg.
Part of the program featured an interview with Putin by PBS' own Charlie Rose.
Seated in front of an audience of businesspeople, political leaders and journalists, the Russian president blamed the West for the conflict in Ukraine.
CHARLIE ROSE, Host, "The Charlie Rose Show": Help us understand, as you see it, where are we, how did we get there, and where do we go from here?
VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russian President (through translator):
Why is there a crisis in Ukraine?
I was quite confident after the bipolar system went into oblivion and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, certain Western partners of ours, particularly the United States, were in a kind of euphoria, and instead of trying to create a new situation, good neighborly partner relations, they started to explore new free geopolitical spaces — well, free in their view. And that is why we are witnessing the expansion of NATO eastwards.
I spoke to Charlie Rose immediately following his question-and-answer session with President Putin.
Charlie, you pressed him about what he thinks Ukraine needs to do defuse the situation. What did he say?
Well, he said they need to talk the people — that the people in Kiev need to talk to the separatists.
I mean, that has been — it's not a new idea from him. He has always said that, that they need to have real conversations between the separatists and — I think he obviously feels some affinity. And I raised the question, were they helping the situation by supplying arms to the separatists, by in some cases engagement of Russian soldiers and other weapons — I mean, other connections that Russia has to this?
And I think Vladimir Putin, because of all of his experiences, has a real fear about being — about NATO being on his borders. He's always had that. They had that with respect to Georgia and with respect to Ukraine. I think he probably worries that if a government in Ukraine was leaning East, it might — I mean leaning to the West — it might one more time entertain the idea of NATO membership, which he really, really — that's the probably the thing that he dislikes the most.
I think the headline from this, he really believes that the United States and Russia should be talking, that they ought to be having a dialogue about Ukraine and other issues.
And what did he say about that? You asked him about the increasing tension in the relationship between the West and Russia. What did he say about that?
Most of his animus is towards the government in Kiev.
As you know, in previous times, he has said that he thinks that the demonstration that overthrew the president of Ukraine who fled to Russia was a — sponsored in part by the United States and the West, the U.S. CIA.
I think that most people believe that Russia, because of its — it has regained some of its military strength. And they do rattle the saber a bit. It wants to be a player. They want to be respected, which I raised with him. And he in a sense said, well, we are respected. Everybody wants to be respected.
But there is deep within him the sense that, after the collapse in '91, that Russia wants to regain its status as a big-time player in the world.
Would you say that being respected or not being respected is a new concern, is a new posture on his part?
The fact that he did say it the way he did suggests that he thinks about it. And I think that pride for him and for other people, I mean, you know, Russia was a superpower. And then, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, all of a sudden, they were not a superpower.
In fact, their economy was in terrible shape, and they had a whole range of cataclysmic changes in their economy, and state ownership and all kinds of oligarchs came forward. And Russia has been trying to recapture some of its global presence.
He cares about borders, he cares about respect, and he cares about conversations. He wants to be talked to. He wants to be considered a primary player.
Charlie Rose, talking to us from St. Petersburg, the site of this economic summit, Charlie, thank you, and travel safely.
Thank you, Judy.
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