Путин о “вмешательстве” в выборы / Putin’s Comments on “Interference” in Elections

Russian language practice. Putin speaking at Petersburg Economic Forum, seated

Audio content: Putin responds to questions about Russian interference in the US presidential election. Includes many examples of his trademark folksy-aggressive communicative style.

Video embedded below and available on Youtube. [UPDATED 7/23/2017 after the previous video was taken down]

I thought Luch sveta readers and Russian language learners would find it interesting to check in on what President Vladimir Putin has been saying about claims of Russian interference in foreign elections. The video featured in this post is also an excellent example of Putin’s distinctive speech style (see comments below). To get a real feel for who Putin is, you need to hear him speaking in Russian in a non-scripted, combative setting like this one.

In the clip below, Putin responds to questions from NBC News journalist Megyn Kelly during an event at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (Петербургский международный экономический форум) in early June 2017. (Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is sitting between the two of them.) The Forum is an annual event intended to build connections between Russian and foreign business and political leaders. The event has become quite prestigious since Putin began promoting and attending it regularly in the mid-2000s.

Keep some background information in mind as you listen to Putin’s comments. In October 2016 the U.S. Intelligence Community announced that it was confident the Russian government was behind the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails. In January 2017 the CIA and FBI expressed “high confidence” that Putin had personally ordered a broad influence campaign meant to improve Trump’s election prospects and also undermine faith in the U.S. democratic process regardless of which candidate would win. The same report found that Russian hackers had gained access to voter information from several U.S. state election systems, but it did not find that actual vote tallies were altered. The Russian government’s influence campaign also involved the spreading of false information on social media channels. Russia’s influence campaigns are not limited to the U.S.; Russian media outlets also spread false information during the spring 2017 French presidential campaign, and the eventual victor, French President Emmanuel Macron, said that his campaign experienced many hacking attempts.

The Russian government’s response, as you’ll see in the video, is to deny the allegations, labeling them as hysterical or irrational Russophobia. Putin suggests that the losing campaign is just trying to blame someone else for its own failures — an argument also often voiced by Trump. Another Putinesque tactic is to question the very concept of impartial, reliable truth, aiming to simply sow confusion rather than trying to prove any concrete narrative of one’s own. You’ll see an instance of that in the excerpt below. In spite of the denials, on a different occasion in St. Petersburg Putin did concede that Russian individuals may have been behind the hacking, but presented them as “patriotically minded” (“настроены патриотически”) citizens with no official government ties.

In general, there is nothing particularly surprising about the idea that Putin’s government would engage in an “information war” (this term is fairly common in Russian society) against the U.S. and Western Europe. The methods Russia is alleged to have used are effective and cost much less than traditional military investment. Putin has long resented the post-Cold-War NATO expansion, blames Western agencies and Hillary Clinton personally for stirring up protests against his regime and often points out that the U.S. has a long history of intervening in situations around the globe. Putin is likely to continue employing whatever methods he feels will restore Russia to the same position of international power once enjoyed by the USSR, and I assume he doesn’t much care whether his opponents think he is abiding by supposed international norms.

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Putin’s Language

To get a sense of who Putin is, you need to listen to him speaking in Russian. His distinctive speaking style is an important part of the public image he has crafted so successfully over the years. When speaking in a non-scripted public setting like this, Putin’s speech is a rich amalgam of aggression, charm, folksiness and professionalism. His speaking style seems to sum up the different aspects of his personhood: he is a judo master, a major world leader, one of the wealthiest people in the world and the son of factory workers. His tendency to pepper his speech with folksy phrases caught people’s attention early on, most famously in 1999 when he spoke in slang terms of “knocking out terrorists in the toilet” if that’s where they could be found (“мы в сортире их замочим”).

You’ll see many examples of this casual register in the excerpt below: in Putin’s opening use of a popular anecdote to illustrate his point; his use of the common nonstandard form “чё” in place of “что” as well as “сколько много” instead of simply “сколько”; the short, challenging questions and exclamations that push back against his interlocutor’s comments; the reference to Trump as “мужик” (regular guy, lit. “peasant”); the folksy sayings “с больной головы на здоровую” (on shifting blame “from a sick head to a healthy one”), “делать с кондачка” (“to do something in a frivolous, unprepared way”) and “сели на голову и ноги свесили” (“sat on our head and hung their legs down,” said of someone taking advantage of you); the very casual register of “сам придурок” (“he’s a fool himself!”) or “бред несут” (“are raving like madmen”); and the slang “спятить” (to lose it, go insane). Putin clearly senses that he is getting the better of Megyn Kelly (especially since he’s in front of a supportive audience), but his ability to charm also comes up during this exchange, although not in the excerpts included below. For example, he throws in an English phrase “don’t worry, be happy” and graciously thanks Kelly at the close of the interview.

For another example of Putin’s casually combative and intermittently charming speaking style, see this post on his conversation with Fareed Zakaria (which occurred at last year’s St. Petersburg Economic Forum). For a sample of a more formal speech from Putin, see this post on his address to the Valdai Discussion Club.

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Video

2 June 2017
7/23/2017: I UPDATED the video with this version after the previous version was removed from YouTube.
A full transcript of the event is available here

Russian Transcript

1:48:35 – 1:50:20

[Kelly asks Putin about the fact that 17 U.S. intelligence agencies issued a joint report declaring that Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential elections.]

Путин: А вы читали эти отчёты?

Kelly: I read the non-classified version.

Путин: Публичную, общественную версию, то есть никакую. «А кто сшил костюм? – Карманы хорошо пришиты? – Хорошо. – Пуговицы хорошо? – Хорошо. – Есть претензии на… вот, к пуговицам? – Нет, пришиты намертво. Но костюм носить невозможно». Такое бывает? Было у одного из наших сатириков Аркадия Исааковича Райкина.

Значит, вот и сейчас тоже вы мне говорите: «Публичную версию». Я читал эти отчёты. [аплодисменты] Даже в эт-… даже в этих отчётах нет ничего конкретного, там только предположения и выводы на основе предположений. Всё! Знаете, если что-то конкретно, вот если конкретно, тогда будет предмет обсуждения. Как в одной организации, в которой я раньше работал, говорили: «Адреса, явки, фамилии». Давайте, где это всё?

Что касается независимых источников. Нет ничего независимого в этом мире. И даже последние, там, кадровые назначения ваших специальных служб говорят о том, что предпочтения всё равно есть. Поэтому, мне кажется, нужно прекратить эту просто бесполезную и вредную болтовню

1:54:55 – 1:56:45

[Kelly notes that Western intelligence agencies have evidence of Russian interference in the form of fingerprints, IP addresses and characteristic pieces of computer code.]

Путин: Какие отпечатки пальцев? Отпечатки копыт, скажите, рогов. Какие, чьи эти отпечатки?Значит, а IP-адреса – их можно вообще придумать. Знаете, таких сколько много специалистов? Они сделают так, что это и с вашего адреса с домашнего, дети ваши послали, младший ваш ребёнок трёхлетнего возраста, так всё организуют, что это, это, именно ваша девочка трёхлетняя совершила эту атаку. Такие специалисты сегодня в мире в сфере этих технологий, что они вам чё угодно придумают, а потом кого угодно обвинят.

Это не доказательство. Это попытка переложить с больной головы на здоровую эту проблему. А проблема не у нас. Проблема — внутри американской политики. Вот в чём проблема. Команда Трампа оказалась более эффективной в ходе избирательной кампании. Я и сам иногда думал, думаю, ну, перебирает мужик, честное слово. Это правда! Но оказалось, что он был прав, что он нашёл подход к тем группам населения и к тем группам избирателей, на которых он сделал ставку, и они прошли — пришли и проголосовали за него. А другая команда просчиталась. Признать эту ошибку не хочется. Не хочется говорить, что это мы такие, значит, мы, извините, чего-то не догнали, чего-то не продумали. Легче сказать, что мы не виноваты, это виноваты русские, они вмешались в наши выборы, а мы хорошие. Это вообще мне антисемитизм напоминает: во всём евреи виноваты, понимаете? Сам придурок, ничего сделать не может — евреи виноваты! Но мы знаем, что…  к чему приводят такие настроения. Ничем хорошим они не заканчиваются. Надо просто работать, думать, как исправить.

2:00:15 – 2:01:10

[Kelly claims that even Trump recently accepted the U.S. intelligence community’s finding about Russia. The interpreter uses the phrase “мне кажется” in rendering her comment even though Kelly did not actually say anything like “I think” or “It seems to me.” But Putin latches on to that phrase.]

Путин: Ей “кажется”! Слушайте, это очень серьёзные вопросы мировой политики, а вам “кажется.” Это же… это же не просто, значит, какое-то интервью провести или статью написать в газете.

А по поводу… по поводу вмешательства: Вы посмотрите… вы бы посмотрели, чего ваши коллеги у нас делают. Да они просто с ногами забрались в нашу внутреннюю политику, на голову нам сели, ноги свесили, значит, и жвачку жуют. Развлекаются просто!

Это систематическое, на протяжении многих лет, грубое, абсолютно бесцеремонное, в том числе даже на уровне дипломатических ведомств, вмешательство прямо в нашу внутреннюю политику! Заканчивайте давайте, вот. И вам легче станет, и нам.

2:03:05 – 2:05:15

[Kelly asks about recent reports of meetings between White House officials and the Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak. Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner and Jeff Sessions all were revealed to have had previously undisclosed phone calls, meetings or communications with Kislyak. Given the timing, Putin is probably responding to reports that Kushner tried to set up a secret communications channel with Russia that would operate on Russian equipment, and his later reference is probably to former National Security Advisor Flynn.]

Путин: Вы знаете, я… видел то, что происходило. Откровенно сказать, для меня это было тоже большим удивлением. Ну такой бред несут, понимаете! Непонятно вообще, откуда взялись эти люди, которые распространяют такую информацию. Просто какая-то катастрофа!

Наш посол с кем-то встретился. А чего послу делать? Это его работа, он деньги за это получает. Он должен встречаться, обсуждать текущие дела, договариваться. Он чё там должен делать? Ходить на всякие… во всякие заведения, что ли? За посещение которых его с работы выгонят потом? Нет! Он… это же его работа, а его обвиняют в том, что он с кем-то встречался. Ну, а вы совсем там спятили, что ли, ну? Это же дипломатическая служба. Просто удивительно!

У нас не было, вообще… Я посмотрел, вот, помощника, там — потом Президент Трамп уволил — что его обвиняли в том, что он с кем-то там о чём-то договаривался. Вы знаете, – я вам, вот, говорю… конечно, те, кто занимают другую позицию, они мне не поверят, но я просто даже об этом ничего не знал. С кем они там встречались? О чём говорили?

Да ни о чём не говорили, просто общие слова, просто общие слова о том, что нам, нам нужно подумать о том, как нам выстраивать отношения. А что, не нужно думать о том, как выстраивать отношения? Всё с кондачка делать, вообще бездумно, что ли? Ничего конкретного, просто ноль, зеро, вообще ничего. Удивительно просто.

Это просто истерия какая-то, и никак не можете прекратить. Ну, таблетку, что ли, надо дать вам какую-нибудь. Есть таблетка у кого-нибудь? Дайте таблетку какую-нибудь. (Смех.) Ну правда, честное слово, просто удивительно. Нет. Короче, ответ — нет, никаких договорённостей не было, даже… даже к снаряду не подошли, даже не успели начать переговоры никакие.

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English Translation

1:48:35 – 1:50:20

[Kelly asks Putin about the fact that 17 U.S. intelligence agencies issued a joint report declaring that Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential elections.]

Putin: And did you read these reports?

Kelly: I read the non-classified version.

Putin: [She read the] public, widely available version — that is, no version at all! “Who sewed this suit? Are the pockets well sewn on? Yes they are. Are the buttons good? They are good. Are there any complaints about… regarding the buttons? No, they are sewn on really solidly. But it’s impossible to wear this suit!” [Reference to a comedy routine in which Arkady Raikin visits a tailor’s shop to complain about a suit that has been sewn together all wrong.] Do things like this happen? This happened once with one of our satirists, Arkady Isaakovich Raikin.

So, similarly, right now you are saying you read the “public version.” I read those reports. [Applause.] Even in th… Even in those reports there is nothing concrete, there’s just assumptions, and conclusions on the basis of assumptions. That’s all! You know, if there were something concrete, if it were concrete, then there would be something to talk about. Like in a certain organization where I worked previously [presumably the KGB], people would say, “Addresses, evidence, names!” Come on, where is all that stuff?

And concerning the “independent sources.” There is nothing independent [i.e. impartial] in this world. Even the latest official appointments in your secret services tell us that there are after all preferences and prejudices. Therefore, it seems to me, people should stop this simply pointless and harmful chatter.

1:54:55 – 1:56:45

[Kelly notes that Western intelligence agencies have evidence of Russian interference in the form of fingerprints, IP addresses and characteristic pieces of computer code.]

Putin: What fingerprints? Hoofprints? Hornprints? What sort, whose are these prints? So… and the IP addresses, they can just be made up. You know how many of those specialists there are? They’ll make it so that it was from your own address, your home address, that your children sent it, that your youngest child, a three-year-old, sent it. They’ll organize it so that it was… it was precisely your three-year-old little girl who carried out this attack. There are such specialists in the world today in the area of these technologies that they’ll think up for you whatever you want, and then will accuse whomever they want.

This is not proof. This is an attempt to shift the problem “from the sick head to the healthy one.” And the problem is not with us. The problem is inside American politics. This is where the problem is. Trump’s team turned out to be more effective in the course of the election campaign. I myself sometimes thought — I would think, “well, the guy is overdoing it” — I swear. It’s the truth! But it turned out that he was right, that he found a way to approach the segments of the population and the groups of voters that he was betting on, and they went… they showed up and voted for him. And the other team miscalculated. They don’t feel like admitting that mistake. They don’t feel like saying that we are the ones, you know, “sorry, there’s something we didn’t figure out, something we didn’t think through.” It’s easier to say that “we are not at fault, the Russians are to blame, they interfered in our election, and we are good people.” Overall it reminds me of anti-Semitism: the Jews are to blame for everything, you know? Someone’s a fool himself, can’t do anything — the Jews are to blame! But we know that… we know what these sorts of attitudes lead to. They don’t end with anything good. You just have to work, think about how to fix things

2:00:15 – 2:01:10

[Kelly claims that even Trump recently accepted the U.S. intelligence community’s finding about Russia. The interpreter uses the phrase “мне кажется” in rendering her comment even though Kelly did not actually say anything like “I think” or “It seems to me.” But Putin latches on to that phrase.]

Putin: It “seems to her!” Listen, these are very serious questions of world politics, and it “seems to you.” Really, this is… this is not, you know, the same as simply interviewing someone or writing an article for the newspaper.

And regarding… regarding interference [in the elections]: You have a look, you should look at what your colleagues are doing here in Russia. I mean they’re simply climbed all the way into our internal politics, legs and all, sat on our head, hung their legs down, you know, and are chewing gum. Simply amusing themselves! [The more common phrase is “to sit on someone’s neck” / “сесть на шею,” and the whole thing is figurative language for really being a burden on someone or taking advantage of someone.] It’s a systematic, years-long, rude and flagrant interference, absolutely lacking all ceremony, occurring among other things at the level of diplomatic instances, an interference directly in our internal politics! How about you stop it, okay. It’ll be easier for you and for us

2:03:05 – 2:05:15

[Kelly asks about recent reports of meetings between White House officials and the Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak. Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner and Jeff Sessions all were revealed to have had previously undisclosed phone calls, meetings or communications with Kislyak. Given the timing, Putin is probably responding to reports that Kushner tried to set up a secret communications channel with Russia that would operate on Russian equipment, and his later reference is probably to former National Security Advisor Flynn.]

Putin: You know, I… I saw what happened. To tell the truth [“speaking sincerely”], for me it was also a big surprise. I mean they are just raving like madmen! It’s impossible to understand at all where these people came from who are disseminating information like this. It’s just some sort of disaster!

Our ambassador met with someone. And what should an ambassador do? That is his work, he gets paid for that. He should be meeting with people, discussing current issues, making agreements. What should he be doing there? Going to all kinds of… to all kinds of establishments or something? When he’ll be fired [lit., “chased away from work”] later for visiting them? [Is this meant to hint at visiting prostitutes or what?] No! He… after all that is his work, and people are accusing him of having met with someone. Well, have you gone completely off your rockers over there or what? That is what diplomatic service is. It’s simply amazing!

We didn’t have, at all… I saw there, that aide — then President Trump fired him [presumably a reference to Mike Flynn] — I saw that he was accused of having negotiated about something with someone. You know… I’m telling you now… of course, those who are on the other side of things will not believe me, but I simply didn’t even know anything about that stuff. Who was meeting with whom? What did they talk about?

Really, they didn’t talk about anything, just the usual general words, just commonplace phrases about how we need to think about how we are going to set up our relationship. So what’s the problem, isn’t it necessary to think about how to set up our relationship? [Should we] do everything all half-cocked, basically without any thought, or what? There’s nothing concrete, just zero, null, nothing at all. It’s simply amazing.

It’s simply some sort of hysteria, and you can’t manage to stop doing it. Well, do we need to give you some sort of pill, maybe? Does anybody have a pill? Give me some sort of pill. (Laughter.) Really now, I swear, it’s simply surprising. No. To put it briefly, the answer: no, there were no agreements made, even… they didn’t even get close to it [lit., “didn’t even approach the artillery shell”], they didn’t even have time to start any kind of discussions.

 

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