Путин и американские выборы / Putin and the U.S. Election

Putin at Valdai

Audio content: In a speech to the Valdai Club, Putin responds to some of the charges that were lobbed at Russia during the American presidential election.

Two video clips embedded below.

I started this post, which features some memorable comments from Putin on the U.S. presidential race, before Election Day. With Trump’s victory, the topic is even more relevant, and in fact I may do one more post regarding Putin’s attitude toward Trump. The upcoming post will feature Putin speaking in his distinctive casual manner, whereas in today’s post he is using the more complex formal language appropriate for one his major annual addresses. For more samples of Putin’s rhetoric, see the earlier post on Putin’s speech to the U.N.

Putin and Russia came up frequently during the U.S. presidential campaign. United States intelligence agencies determined that the Russian government was behind several high-profile email hacks that targeted the Clinton campaign, although Trump refused to accept these findings. Evidence emerged that Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort was a very highly paid consultant for the pro-Putin former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich. Foreign policy experts were alarmed when Trump voiced opinions that seemed to play into Putin’s hands, such as hesitation on support for the NATO alliance, denial that Russia had any presence in Ukraine and claims that Putin is a stronger leader than Obama. Journalistic investigations also found that Russian citizens backed by the Kremlin have created Trump-supporting Twitter accounts with fake American identities. Meanwhile, Clinton took an aggressive stance with respect to Russia, and in the past she has sharply criticized the legitimacy of Russian elections and the Russian incursion into Crimea. Clinton labeled Trump a “puppet” of Putin during the third debate, while Trump insisted it would be a good thing if the U.S. could get along with Russia. Unsurprisingly, Russian state-controlled television has a pro-Trump bias.

Putin commented on this entire situation during a late October speech to the Valdai Discussion Club, an organization that hosts an annual gathering of international Russia experts. Putin traditionally addresses the gathering on its final day. In the video excerpts below, Putin responds to two main charges: that Russia is an aggressor on the world stage and that it is interfering in the United States election. He treats both claims as laughable absurdities and — without using her name — suggests that Clinton is stirring up anti-Russia sentiment purely for political gain.

Putin (and his aides) are very skilled at the public relations aspect of leading a major country. In speeches to international audiences, Putin projects an image as a professional, reasonable, well-intentioned leader who is open to dialogue but will defend Russian interests in the fact of what he views as Western hypocrisy and hostility. I find him to be someone who has a great knack for “trolling” the West. He points his finger right at the sore spots of Western society, always glad to highlight the ways that Western nations fail to live up to their professed ideals. In this speech, besides the excerpts highlighted below, Putin chides the West for not uniting with Russia to fight “terrorists” in Syria, notes with a certain Schadenfreude that Western efforts to combat terrorism are not going as well as might be hoped, mocks the West for its shock over the “Brexit,” expresses concern that Western democracies fail to respond to the demands of regular people, and laughs at the tabloid character of many Western political campaigns. Western nations do of course offer plenty of material for legitimate criticism, but the implication that Putin occupies some sort of higher ground lacks credibility. It seems clear that Putin is aggressively pursuing the same sort of self-interested, anti-democratic, two-faced realpolitik of which he accuses the West. Many Russians are happy that one result of his policies has been an increased recognition of Russia’s international clout. Putin continues to deny the findings of numerous intelligence and journalistic organizations regarding Russia’s role in fomenting the war in eastern Ukraine, the targets of its bombings in Syria, his administration’s treatment of political opponents, etc. Thus, when Putin attacks Western nations for failing to adequately promote democracy, equality, international cooperation and peace, to me his criticisms seem to function not as advocacy for those elevated values, but as justification for his own cynical indifference to the higher principles that we might hope would guide the international community.

Please post any questions or reactions in the comments!

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Video One

Russian Transcript – Video One

[Start at 0:20]

В. В. Путин: При этом постоянно штампуются угрозы – вымышленные, мифические, вроде пресловутой «российской военной угрозы». Действительно, это прибыльное занятие: можно новые военные бюджеты выбивать в своих собственных странах, нагибать союзников под интересы одной сверхдержавы, расширить НАТО, приблизить инфраструктуру альянса, боевые подразделения, новую технику к нашим границам.

Конечно, конечно, очень приятно, а подчас и выгодно, выдавать себя за защитников цивилизации от каких‑то новых варваров. Однако дело в том, что Россия‑то ни на кого нападать не собирается. Да и смешно это: я ведь тоже читаю и ваши аналитические материалы, не только присутствующих здесь в зале, но и аналитиков из тех же Соединённых Штатов, из Европы.

Ну, немыслимо просто, глупо и нереалистично. В одной Европе там – 300 миллионов, все члены НАТО; в США общее число стран … численность населения стран – это 600 миллионов человек, наверно. В России 146 миллионов всего сейчас. Просто смешно об этом даже говорить. Нет, это всё равно используется для достижения своих… своих целей политических.

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Video Two

Russian Transcript – Video Two

В. В. Путин: К числу мифических, придуманных проблем относится и развёрнутая в США истерия, по‑другому я не могу сказать, по поводу влияния России на ход нынешних выборов американского президента. Казалось бы, в Америке действительно множество острых, действительно насущных проблем – от колоссального государственного долга до роста насилия с применением огнестрельного оружия и фактов полицейского произвола.

И, наверное, в ходе выборов разговор должен был бы идти именно об этом, о других нерешённых проблемах. Но, видимо, сказать элите особенно нечего, нечем общество успокоить. Поэтому куда проще отвлечь внимание людей на российских так называемых хакеров, шпионов, агентов влияния и так далее, и тому подобное.

Да я вот хочу задаться вопросом и вам этот вопрос задать: неужели кто‑то всерьёз думает, что Россия может как‑то повлиять на выбор американского народа? Америка что – это какая‑то «банановая страна», что ли? Америка – это великая держава. Если я не прав, поправьте меня, пожалуйста.

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Semi-Literal English Translation, Video One

V. V. Putin: And at the same time threats are constantly being coined — made-up, mythological threats, like the notorious “Russian military threat.” Truly, this is a profitable pastime: people can extort [lit., “beat out”] new military budgets in their own countries, force allies to conform to the interests of a single superpower, and expand NATO, bring the alliance’s infrastructure, military units and equipment right up to our borders.

Of course, of course it is very pleasant, and sometimes even profitable, for people to present themselves as the defenders of civilization against some new barbarians. However, the fact is that Russia, at least, has no plans to attack anyone. In fact, that [idea] is ridiculous: after all I, too, read your analytical materials, not just those of the people present in this hall, but [the work of] analysts from the United States and from Europe.

So, [the idea] is simply inconceivable, it’s stupid and unrealistic. In Europe alone there are 300 million, and all members of NATO; in the United States the overall number… the size of the population of these countries is 600 million people, probably. In Russia there are no more than 146 million right now. It is simply ridiculous to even talk about. But no, all the same this is being used by people in pursuit of their political aims.


Semi-Literal English Translation, Video Two

V. V. Putin: One of these mythological, made-up problems is the highly developed hysteria — I can’t call it anything else — in the United States regarding Russia’s influence on the course of the current American presidential election. One would think that America has really quite a large number of acute, really pressing problems — from the colossal state debt to the increase in gun violence [lit. “violence with the use of shooting weapons”] to instances of police abuse [lit., “tyrannical arbitrariness”].

Probably, over the course of the election the discussion should be about precisely these things, and about other unsolved problems. But, apparently, the elite doesn’t have anything in particular to say, has nothing by means of which it can reassure society. Therefore it is so much simpler to redirect the people’s attention to the Russian so-called hackers, spies, agents of influence and so on and so forth.

And I want to consider this question and put the question to you: is it really the case that anyone seriously thinks that Russia could somehow influence the choice of the American people? What is America — some sort of “banana republic” or something? America is a great power. If I am not right, please correct me.


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