Russian President Vladimir Putin broke his long silence today, both about the Trump Dossier and about the campaign which has raged in the US around the alleged Russian involvement in the Clinton leaks.
Putin’s comments were made during a press conference attended by the newly elected pro-Russian President of Moldova, a former Soviet republic that rather like Ukraine is caught in a battle between pro-Russian and pro-EU factions. Though Putin had many interesting things to say about the situation in Moldova and about Russia’s relations with that country, it was his comments about the Trump Dossier and the campaign concerning the Clinton leaks which got him going and which have attracted world attention.
This is what Putin said according the Kremlin’s website:
We have a news agency. It is called Life. Everyone is trying to prod us closer to life. (Laughter.)
You know, there is a category of people who leave without saying goodbye, out of respect for the situation that has evolved, so as not to upset anything. And then there are people who keep saying goodbye but don’t leave. I believe the outgoing administration belongs to the second category.
What are we seeing in the United States? We are seeing the continuation of an acute internal political struggle despite the fact that the presidential election is over and it ended in Mr Trump’s convincing victory. Nevertheless, in my opinion, several goals are being set in this struggle. Maybe there are more, but some of them are perfectly obvious.
The first is to undermine the legitimacy of the US president-elect. By the way, in this regard, I would like to point out that whether deliberately or not, these people are causing enormous damage to US interests. Simply enormous. The impression is that, after a practice run in Kiev, they are now ready to organise a Maidan in Washington to prevent Trump from taking office.
The second goal is to tie the new president’s hands as he works to fulfil the campaign promises he made to the American people both at home and abroad. Well, think, how can anything be done to improve Russian-US relations if red herrings such as interference by hackers in the election campaign are trotted out? Although to reiterate, hackers – whoever they are – did not compile anything; they did not make anything up; they only disclosed material. Or, especially, if Russian special services have some compromising material on the president-elect.
Look, I am not acquainted with Mr Trump. I have never met him. I do not know what he will do in the international arena, so I have no reason either to attack him or criticise him for whatever reason or to defend him, no matter what. We will not even ask the Nobel Committee to give him a Nobel Prize for mathematics or physics or any other subject. I have absolutely no grounds for that. However, these leaks are obviously fabricated.
When Mr Trump came to Moscow a few years ago – I don’t remember exactly when – he was not a politician. We were unaware of his political ambitions. He was just a businessman to us, one of the wealthiest men in America. Does anyone think that our special services are chasing after every American billionaire? Of course not. It’s nonsense. That’s my first point.
Second, concerning the allegation that Trump arrived in Moscow and the first thing he did was meet with Moscow prostitutes. First, he is an adult and, second, he has for many years sponsored beauty contests and had the chance to meet the world’s most beautiful women. Why would he run to a hotel to meet up with our girls of limited social responsibility? Although they are, of course, the best in the world. But I doubt that Trump fell for it.
Finally, there’s one more consideration. Prostitution is an ugly social phenomenon. Among other things, young women engage in it because they cannot make a decent living otherwise. To a great extent, the guilt lies with society and the state.
People who order these kinds of fabrications, which are now being used to smear the US President-elect, and use it to advance their political agenda are worse than prostitutes. They have no moral constraints at all. By the way, Russia is constantly dealing with such people, our opponents. The fact that such methods are being used against the President-elect of the United States is certainly unparalleled and has never happened before. This indicates the significant level of degradation among political elites in the West, including the United States.
But I very much hope that common sense will prevail. This applies to relations between the United States and its allies, including in Europe. After all, it is the current outgoing administration that has involved many European political leaders in the US domestic political fight. Today’s problems are the result of these activities.
I am sure that major mutual interests will set things right. Of course, there may be nuances, and it might leave a bad aftertaste, but still things will fall into place eventually. By the same token, I am sure, we will eventually be able to return to normal state-to-state relations in the interests of both the peoples of Europe and the peoples of Russia and the United States, which will contribute to advancing the global economy, stabilising the international situation and providing security.
(bold italics added)
Having twice seen Putin in action in person – in 2014 and 2016 at SPIEF – I noted one notable aspect of his personality, which so far as I am aware never gets mentioned. This is that Putin likes to mask his anger behind a veil of humour.
These comments, with their jokes about “trying to get closer to life”, about not asking the Nobel Committee to award Trump a Nobel Prize (an obvious dig at Barack Obama), and about Russian prostitutes being “the best in the world”, are a classic example.
Putin has obviously been seething for weeks over the US campaign to discredit Trump by alleging non-existent Russian links and Russian interference in his election victory, and the Trump Dossier has clearly caused this anger to boil over. Anyone familiar with Putin will have noticed that he struggled during this press conference to keep his anger under control.
The extent of Putin’s anger is clearly shown by what he had to say about those whom he clearly believes are behind the anti-Trump campaign.
First and foremost these are US President Obama and his administration. Putin recently gave a scathing assessment of Obama, and in these comments he did so again, ridiculing the award to him of the Nobel Peace Prize, and talking of Obama’s administration as “people who keep saying goodbye but don’t leave”. These comments were clearly intended to refer to Obama himself, but as is invariably the case Putin was careful not to name him.
The other people are clearly the US and possibly the British intelligence agencies, who Putin clearly believes intentionally fabricated the Trump Dossier in order to discredit Donald Trump, though his comments leave open the possibility that the Obama administration (including the outgoing President) was involved as well. His comments about these people are damning, whilst interjecting a for Putin very unusual note of self-pity
People who order these kinds of fabrications, which are now being used to smear the US President-elect, and use it to advance their political agenda are worse than prostitutes. They have no moral constraints at all. By the way, Russia is constantly dealing with such people, our opponents.
Contrary to what some may think, this is unusually coarse language by President Putin’s standards, and shows the strength of his anger.
That Putin considers these people to be first and foremost the enemies of Russia is shown by the extraordinary parallel he makes between the anti-Trump campaign and the Maidan coup, the authorship of both of which he attributes to the same people.
For the rest, Putin is clearly and unsurprisingly of the same view as those commentators like myself who see the anti-Trump campaign as intended first and foremost to delegitimise Trump and even prevent him from taking office or – failing which – to box in Trump so as to prevent him from reversing the Obama administration’s anti-Russian policies.
It is clear however that it is not this which has made him so angry. Rather it is the low methods these people have been using, and the ugly way they have involved Russia and President Putin himself by spreading salacious stories of sex and blackmail and Russian hackers.
As is Putin’s way, he sought to end on a positive note, by looking forward to a potential improvement in relations between Russia and the US once Donald Trump has become President. However his words about this were laced with caution, and he is clearly taking nothing for granted.