Daily Archives: December 2, 2010
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December 02, 2010 (KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — Russia has been selected to host the 2018 World Cup by the decision of the FIFA Executive Committee in Switzerland’s Zurich on Thursday.
Russia won the right to host the Cup in a tight race with bids from England, Portugal and Spain (jointly), and Belgium and the Netherlands (jointly).
Russia’s main selling points have been an appeal to FIFA’s sense of legacy and mission to take open new borders. Russia has never hosted a major football tournament. The team behind the Russian application has also stressed the massive state support for the bid.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s decision not to travel to Zurich for the bid led to rumors that he was not sure Russia would win and did not wish to be associated with defeat. Russian officials have said however that there is no need for him to travel, as Russia was certain to win.
Qatar to host 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar will host the 2022 Wolrd Cup, the FIFA Executive Committee said during a ceremony in Switzerland’s Zurich on Thursday.
Qatar beat out rival bids from Australia, South Korea, the United States and Japan. (*)
ZURICH, December 2
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December 02, 2010 (KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will immediately depart for Zurich if Russia wins the bid to host the 2018 World Cup, due to be announced on Wednesday evening, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday.
On Wednesday Putin announced that he would not join the Russian delegation in Switzerland as he did not want put pressure on the FIFA executives making the decision.
England, Portugal and Spain (jointly), and Belgium and the Netherlands (jointly) are the other candidates bidding to hold one of the biggest events in the sporting calendar.
The bidding countries have already delivered their presentations in Zurich, with Russia being the last one to make the presentation. FIFA is set to announce its decision at 18:00 Moscow time (15:00 GMT). (*)
OVAL OFFICE (December 01, 2010)
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December 02, 2010 (KATAKAMI / WHITEHOUSE.GOV) — THE PRESIDENT: I want to thank General Colin Powell for being here with me today. He is not only a great statesman and a great public servant, but also a great friend and a great counselor. And periodically I check in with him, and I know my entire team, including the Vice President, checks in with him, because he continues to have an unparalleled sense of our national security needs, and I think really taps into the best impulses of the American people.
The first thing that I want to do is I want to congratulate him and his wife Alma for the extraordinary work that he’s been doing with America’s Promise, which focuses on how can we finally get serious about education reform, because he understands, Alma understands and all of us understand that our kids are going to be competing not just against each other here in this country but they’re now competing worldwide.
And America’s Promise has been at the forefront on education reform. They just issued a report, “Building a Grad Nation,” that notes that we have made some progress over the last several years in reducing the number of dropout factories that we have around the country, that we are seeing a greater emphasis on kids staying in school, but we’ve still got a lot more work to do. And it’s going to require all of us — parents, teachers, administrators, the public and private sector — to make sure that we continue on this trend of improvement.
So thank you for the work you’re doing in that.
Most of the discussion we had was around national security issues. We talked about some of the challenges across the landscape, from North Korea to Iran to Afghanistan. But we spent, in particular, a lot of time talking about the START treaty. General Powell has been involved with just about every arms control treaty since there were arms control treaties. I hate to —
GENERAL POWELL: Not quite that long.
THE PRESIDENT: I hate to date him, but from the Reagan administration on, he has helped to shepherd through a variety of these arms control treaties, and the reason is, is because he understands, as so many others understand, that a world without binding U.S.-Russia arms control treaties is a more dangerous world.
And he and I discussed why START is so important. In the absence of START, without the New START treaty being ratified by the Senate, we do not have a verification mechanism to ensure that we know what the Russians are doing, and they don’t know what we’re doing. And when you have uncertainty in the area of nuclear weapons, that’s a much more dangerous world to live in.
We also discussed the fact that Russia has cooperated with us on critical issues to our national security like Iran sanctions, transit to supply our troops in Afghanistan, working on securing loose nuclear materials.
And the relationships and trust that are built from the New START treaty spill over into a whole host of other national security issues that are of vital importance to America.
So Colin is one of a number of former national security advisors, Secretaries of Defense, Secretaries of State — from both Democratic and Republican administrations — that have emphasized how important it is to get this done. And we discussed the fact that the Senate appropriately has a role in advice and consent, and it ultimately needs to ratify this treaty. That’s why we have made sure that we have had 18 separate hearings. We have answered over a thousand questions. We have offered to brief every single senator — Republican and Democrat — around these issues. But now it’s time to get this done.
I’m gratified by the leadership of the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar, as well as the ranking Democrat, the chairman, John Kerry, for their extraordinary cooperation and work on this issue.
It is important for us to make sure that we complete the evaluation process, we finish the debate, and we go ahead and finish this up before the end of the year.
And so I just want to again thank General Powell for his good counsel, his friendship, most importantly his service to our country. And I very much appreciate the fact that he supports an effort that all of us should support in order to make America more safe.
GENERAL POWELL: Thank you very much, Mr. President. Let me begin by thanking you for your support of the America’s Promise Alliance and the Grad Nation effort. And also let me take this opportunity to thank Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for the great job that he is doing in making sure that our kids are ready for this 21st century world that is going to be so demanding.
The President noted the issues that we discussed with a particular focus on the New START treaty. I fully support this treaty and I hope that the Senate will give its advice and consent to the ratification of the treaty as soon as possible.
I have been involved, as the President noted, in arms control negotiations and the ratification of arms control negotiations and treaties for the last 25 years. And what is fascinating about this whole process to me is that 25 years ago, the Soviet Union and the United States each had an inventory of something like 28,000, 29,000 nuclear weapons. As a result of the arms control process and the end of the Cold War and change in the world situation, those numbers have been reduced by over 80 percent, so they’re down now under 10,000.
One of the reasons we were able to do this in a way that was transparent with both sides confident in the process was because of the arms control agreement — whether it was INF Treaty or START I or START II that were ratified, the Moscow Treaty — so many other treaties that came along to give us stability, to give us transparency, to give us visibility into what each side was doing. As a result of these treaties we have both benefited — both the Russian Federation now and the United States of America, but the world has benefitted by having fewer of these horrible weapons in existence.
And we hope that we can continue this process. New START is important because it continues this process. And it’s especially important because at the end of last year, we lost the verification system that we had under START I. And this is the first time in all these years where we don’t have these procedures in place. So we’re not sure exactly what’s going on within the Russian Federation; they’re not exactly sure what’s going on in the United States of America.
And I think the most important feature of New START is to put in place the verification regime again. It will be a little different than the START I verification system, but it is more than adequate to make sure that we know what they are doing and they know what we are doing, and it has been so identified as being adequate by our intelligence community.
The number of warheads reduced is modest but nevertheless significant. It continues the downward trend. And so I fully support it.
And you’ll see tomorrow morning in — hopefully in The Washington Post an op-ed piece signed by me, Secretary Shultz, Secretary Baker and Secretary Kissinger, former Secretaries, then former Secretary Eagleburger that once again shows we as a group of Republican former Secretaries of State believe that this treaty is in the best interest of the United States of America, best interest of the world and frankly the best interest of the Russian Federation.
A good treaty is one that both sides think they have benefited from, and that has been the history of arms control agreements with the Soviet Union and now the Russian Federation.
As the President noted, the Senate has a very important role to play in providing advice and consent on any treaty. And in all the treaties that I’ve dealt with, I’ve seen the same kind of process where questions are asked, challenges are made, understandings are examined to make sure that the Senate knows exactly what they are getting into.
And I think some important issues have been raised: the issue of modernization of our nuclear weapons as appropriate. And the President has indicated to the Senate and especially to Senator Kyl that a significant amount of money will be invested in the reliability and modernization of our systems and our facilities. And that was very, very important.
I think I spoke to the verification issues, and I think they’re fine. The question has come up as to whether or not missile defense, our missile defense activity, is in any way jeopardized by this treaty. And it is not. Preambulatory language at the beginning of the treaty and other elements within the treaty in no way restrict the United States’ ability to do what we think is appropriate with respect to missile defense.
The issue also has come up with respect to theater nuclear weapons, the smaller nuclear weapons that we both have. Mostly the Russian side has them; we have some. And this treaty, nor have any of the other strategic arms control treaties, dealt with that issue.
But if we get this treaty behind us, the administration is committed, the President has made clear, that he wants to enter into a dialogue with the Russian Federation in order to start capturing those systems as well.
And so I’m sorry I missed the meeting the President had with the other Secretaries and national security advisors the week before last, but I’m glad I had this opportunity to share my thoughts with the President.
So I hope that the Senate will move quickly and give its advice and consent to the ratification of this treaty.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much, everybody.
Question : Senate Republicans, what McConnell did today, is that — didn’t break the spirit? Didn’t break the spirit of yesterday, what Senator McConnell did?
THE PRESIDENT: I am absolutely — I am confident that nobody wants to see taxes on middle-class families go up starting January 1st, and so there’s going to be some lingering politics that have to work themselves out in all the caucuses, Democrat and Republican. But at the end of the day, I think that people of good will can come together and recognize that given where the economy is at right now, given the struggles that a lot of families are still going through right now, that we’re going to be able to solve this problem. And I think we got off to a good start yesterday. There are going to be ups and downs to this process, but I’m confident that we’re going to be able to get it done. All right?
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December 02, 2010 (KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — Putin’s satellite interview with Larry King as provided by the Russian prime minister’s website http://premier.gov.ru
Larry King (as translated): Good evening. This is a very special evening for the Larry King show and our guest in the studio is once again Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister and formerly president of the Russian Federation. It is a great pleasure for me to welcome him to the Larry King show.
Vladimir Putin: Good evening. It’s evening here and morning there. Good morning, Larry. It is very good to see you again. I remember our first meeting, our interview.
Larry King: Mr Prime Minister, thank you for joining us. Let us start right off. You could run for president again in 2012? Are you thinking about doing that?
Vladimir Putin: President Medvedev and I work together closely. We made up our minds long ago that we would take our decision concerning the 2012 elections in the interests of the Russian people.
Larry King: So your answer is “maybe.”
Vladimir Putin: We’ll see. The elections are still a long way away. They are slated for April 2012. I repeat, we will consult with each other and we will come to a decision that takes account of the economic, social and political situation in the country.
Larry King: OK, let us get to current things.
Vladimir Putin: By all means.
Larry King: What do you think of the leak of military and diplomatic correspondence by the WikiLeaks group?
Vladimir Putin: Some experts believe that somebody is deliberately “inflating” WikiLeaks. Building up the site’s authority in order to use it to further their political ends. That is one possible theory, and this is the opinion of experts, which has some currency in our country too. I think that if this is not the case, it shows that the diplomatic service should be more careful with its documents. Such leaks have happened before, in the previous era. I don’t see it as any kind of catastrophe.
Larry King: What about the statement by the US Defence Secretary Robert Gates that Russian democracy has disappeared and that the government is being run by the security services? What is your response to the American secretary of defence’s statement?
Vladimir Putin: I am personally acquainted with Mr Gates, I have met him on several occasions. I think he is a very nice man and not a bad specialist. But Mr Gates, of course, was one of the leaders of the US Central Intelligence Agency and today he is defence secretary. If he also happens to be America’s leading expert on democracy, I congratulate you.
Larry King: So he is wrong in saying that your country is being run by secret security services?
Vladimir Putin: He is profoundly wrong. Our country is run by the people of the Russian Federation through legitimately elected bodies of power and administration: through representative bodies (the parliament) and executive bodies (the president and the government of the Russian Federation).
As for democracy, this is a long-running argument we have been having with our American colleagues. I would like to recall that twice in the history of the United States the presidential candidate who ultimately became president of the United States won more votes in the electoral college but lost the popular vote. What’s democratic about that?
And when we tell our American colleagues that there are systemic problems in this sphere we hear, “Don’t poke your noses into our affairs. This is how things work here and this is the way it is going to be.” We are not butting in, but I would also like to advise our colleagues not to poke their noses into our affairs. This is the sovereign choice of the Russian people. The Russian people unequivocally backed democracy in the early 90s. They will not be swayed from this path. No one should have any doubts on that score. This is in Russia’s own interests. And we will definitely continue along this path.
The issue Mr Gates raised in the course of this diplomatic correspondence is clearly related to his desire to bring some pressure to bear on the allies over concrete issues. There are many such issues. Russia is seen as deserving this pressure because it is undemocratic: these measures have to be taken because there is no democracy there. We have heard this a thousand times. We have stopped paying attention to it. But it is still being used as an instrument of US foreign policy. I think this is an erroneous approach to take in the building of relations with the Russian Federation.
Larry King: How would you describe your relationship with President Medvedev? As you know, there are some who say that he is Robin and you are Batman, to refer to those all-American heroes. Or in fact, to get it straight, that you are Batman and he is Robin.
Vladimir Putin: Well, you know when Mr Medvedev and I were considering how to structure our relations and how to run the election campaign, the 2008 presidential election campaign, we were very well aware that many would try to create a split in our common approach to the building of the Russian state and the development of our economy. Because our interaction is a considerable factor in the country’s domestic policy. But it did not occur to us that it would be done in such an impudent, brazen and aggressive fashion.
Such claims of course are aimed at insulting one of us, at damaging our sense of pride and at provoking us into taking steps that would destroy our effective interaction in running the country. I have to tell you that we have already grown used to this. I urge all those who are engaged in such attempts to calm down.
Larry King: I hope to be able to visit your country someday soon and to meet you in person. Last time we met in New York, we were in the studio together, and now we are communicating via satellite. What is your assessment of the situation on the Korean Peninsula? You have said that there is a colossal danger that the conflict will intensify. Do you share that fear?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, the situation is acute and very worrying. It cannot but worry us because everything that is happening is happening in the immediate proximity of our borders.
But we sincerely hope that reason will prevail, that emotions will take the back seat and that a dialogue will begin. Reaching an agreement is impossible without dialogue.
Alongside our partners, including the United States, we are working hard towards resolving the North Korean problems, those connected with nuclear programmes, the settlement of the situation between the two parts of Korea, and at various stages this work has yielded a range of results, some were quite impressive and positive. I very much hope that we will be back on track with this positive work.
Larry King: China has proposed holding six-party talks: the two Koreas, China, Russia, Japan and the United States. Do you support this idea?
Vladimir Putin: The president takes the lead on our foreign policy, and the question should, in the first place, be directed to him, but overall I think that Russia would like to see this dialogue continue.
Larry King: Do you think that China should do more to resolve the situation, because it has great influence over North Korea?
Vladimir Putin: This is the US State Department’s position. But in principle we should do everything we can to normalise the situation. The People’s Republic of China has leverage, especially in economic terms, but it should be remembered that we must respect the interests of the Korean people, both those in its Northern and Southern parts.
We should be patient, get the tone of the dialogue right and formulate a common position for all the six states that are involved in this fairly complicated negotiating process. A common approach is a very important precondition for overall success.
Larry King: You share other states’ concerns that Iran is moving towards becoming a nuclear power. How does Russia feel about that?
Vladimir Putin: Iran has been implementing its nuclear programme for twenty years now and of late, in recent years, Iran has in one way or another indicated its readiness to engage in dialogue with the international community and with the IAEA. Yes, we are aware that questions remain concerning the early stages of the programme and we share the IAEA’s desire for exhaustive answers.
You will, of course, know that we are concerned about any indication of proliferation, about any possibility, even if it is a theoretical possibility for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This applies to absolutely all states, including Iran. At the same time we have no grounds for suspecting Iran of seeking to possess nuclear weapons. But we are cooperating with all our partners, including the United States, within the framework of the United Nations. As you know, so far we have managed to agree on the decisions taken. Our position is open and Iran is aware of it. We will continue to cooperate with all participants in this process until the problem is entirely resolved. I very much hope that this resolution will transpire. I think this is in the interests not only of Iran’s neighbour, Israel, which has great fears about nuclear programmes, and the other parties involved in this process but also those of Iran and the Iranian people.
I see nothing reprehensible, nothing that infringes upon Iran’s national interests, in it opening up all its programmes and responding adequately to the legitimate interest that the international specialist agency, the IAEA, has taken in its work. I see nothing to fear here, but at the same time I am still of the opinion that Iran has the right to pursue nuclear programmes under the supervision of international organisations.
Larry King: There’s a lot of concern now about this new treaty. Your president, Medvedev, warned that there would be a new arms race if NATO and Moscow don’t agree on a joint missile shield. And what happens to the relations between the two countries? Will there be another arms race if the United States doesn’t ratify?
Vladimir Putin: No. In his state-of-the-nation address to the Russian parliament earlier today, President Medvedev said only that we made a proposal concerning the shared problem of security. He said that through joint effort and shared responsibility, we can eventually solve this problem.
But if there are only negative reactions to all of our proposals, and if a threat emerges on our borders in the form of a new incarnation of the Third Site programme, Russia will just have to protect itself using various means, including the deployment of new missile systems to counter the new threats to our borders and the development of new nuclear-missile technology. This is not our choice. We don’t want this. It’s not a threat. We are simply talking about what to expect if we can’t agree to work together. That’s all. Again, we don’t want to see this happen.
Larry King: Well, you’re saying it’s not a threat, but it does sound like a threat. The Wall Street Journal is reporting today that America believes that you’re moving short-range tactical nuclear warheads near NATO allies, as recently as this spring. Was that true?
Vladimir Putin: Larry, listen, I’d like to make this clear to you and to all Americans, or, at least, to the audience of your show today. It’s not Russia that is moving missiles close to your border; it’s the United States that is planning to deploy missiles near Russia’s border. We keep hearing that the purpose is to protect yourselves from the threat of a nuclear missile attack by Iran, for example. But Iran poses no such threat at the moment. And if anti-missile and radar systems are set up near our border, even in 2015, they will undermine our nuclear capabilities. So it’s only natural that we are alarmed by the prospect. And we are obligated to take some measures in response. This is a response; we are not making the first moves.
While in Lisbon, President Medvedev put forward some concrete proposals about NATO and Russia sharing responsibility for security in Europe. We could reach an agreement with NATO and, by extension, with the United States, on information sharing and on jointly managing these systems. Military experts can do it, provided there is goodwill. But we continue to be told, “We don’t want to take your interests into account, we are going to do whatever we want.” So we’ll just have to view it as a threat to our security, and we’ll be forced to respond accordingly. That’s what I’d like to get across to the American public.
Larry King: What is your assessment of President Obama?
Vladimir Putin: Assessing his performance is the responsibility of US voters, the people who voted him into office, and American citizens in general.
But as an outside observer, I can say that President Obama has been faced with some formidable challenges, primarily economic and social.
It’s not my place to judge whether he did the right thing by pushing for the healthcare law in Congress. But there’s no doubt, in my mind, that he did his best on this highly sensitive issue for Americans. He has done everything he can to respond to the aspirations of the American people, which he made the basis of his election platform. He made a promise, and he delivered.
As for his foreign policy, we are grateful that he has softened the rhetoric in US-Russian relations, and that, in terms of practical achievements, he has delayed the implementation of the Third Site programme for a missile defence shield in Europe. This has created new opportunities for dialogue; and we’ve won some time to try to translate the plan President Medvedev put forward in Lisbon into reality.
Larry King: Ten Russian sleeper agents were arrested in the United States earlier this year, then sent back to Russia in a spy swap. You met with them after their deportation. What was your impression? What was this all about? What did they tell you?
Vladimir Putin: We talked business for a bit. The conversation was wide-ranging.
Well, what can I say? These people deserve respect, I think. I said earlier, and I’d like to repeat this, that their activity in no way undermined the interests of the United States. As you know, these were deep-cover agents. This kind of agent has special objectives, and they are usually called on in times of crisis, for example when diplomatic ties are severed.
Thank God this isn’t the case in U.S.-Russian relations at the moment, and I hope it never will be.
Larry King: So they do no spying under your direction.
Vladimir Putin: They had their own assignments. Let me make it clear once again that we’re dealing here with deep-cover agents, who only become active during crises and when diplomatic ties are severed, when other forms of intelligence become ineffective or impossible. Again, those agents have not harmed the national interests of the United States. But it’s common knowledge that every country, including the United States, operates a foreign intelligence network of its own.
By the way, the methods employed by our special services differ in a good way from those used by US special services. Thank God, neither the agents in question or any other Russian intelligence officers are known to have been involved in creating secret prisons, kidnappings, or torture.
Larry King: The former USSR spent 9 years fighting in Afghanistan. In fact, I believe we discussed this the last time we were together ten years ago. Some call it the Soviet Union’s Vietnam. Do you think the United States will do any better in Afghanistan?
Vladimir Putin: First of all, I don’t think the comparison is accurate. Our troops withdrew from Afghanistan in a calm and orderly manner, and after the pullout, the Soviet-backed government remained in power for another three years. The Taliban managed to overthrow it only after the USSR collapsed, when Soviet assistance was no longer an option.
I believe the Soviet Union made a lot of mistakes in Afghanistan, the most serious being that we sent in troops. We should not have done this. This much is clear.
The ongoing presence of US and coalition forces in Afghanistan is another matter. As I said, our campaign in Afghanistan can’t be compared with the Vietnam War. Similarly, it would be wrong to compare the current US and international operations in Afghanistan to Russia’s back in the 1980s.
I believe that the coalition forces have an important and positive mission to accomplish in Afghanistan. We cannot and will not contribute militarily, but we are providing some non-military assistance to our partners from the United States and other coalition countries. We’ve agreed to allow transit (through our territory), both by air and over land, and we’re doing just that.
We also share important information, including intelligence obtained by our special agents, whom you mentioned a short while ago. These are all positive examples of cooperation, I think. There have been cases of Russian helicopter pilots rescuing US and Dutch troops under enemy fire.
And there are other ways of contributing to international efforts in Afghanistan. Providing assistance to the Afghan government and armed forces, for example. There is a wide range of cooperative measures, and we hope they’ll yield positive results.
Larry King: Let’s discuss the former president, George Bush. In his new memoir Decision Points, he describes you as a man who is sometimes charming, sometimes very serious, and cold-blooded. He said, when he first met you, that he looked into your eyes and saw your soul. How would you describe your relationship with the former president?
Vladimir Putin: They were warm – good, cordial, human relations. He visited me at home, and I visited him. I stayed at his ranch. We take different views of many problems but I can say one thing with complete confidence: George Bush, Jr., is a man of great integrity and a pleasant opposite number to have. He has a lovely family, too. I really enjoyed my time at his father’s home.
Larry King: I gather from that – you really liked him.
Vladimir Putin: I do like him as a person but, I repeat, we took different approaches to solving the same problems.
Larry King: Will you read his book?
Vladimir Putin: I have seen some extracts from it. I am not in complete agreement with everything he wrote, and I think there are some things he has forgotten about. I’ll remind him of them if we meet again.
Larry King: I know that’s you’re working on your English. You spoke in English at an International Olympic Committee meeting. You did an interview with Matthew Chance for CNN two years ago and spoke in English. Are you ready to start now, and address our audience in English?
Vladimir Putin: My English is very bàd (in English). It is better to be precise speaking to you and avoid any mistakes. I am learning songs in English with my teacher, and we try to sing them together. It’s more of a game. It is not like proper language classes, just taking the language up again, as a break. But if we meet when you come to Moscow, I will try to talk to you in English. I understand a great deal, of course. At any rate, I do not need an interpreter when I meet with my colleagues in a semi-official or semi-informal atmosphere.
Larry King: OK. Later this week, FIFA will announce which country is to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Do you think you have a good chance of hosting it?
Vladimir Putin: I think we are in with a chance. I base this on our rivals’ emphasis that they have everything ready to host the World Cup. But why should a country that already has all the required facilities host the World Cup? FIFA’s philosophy involves promoting international football and extending its global reach. Eastern Europe has never hosted a World Cup, which is why Russia is a natural contender.
We have a problem, however. Mud has been thrown at FIFA members lately during this bidding race. Attempts have been made to discredit them in ways I think they really did not deserve. As an organisation, FIFA does not only arrange football matches. It is, today, performing a crucial role in the world: not only does it promote a healthy lifestyle – turning a huge number of people, particularly young people, away from drugs and alcohol. It also builds bridges between people, nations and countries. This is a crucial function.
We are counting on FIFA members to make their decision in Russia’s favour.
Larry King: Who is acting like that?
Vladimir Putin: Many people in the race are trying to do that. We know that a great deal of information has appeared on the BBC, but accusations are one thing and proof is another. So I think these tactics amount to unfair competition in the bid to host the World Cup.
Larry King: Will you go to Zurich to make a personal appeal?
Vladimir Putin: You know, that’s something I thought about, of course. But I think that now, when FIFA members are coming under such pointed attacks and attempts to disgrace them, they need the space to make an objective decision without any external pressure.
As you know, I’ve been keen on sport all my life, and I love football but I don’t think I should appear there before the vote lest my presence be regarded as an attempt to exert some kind of pressure on the decision-making process.
Larry King: Something, Mr Prime Minister, I don’t think you’ve ever been asked. We have quite a dispute about it in America. What is the Russian policy towards gays and lesbians in your military?
Vladimir Putin: I’ve tried to answer similar questions before. There is a rather acute demographic problem in Russia, as in the rest of Europe. We are making serious efforts to improve the situation, and we are having success. I think we have the best indicators in Europe in terms of the rate of improvement. For the first time in the last 10 to 15 years, we are seeing a sustainable trend of rising births, and the country’s population has even increased somewhat this year.
As for same-sex marriages, they do not produce offspring, as you know. So we are fairly tolerant toward sexual minorities, however we think that the state should promote reproduction, support mothers and children, and look after their health.
Larry King: Are gays permitted to actively serve in your military and be able to say that they are gay?
Vladimir Putin: There is no ban on it. Sodomy was a criminal offence in the Soviet Union. It’s not a crime under current law. There are no prohibitions.
Larry King: You recently took part in a summit in St. Petersburg on saving the tiger. You hailed the actor Leonardo DiCaprio for managing to attend that meeting despite a lot of obstacles. What is your interest in the tiger?
Vladimir Putin: It’s not just tigers. I love nature. Thank God there are a lot of people in the world who feel like I do. I am just one of many.
As for tigers, my interest in them also has something to do with the United States, strange though it may seem. I once saw a news report on television about American and Russian experts working together in the [Russian] Far East to protect tigers. To be honest, I was ashamed in a way to see American experts helping their Russian partners to solve these problems. I went there and we developed a programme to protect tigers in the Far East.
On the whole, everything done in the Soviet Union and Russia has brought about improvements. Several decades ago, we had just twenty to thirty tigers, while now there are more than 500 thanks to our targeted efforts. But tigers are not our sole concern. We protect other endangered animal species, too, and I’m counting on more and more people getting involved in the search for solutions to these problems because many people are eager to help. They just don’t have the opportunity. I do, so I think it is my duty to help.
Larry King: Some personal questions in our remaining moments, Mr Prime Minister. And again, I hope next year to visit and spend some time with you in Moscow, and bring the family as well. You seem to keep your family life private. Many of our viewers may not know that you have two daughters. Why do you tend to shield the family?
Vladimir Putin: Unfortunately, Russia has many problems with terrorism, as you know. It is our duty to think about the safety of our family members and our children – especially our daughters. They live a normal, ordinary life. They go to university. They are content. They have friends. Everything is alright. But I don’t think it’s necessary to force them into the spotlight, and besides they don’t want it.
Larry King: Does your wife enjoy being a first lady?
Vladimir Putin: She’s not the first lady. The president’s wife is the first lady in Russia.
Larry King: Did she enjoy being the first lady?
Vladimir Putin: Generally speaking, she does not enjoy publicity. I think she handled the burden with poise, and she certainly managed her responsibilities.
Larry King: Do you plan a trip to the United States anytime soon?
Vladimir Putin: There are no plans for a visit. The issue is the specific reasons for making the visit. Currently, I’m focused on the economy above all. If there are reasons requiring a visit in the future, I will be happy to come meet with my colleagues and discuss current issues and the prospects for our cooperation.
Larry King: Do you keep in touch with Mr Gorbachev at all?
Vladimir Putin: I meet with him, though very rarely. He calls me occasionally. So we keep in touch.
Larry King: Mr Prime Minister, finally are you optimistic at all about the state of this world or pessimistic?
Vladimir Putin: There are more problems today than ever before. But I am an optimist, and I think that we can reach agreements on even the most acute problems, which might seem irresolvable to us now. If we work together, we will ensure that our countries will continue to make progress, and we will solve key problems regarding security and development.
Larry King: Mr Prime Minister, I thank you so much and look forward to seeing you again soon on your soil.
Vladimir Putin: Larry, please do come to Moscow. I’d love to see you. You’ve never been to Moscow, and I’m sure you will like it here.
Larry King: I thank you again so much, Vladimir Putin, prime minister of Russia. Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Can I ask a question? I’m not sure why, but the king is leaving us. There are many gifted and interesting people working in the American media, but there is only one King. I’m not asking why he’s leaving us, but I want to know when we will be able to say, “Long Live the King!”? When will there be another figure as popular around the world as you are?
Larry King: Thank you. I have no answer.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.
Larry King: Thank you. I’ll see you next year.
Vladimir Putin: Goodbye.