Russia's Putin: Interview Transcript

After the events of Sept. 11, you seem to have made a strategic and historic choice to become much closer to the West, to the United States. This could be a risk for you here at home, where not everybody wants you to be that close. Why did you do it?

Oh, you know, I may tell you right now something that may sound quite unexpected to you. This is a choice that Russia made for itself quite a long time ago. Unfortunately it was not noticed by everybody. But after Sept. 11, it was impossible not to notice it. More than that, there was a realization that Russia not just can, but should be a strategic ally of the entire civilized community including certainly the United States. And I believe that the tragic events of Sept. 11 opened our eyes to that. To this. And underscored the fact that if we want to be protected, we should be together.

President Bush

I would like to ask a little bit about your relationship with President Bush. When President Bush first met you, he said that he looks into your eyes and he saw your soul. Some people smiled when he said that. What do you think he saw in your soul?

Well, it's difficult for me to say what he saw in my soul. You should ask President Bush about that himself. But those who smiled in response to his words on hearing him say that, well there's one thing I can say about this. I believe it's not accidental that not them but he became the president of the United States. He sees better and deeper and understands the problems more accurately. I should tell you that to a great extent it is thanks to President Bush's position that the Russian-U.S. relations, Russia and United States, were not taken by surprise, by this event of September 11th.

And I recall his words, and the fact that I was the first to call him — but this happened to a great extent because of his position, and this was a credit that should go to him for that. And the fact that today the international coalition is successful is also thanks to President Bush and I believe that the first step towards that was our meeting in Ljubljana [Slovenia] when he said those good words — addressed me and my country.

And I should say even more from experience, my personal communication with President Bush. I'm convinced that he's a solid partner. We can argue about some problems, disagree about things, but I noticed that if he agrees with something, and if he says yes, he actually pushes the question down to resolution, to fruition, in terms of reaching agreement. Not only with me, but the entire Russian leadership have noticed this particular feature of the president's character. And we assess this quite positively, which is indicative of the fact that we can do business with this man, and he lives up to the agreements that he reaches. Perhaps after some very complex and difficult negotiations and exchanges.

If he says he will do something he does it.

Yes. Exactly.

I hear you do too.

I'm trying.

You have that reputation.

U.S. Missile Defense and the ABM Treaty

Let us speak focus some of the possible agreements. From reports, it looks as if there may be an agreement in the reduction of nuclear weapons when you and President Bush meet. But there is still the great disagreement over the ABM treaty. You want it to continue. President Bush wants to stop it, and build a missile defense system. How do you think these two conflicting points of view can be reconciled? What do you see as the compromise?

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