Transcript: George Stephanopoulos Interviews Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

MEDVEDEV: They should not lead to humanitarian catastrophe, and the whole Iranian community would start to hate the whole world. And we're worried that there are a significant number of people which have radical opinions. Do we want that radical thought to be sent to the whole world? So sanctions should be smart. They should force or obligate the Iranian leadership to think about what's next. What could sanctions be? It could be trade, arms trade. It could be other sanctions. Our experts are reviewing them now. If we're talking about energy sanctions, I'll tell you my opinion. I don't think on that topic we have a chance to achieve a consolidated opinion of the global community on that. By the way, we have our own energy cooperation with Iran. The sanctions should let the country understand that all who impose sanctions have the same opinion. But if half of the countries support the sanctions and the others don't, the sanctions should be smart. Sanctions should not be paralyzing. They should not cause suffering. Aren't we in the 21st century? That's why if we're going to develop our cooperation in this direction we have a chance to succeed. Better would be to go without sanctions and achieve things politically. But a lot of time has passed by.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I-- I think you-- you bring up an important point at the end there. There are so many signs in Israel-- of invasions. And-- that at some point, perhaps soon, some former ministers have suggested by the end of the year Israel be-- feel forced to take military action. What would that mean?

MEDVEDEV: It would be the worst possible scenario. Because any war means lives lost. Secondly, what does a war in the Middle East mean? Everyone is so close over there that nobody would be unaffected. And if conflict of that kind happens, and a strike is performed, then you can expect anything, including use of nuclear weapons. And nuclear strikes in the middle east, this means a global catastrophe. Many deaths.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you as confident as you used to be that Israel will show forbearance and not strike?

MEDVEDEV: I could be certain only about the decisions under my authority. The Israelis are directing its own policy. I do have a good relationship with the President and Prime Minister of Israel. But those are independent people. And I would say that on many questions they are defending stubborn positions. Very tough. And the US has seen the proof of that lately.

STEPHANOPOULOS: On the settlements.

MEDVEDEV: In many instances the Israeli position, including settlements, remained the same even after open and honest talk with America and we have spoken to them also. Why am I bringing it up? Because you can't imagine any scenario , with the Middle east it would be a gigantic human disaster, and not only for the middle east. If something would happen in Iran, the people from that region would try to escape. Where would those people go? They would head toward our borders. They would go to Azerbaijan. Iran has many with roots from Azerbaijan.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You've been very forthright about the problems that Russia has to overcome in order to become a modern, as you say, normal-- country. Corruption. Life expectancy has been going down in Russia. Your population is going down. Alcoholism still plaguing so much of the country. What do you say to outside observers who look at Russia, even with the growth you've had in recent years, and see a nation in decline?

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