Full 'This Week' Interview Transcript: Russian President Vladimir Putin

ByABC News
January 18, 2014, 5:20 PM

— -- Below is a full "This Week" interview transcript with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It has been independently translated by ABC News.

PUTIN: It seems to me you know everything about the Olympics. I don't even know what else I could tell you. Or you think that you know everything, and it's unlikely I'll be able to convince you to think differently about anything. But if there is indeed a chance, then please, it'll be my pleasure to converse with you.

ED HULA: For the past 8 years that I have been coming here, I've seen an extraordinary change. New stadiums, arenas, this fantastic biathalon venue, the railroad up here to the mountains. There's been an enormous investment here, in Sochi, in Russia to prepare for these Olympic Games. Estimates say 50 billion dollars, we've never really seen an accurate figure as to how much it cost. How much have the Olympics cost to bring to Russia and is it worth it? What is the payback to Russia from this experience?

PUTIN: The total amount the Olympics have cost to prepare for is known, it's RUR 214 billion. You can use today's exchange rate to divide that number by 33 to arrive at the number you're asking about in USD equivalent. However I would like to start my answer to this question with something else, namely that even before the Olympics, in 2006-7, we approved a plan for developing Greater Sochi as a resort destination. If you were to look at a map of the Russian Federation you would see that these days this is a country with primarily Northern territories. Over 70% of our land has been categorized, or can be categorized as Northern, or even Extreme North. In the South, we have a narrow strip of a warm sea, the Black Sea, and overall, we don't have that many areas in this country that feature favorable, warm climates. Across this vast territory, we virtually didn't have a single modern resort available to Russian citizens.

Today, we hold the record for visiting other countries while on vacation. Russians, I think account for the single largest group of tourists visiting Turkey, for instance. Last year, over 3 million Russians made trips to Turkey. Meanwhile, Turkey is approximately in the same climate zone as the Black Sea Coast. So, we faced a big challenge in building up the infrastructure in this particular province of the Russian Federation. Once again, an appropriate program was adopted. However, as it always happens, both in Russia and in any other country, there is always a shortage of funds, even for things that seem to be top priority. When it comes to resort development, and this is a subject that never appears to have top priority, there is a chronic shortage of funds. That is why, essentially, we combined a number of goals. First, and most important, is to develop this country's South, above all infrastructure development. I think this is where we have succeeded, because brand new transport infrastructure has been put in place, energy and environmental infrastructure as well. Comparing discharge of air pollutants in 2007 and today, then following completion of the project – and it is virtually completed already – discharge of pollutants in the atmosphere were halved. This was achieved by us switching power production to a greener fuel, laid down two gas pipelines, built two new power plants, eight or nine substations, destroyed two dumps in the Greater Sochi area which had previously been emanating smoke non-stop, and we built a new transport infrastructure. All of this has reduced the environmental impact. You will agree that it is an extremely important development for a resort.

The other goal we set for ourselves was to restore training facilities for Russia's high level athletes. Following the collapse of the USSR, Russia was left virtually without training facilities at middle altitude areas. They all ended up abroad, either in Georgia or in Armenia. And, partially, in Kazakhstan if we factor in the Medeo ice skating rink. So, and this is something that is ridiculous and embarrassing to reveal, our speed skaters were forced to hold a national speed skating championship in Berlin. That's because there weren't any skating rinks available. Also, we completely lost everything as far as jumps, jump-based sports. We have since built several centers, not only in Sochi. Although, these two jumps we've built in Sochi are unique from the technical perspective. As part of the preparation for the Olympics, we've built the world's most modern jumps in other provinces of Russia. Finally, we wanted to create a brand new high altitude tourist cluster in order to turn this particular RF region into a year-round resort that would operate in winter and in the summer. I think we've succeeded in doing that as well. That is why, if we were to look exclusively at what it cost to prepare for the Olympics the number is RUR 214 billion. Out of those, by the way, only 15 facilities are sports-related while the rest is infrastructure. The number could be more if one were to calculate certain things that have to do with adjacent infrastructure but that isn't directly related to the Olympic Games.

SERGEI BRILEV : Vladimir Vladimirovich, you have just described the jump as unique, but its uniqueness is not limited to sports or technology but also, it is unlikely foreigners are aware of your words: "Where is Comrade Bilalov here?" during your visit to the jump and, so to speak, a suggestion as to how and what can work. Bilalov was punished then, and punished hard, with the entire country to see. Did the others get scared and did they keep their promises? What is your impression?

PUTIN: You know, I would like first to finish answering Ed's question. Out of RUR 214 billion, about RUR 100 billion is government money. The rest of the money was provided by private companies. The bulk of it was invested of course in hotel infrastructure. By the way, we have created about 40, 41 or 43 thousand brand new hotel beds. In the context of resort development, this is an extraordinarily important development. These goals were achieved using funds provided by domestic companies. This is private investment. As far as the fact that some people didn't perform certain things on time, you know, you and I understand that the Sochi project, the Sochi Olympic project has been, over the last few years, the world's biggest construction site. This is no exaggeration. This is the world's largest construction site. Of course, given the scale and, let's be honest about it, given the lack of experience of construction on such a vast scale in this country, in today's Russia, of course setbacks were inevitable. Of course, some talking to had to be done, both about prices and about schedules and about quality. How else? It can't be done otherwise. If you walk around and give nothing but praise to everyone you'll never have any results.

My job isn't limited to handing out awards, although that, too, is part of my job description, but, mostly in facilitating our achieving certain results. This is rough work, a daily effort. Where in the world have you seen construction people who do everything on time, with good quality and at minimal prices? Just give me one country like that. A country like that doesn't exist in the world, you know. There's not one such country anywhere in the world. We can see everywhere attempts at inflating the cost of facilities, in Europe, in North America, in Asia, it's the same everywhere. However this is routine tug of war between the customer, the State in this case, or a private customer that built hotels here, and implementers, contractors. Contractors always want to make more money; customers always want to get a good quality product on time and for less money. There is always this tug of war. It's a normal situation. Obviously, there is a line, which, when crossed, involves wrongdoing, but this is something for law-enforcement to keep an eye on. And they did it here, in a no nonsense way. We tried to make sure that no one crossed that line. On the whole, I think, we've succeeded at that. As far as that specific occurrence, yes, it's true, the Savings Bank picked up the project subsequently and completed it, and did it with high quality and in a modern way. There is not another jump facility like this one anywhere in the world.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: The International Olympic Committee has said that the corruption problem has actually been massive, he said it's an everyday matter up to $18 million embezzled. Is he right, and what can be done about it?