I’ll make this quick – I don’t have much to say after the first Late to the Party post. Part II of ‘The Putin Interviews’ marks an improvement over the previous installment, in both “education” and entertainment factor.
Though most of TPI-2’s information was not novel (again, this can be chalked up to my extensive prior reading on Russia), I did learn a few things: notably, Putin’s perspective on Snowden and state sovereignty. According to Putin, the US asked Russia to extradite Snowden, but Russia declined because of the U.S. refusal to conclude a treaty on cooperation on legal matters. Russia’s initiative would have stipulated for mutual extradition of criminals; and Snowden had not violated any Russian law. Putin does not name the treaty in question. Putin doesn’t believe Snowden is a traitor or that he betrayed the interests of his country (40:10), but at the same time disagrees with what he did (40:44). When asked whether he thinks Snowden was a pawn in the neocon game to seek confrontation with Russia, Putin says “I don’t think so. That’s too subtle for them.”
On alliances and sovereignty, the Russian president has this to say:
There are few countries in the world that can wield their sovereignty. The other countries are burdened with so-called allied obligations. In reality, they have limited their own sovereignty of their own volition.
Other topics covered in part II include U.S. withdrawal from the ABM treaty, the Cuban Missile Crisis/likelihood of present-day nuclear confrontation, mass surveillance, and the Russian political system. Putin makes some contestable claims (saying that Russian society is “liberal minded to a great extent” at 19:39; insisting Russia is a democratic country at 44:57), but this is a recap, not an opinion piece, so I’ll let it slide for now.
Part II is more interesting to watch than part I, simply because Stone and Putin do more on camera. The interviewing table is an expected presence, but Stone and Putin also chat during a screening of the 1964 black comedy Dr. Strangelove, on the sidelines of a hockey match after Putin has played, on the road to work, and during a tour of Novo-Ogaryovo. I had no idea Putin could speak as much English as he does in these casual exchanges!
Stone’s interviewing style is growing on me, though I still have reservations. He seems to have coaxed Putin out of his armored shell, yet – unlike in part I – he openly asks critical questions. (Maybe he was just warming up last time.) But Stone’s tendency to pose a question/make a statement followed by “yes or no?” came across as rude. Some questions are loaded, others ill-timed – I’m not sure it’s a good idea to interrupt a lighthearted conversation about hockey with the question “what if you were playing against a gay man and he checked you?”.
But overall, part II has restored some of my confidence in ‘The Putin Interviews’. I look forward to watching part III, in which Stone asks Putin about Ukraine and the Middle East.
Also, I never knew Gennady Zyuganovn [54:02] was such an outspoken potilician! (Seriously, how did the editor not catch that?)