The Putin Interviews: hacking in the U.S. elections, Trump, and the future
Oliver Stone's four-part film ends with Jeff Beal's roaring music, stylized to resemble Russian folk tunes, and shots of the spacious Kremlin halls glittering with gold. They are empty: Vladimir Putin bids farewell to Stone, with whom he met several times in the course of more than a year (from December 2015 to February 2017). What did the famous film director and the major world leader speak about in the last part of the film?
On 'meddling' in the U.S. elections
Despite the American establishment and media incessantly claiming that the Russian government organized the hacking of the Democratic Party server during the 2016 presidential campaign, Putin tells Stone that this is nonsense.
"It's a very silly statement. We did not hack the election at all," said the Russian leader, noting that his country simply does not have the resources to influence American elections.
Putin said the real reason for Hillary Clinton's loss was not hacking, but problems with her campaign and her party. The hackers, whoever they were, and wherever they were from, could not have changed the course of the elections, Putin said.
In turn, the Russian president accused the U.S. of meddling in Russian elections. "In 2000 and in 2012, there was always some interference. But in 2012 this interference was particularly aggressive."
Such meddling did not take the form of hacking, but instead it was in private meetings between American diplomats and opposition officials, as well as support for that opposition. Putin said that such actions are unacceptable interference in another country's domestic affairs.
Concerning a possible cyber war between Russia and the U.S., about which Stone asked many questions, the Russian leader replied evasively. He only admitted that such a clash may be very dangerous, and added that in 2015 Russia offered the U.S. to sign an agreement on "the rules to be guided by in this field," but Washington did not reply.
Trump and Russian-U.S. relations
In February, Putin spoke of the 50th U.S. president with restrained respect: "Donald Trump and his team were very wise in running their electoral campaign." Putin admits that when he watched Trump's campaign speeches, he thought: "He went a little bit too far from time to time," but in the end Trump's aggressive, vivid strategy worked. He also reacted positively to Trump's statements about a possible review of relations with Russia.
At the same time, Putin does not expect Trump to make any big changes. When Stone asked, "What changes?" Putin shrugged his shoulders: "Well, almost nothing." The Russian politician is convinced that everywhere, especially in the U.S., what is important is not so much the president's personality but the bureaucracy that in the end determines the government's policies. Nevertheless, he still hopes that Russian-American relations will improve during Trump's tenure: "I hope that we'll find some common ground and reach mutual understanding."
Stalin, Putin's wealth and the future
Stone and Putin spoke about the past, discussing Joseph Stalin, one of the most controversial leaders in Russian history. Judging by his words, Putin has an ambiguous attitude towards Stalin. On one hand, he cautioned against excessive demonization of the Soviet leade and attempts to smear modern Russia by comparing it to Stalin's USSR. On the other hand, as he said, "We should not forget the atrocities committed under Stalinism" and the millions of people who died.
Replying to the question about his wealth (sometimes the Western mass media calls him "the richest person in the world"), Putin said, "I don’t have the wealth attributed to me," no accounts in Cyprus or other offshore accounts. He added that one of his main goals since he became president has been to separate money and power, that is, to squeeze the oligarchs, who lobbied their own interests, out of government. Putin says he still adheres to this principle.
Stone asked about the upcoming 2018 elections and the possibility of Putin (if he runs) to govern Russia until 2024. "Does that not scare you? Do you not get used to power?" The president responded evasively. "Russia itself will decide who it needs."
Apologizing, Putin left the question of his possible participation in the next elections unanswered: "There are things that should have some intrigue and mystery."