In typically confrontational fashion, the Russian president did not hold back from expressing his forthright views.
Putin was speaking at the twelfth annual Valdai Discussion Club meeting in the city of Sochi, attended by over 900 international scholars. The Russian leader told attendees that the issue of a nuclear Iran has now been resolved, if it was ever a problem in the first place, writes Mikhail Klikushin for Observer.
U.S. was lying over threat from Iran, says Putin
“Iran’s nuclear problem has been solved. From Iran, there is no threat and there never had been,” Mr. Putin said. “The only reason that was used by U.S.—to start building the Missile Defense Shield—disappeared. We [Russia] might have expected that a system of MDS development to be halted.”
Putin claims that the United States exaggerated the threat from Iran, lying to Russia and the rest of the world.
“Some days ago, the first tests of USA’s MDS were conducted in Europe. What does that mean? It means that when we were arguing with our American partners we were right. Russia was right from the beginning that the American Missile Defense Shield program was being developed with the goal to destroy strategic balance and to have a way to dictate her power to everyone. They were trying to deceive us, and the whole world, once again. And, to put it simply, we were lied to.”
Syria another source of tension between Russia and U.S.
In response to U.S. claims that it is assisting “moderate opposition” in Syria, Putin said that categorizing Islamic terrorists as “moderate” or “non-moderate” only empowers them.
“We shouldn’t play with words here and divide the terrorists into moderate and non-moderate,” Mr. Putin said. “The difference, according to the ‘specialists’ [a jab to the Obama advisors], seems to be that ‘moderate’ bandits behead people softly.”
Putin believes that the different Islamic groups in Syria are fighting for money instead of ideological differences. He went on to claim that terrorist infrastructure has improved recently and they had taken over new areas.
Russia criticizes U.S. arming of “moderate” opposition
The Russian President later alleged that U.S. weapons supplied to “moderate oppositionists” invariably wind up in the possession of ISIL fighters after “moderate” fighters desert to the more radical group. Putin told the audience that the Kremlin prefers to fight terror in Syria before it comes to Russia.
According to Putin the Russian bombing campaign has not increased the risk of a terror attack on Russian soil. “Terrorists hate Russia for what it is, not because of Syria,” he said.
Russia aims to fight terror in Syria, whereas the U.S. only hopes to remove President Bashar al-Assad. With that aim in mind there have been rumors that the U.S. will supply anti-air defense missile systems to anti-Assad rebels. “I hope this is not going to happen. This will create danger also for American pilots. American leaders are sane people, after all,” said Putin.
Putin maintains close relationship with Bashar al-Assad
In order to maintain al-Assad’s power, Russia has been carrying out air strikes against Islamic State forces, who are fighting to depose the government. The relationship between moderate rebels, Islamic State and other groups is incredibly complex, but Russian and U.S. armaments being used in the same country only raises the possibility of conflict between the two powers.
The Syrian leader recently made a controversial visit to Moscow for secret talks with Putin, and the Russian President explained what was on the agenda. “I asked him, What would be your attitude if we will find in Syria even the armed opposition that would be ready to stand against and really fight against ISIL? What your attitude will be if we will help their efforts in the fight against terrorism, the same way we support the Syrian army? He answered: Positive.”
Putin then spoke out on his prognosis for the conflict, and the danger of a lasting terrorist presence in the region if territorial gains are not halted.
“The territorial division of Syria [as a solution to the current crisis] is unacceptable. It is not going to resolve the conflict. The conflict will acquire a permanent character. Nothing good will come out of this,” Mr. Putin said. “Just imagine that in case of taking Damascus or Baghdad, terrorist bands might have received, practically, the status of the official government. The bridgehead for global expansion could have been created. Does anyone think about that?”
It looks likely that Russia and the U.S. will continue to hold very different opinions over the appropriate course of action in Syria, and it must be hoped that both sides do their utmost to avoid an accidental incident which sparks a conflict.