Russian President Vladimir Putin said the West should stop inventing "fictional threats" from Russia and instead focus on defeating terrorism together.
"We need to think about what we want from the future. I think we all want security, peace, safety and cooperation," Putin told France's Le Figaro Wednesday. "Therefore, we should not build up tensions or invent fictional threats from Russia, some hybrid warfare etc."
"What is the major security problem today? Terrorism. There are bombings in Europe, in Paris, in Russia, in Belgium. There is a war in the Middle East. This is the main concern. But no, let us keep speculating on the threat from Russia," he said.
Putin went on to say the US is controlled by "men in dark suits" who prevent the President from implementing real change:
Le Figaro : You have mentioned the United States. The allegations of Russia’s interference in the US presidential race raised a political storm in Washington. Similar allegations were also voiced in France. What is your response, especially against the backdrop of recent developments in the US?
Vladimir Putin: I have already commented on this issue many times. There was a question on this topic from one of your colleagues today. He put it very cautiously at the news conference, saying that ‘there are allegations that Russian hackers…’ Who is making these allegations? Based on what? If these are just allegations, then these hackers could be from anywhere else and not necessarily from Russia. As President Trump once said, and I think that he was totally right when he said it could have been someone sitting on their bed or somebody intentionally inserted a flash drive with the name of a Russian national, or something like that. Anything is possible in this virtual world. Russia never engages in activities of this kind, and we do not need it. It makes no sense for us to do such things. What for?
I have already spoken to three US presidents. They come and go, but politics stays the same at all times. Do you know why? Because of the powerful bureaucracy. When a person is elected, they may have some ideas. Then people with briefcases arrive, well dressed, wearing dark suits, just like mine, except for the red tie, since they wear black or dark blue ones. These people start explaining how things are done. And instantly, everything changes. This is what happens with every administration.
Changing things is not easy, and I say this without any irony. It is not that someone does not want to, but because it is a hard thing to do. Take Obama, a forward-thinking man, a liberal, a democrat. Did he not pledge to shut down Guantanamo before his election? But did he do it? No, he did not. And may I ask why not? Did he not want to do it? He wanted to, I am sure he did, but it did not work out. He sincerely wanted to do it, but did not succeed, since it turned out to be very complicated. This is not the main issue, however, even though it is important, since it is hard to fathom that people have been walking there in chains for decades without trial or investigation. Can you imagine France or Russia acting this way? This would have been a disaster. But it is possible in the United States and continues to this day. This refers to the question on democracy, by the way.
I referred to this example just to show that it is not as simple as it may seem. That said, I am cautiously optimistic, and I think that we can and should be able to reach agreements on key issues.
Putin also said the US is refusing to provide proof Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was behind the alleged chemical attack in April:
LF: Indeed, Russia and the other parties differ on the Syrian issue regarding primarily the fate of Bashar al-Assad, whom the Western countries have accused of using chemical weapons against his own people.
Mr. President, can you envision Syria’s political future without Bashar al-Assad?
VP: I do not think I have the right to determine the political future of Syria, be it with or without al-Assad. This is for the Syrians themselves to decide. Nobody has the right to claim the rights that belong to the people of another country. This is the first thing I wanted to say.
Do you have an additional question?
LF: Yes, I do. You say that this is not your decision. However, this does not mean that Syria’s future is possible without al-Assad, does it?
VP: As I have said, this is for the Syrian people to decide. You have mentioned allegations about the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government. When the attack happened, we called on our American partners – and everyone else who considers this to be expedient – to send inspectors to the airfield from which the planes that dropped chemical bombs allegedly took off. If chemical weapons were used by President al-Assad’s official agencies, modern verification equipment would certainly find traces of this at the airfield. For certain. These traces would be found in the aircraft and at the airfield. However, everyone refused to conduct such an inspection.
We also proposed sending inspectors to the site of the alleged chemical attack. But they refused as well, claiming that it was dangerous. Why is this dangerous if the attack was delivered in an area where peaceful civilians live and the healthy part of the armed opposition is deployed? In my opinion, the accusations have been made for the sole purpose of justifying the use of additional measures, including military ones, against al-Assad. That is all. There is no proof that al-Assad has used chemical weapons. We firmly believe that that this is a provocation. President al-Assad did not use chemical weapons.